The Abandoned Manor- What Really Happened to the Family Who Lived Here?A Forensic Activity for Questioned Documents/Handwriting

Scenario: You and your team have been called to investigate what happened to the family who lived in this abandoned house.  After walking around, you can tell that it looks as if they left unexpectedly, leaving behind their possessions as if they were planning to return at any moment… Except, you know they won’t, as everything is perpetually frozen in a state of decay. You happen to find a box of old checks in the top of one of the closets.  You and your team take this box with you as you make your way to the car.  It is your mission to piece together the life of this family and possible determine what occurred that made them leave and never return.

Student directions for the activity:  You have received 4 copied pages of checks from the box in the closet of the home.

  • Cut them out and arrange them in chronological order from oldest to newest.
  • When they are in chronological order by date, number them in the top right hand corner of each check (No.______)
  • Fill out the chart with the information from each check (Date, who it was to, etc.) Make sure you write down your inference of what they were buying with the check!
  • Pay special attention to the handwriting and the signatures!  We are beginning our study of questioned documents/ handwriting so this could be very important in piecing together what happened to this family.
  • Once you have finished recording the information from each check, you may choose to communicate your team’s findings of what happened to this family in one of two ways…
    • 1.  Formulate the story of this family by creating a tweet for each one of the checks you examined.
    • 2.  Write a narrative telling the story of this family.  Make sure to explain each check and what it means in their story.
  • We will share our findings whole group next week.


Teacher Resources:

  • Click HERE to download a copy of my scenario in pdf format
  • Link to a pdf of the checks I used for this activity:
  • I had the video playing while my students were doing the activity.  Here’s how to loop a Youtube video:
    • Go to
    • Copy & Paste (or type in) the Youtube address for the Red Dress Manor video
    • Click the “Go Loop!” button
    • Video will play and re-play over and over without you having to reset it 🙂
    • **** An additional way to loop a Youtube video is to right click the little “gear” symbol a the bottom of the screen and choose “Loop” from there (if this function is not disabled by your school) ****
  • I also purchased an adorable activity from TpT that included the ready-made blank “tweets” sheets.

About Edgy Instruction

Science Teacher (Biology, AP Biology, and Forensic Science), Anatomy Professor, and former Instructional coach.
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