Classic Short Stories - Locked Room Settings

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Grade Level
High School
Length of Time
45 minutes to 1 hour

In this lesson plan, I have a summary over "The Problem of Cell 13" by Jacques Futrelle. This story is a Classic Mystery.


Students will learn:
About locked room settings in Classic Mysteries
Read "The Problem of Cell 13" by Jacques Futrelle
Write a short story of their own using a locked room setting

Materials Needed

Locked room settings create suspense because readers do not see how the suspects could have committed the crime. Readers want to continue reading so they can find out what happened and how the detectives solve the cases.

When detectives investigate a case in a locked room setting, they become baffled. They cannot see how the villain can enter or escape a locked room

You will need the short story, "The Problem of Cell 13" by Jacques Futrelle. This is a classic mystery story. I have included a summary in the lesson plan in this lesson.

The following information is a summary of the story. I also included information on how Jacques Futrelle developed his story.

The Problem of Cell 13" by Jacques Futrelle

This is an excellent story of a locked room setting. Professor Van Dusen was known as The Thinking Machine. He told Dr. Ransome and Arthur Fielding that he could escape out of a prison cell. They didn't believe he could do it, but they decided to take him up on his offer. He was placed him in a locked cell by the warden's office. He had one week to escape. He also couldn't have anything in his possession to use to help him escape. You may think this setting seems like it would be impossible to escape from, but is it?

Jacques Futrelle wrote The Problem of Cell 13 so that readers would continue turning the pages until the very end.


Stories start out different ways. Some stories begin immediately with action, and others begin with narration of background information or setting. This story starts out with background information about Van Dusen such as his appearance, what he does for a living, and other information.

Writers begin their stories with something that will grab the reader's attention. As a result, readers will keep turning the pages to the very end.


The main character is Professor Van Dusen. He is known as The Thinking Machine. The other characters are Dr. Charles Ransome and Arthur Fielding.

Professor Van Dusen is a character who believes people need to think about their situations and that if something seems impossible, it may not be. All you have to do is to think about it.

On the other hand, Dr. Charles Ransome and Arthur Fielding believe that certain situations are impossible.

These two characters make the story more intriguing because they have two different viewpoints.


Writers develop their plots so that readers continue reading until the very end.

In this story, the author continued to hold my attention. He made the plot intriguing. I wanted to keep reading until the very end of the story. I wanted to know if the professor would escape.

When Dr. Charles Ransome and Arthur Fielding stopped by to visit Professor Van Dusen, they started discussing situations that seem impossible. Their man discussion was about prison cells. Van Dusen believed that he could escape from a prison cell. However, Dr. Ransome and Arthur Fielding didn't believe that he could escape unless he brought something with him that he needed to use to escape.

The plot continued to build suspense when Van Dusen claimed he didn't need anything but what he had on. At that time, Dr. Ransome and Arthur Fielding asked him if he was willing to be put into a prison cell to try it. He told him that he was. They gave him a week to escape.


Throughout the story, Van Dusen continued to try to escape from the prison cell. He made several attempts.

Questions to answer before students read the story.

1. Do you think Professor Van Dusen will escape?

2. If you think he will escape, how do you think he will do it?

3. Did he bring anything into the cell to use to escape?

4. What do you predict will happen in the story?

After they read the story, you can have them write a short story using a locked room setting.


First, you will go over the summary and the questions I included in the materials.

Then, the students need to read the story.

After that, you can have the students write a short story of their own using a locked room setting.


100 to 90 = A

89 to 80 = B

79 to 70 = C

69 to 60 = D

Below 60 = F

You can grade the students on their participation in class and their short story they will write using a locked room setting.

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