“This is it,” she says. “Ground Zero.”
The game was about to begin. She closes the door as she leaves and a digital timer in the corner starts counting down from 60:00. In an instant, time has turned against us.
Fast forward three years…
People are always asking me to share the details of my escape experiences, that I expose the details of what’s ‘behind the closed door.’ They want to know the unknown, to understand the mysterious world inside a puzzle room.
It’s a tricky question to answer because it’s the one thing everyone wants to know and the one thing I can’t really share. See… The First Rule of Escape Rooms Is: You do not talk about Escape Rooms.
When it comes down to it, the reality is this: In sixty minutes, a timer is going to sound. When it does, you’re going to be on one side of the door or the other, perhaps forever questioning how close you were to succeeding.
Not everyone solves all the puzzles and wins the game. That’s the simple fact.
But since you asked so nicely…let me take you back to where we began. Ground Zero:
She closes the door as she leaves and a digital timer in the corner starts counting down from 60:00. In an instant, time has turned against us.
I look back to face the room. I’ve never been here before but it feels strangely familiar.
There are a number of items and furniture pieces decorating the space. We take stock of it all.
A large desk, locked tight, with a padded chair tucked in underneath.
A bookshelf, though not many books decorate its ledges; a dictionary, a book on Morse code, some science fiction novels,some fancy bookends in the shape of a hippopotamus, and a miniature globe.
A coat rack next to a stack of old boots and shoes… All the left shoes appear to be missing.
The list goes on but one thing’s for sure. Every item in the room was placed and set up for a specific purpose. Everything has a reason. They belong.
One simple word breaks the awkward silence and grabs my attention. Dave repeats himself:
“Hippo,” he says pointing to a word combination lock attached to the desk drawer. “The bookends are a hippo… That’s the combination.”
Sure enough, he enters the combination, opens the drawer and takes out a single key.
The key is red.
I look around the room and notice that the only other red object in the room a single book sitting on the desk.
I’m not entirely sure how the two relate but I decide to reach for the book. It won’t move. It’s stuck. Very stuck.
This book has to mean something so I try opening the cover. It opens… and reveals… a lock. Dave passes Jeff the key and he unlocks the book.
There is a soft ‘click’ and, with a gentle push, the whole desk slides on a track to the left revealing a small room in behind.
Quickly we learn: this room is more than meets the eye.
I am Phil’s dropping jaw.
For the next 52-minutes we read through the books on the shelf, looking for patterns in the publishing dates and putting them in order. We find another key hidden behind a picture frame. A mural on the wall provides a canvas for hidden blacklight directions that point us back to a map we found earlier under the seat cushion.
We move forward with a greater confidence. Each challenge is new, but our inhibitions are fading as we learn to interact with our surroundings; a lever on the wall opens yet another passageway to a third room.
This. Is. Awesome.
Everything is in play and everything is tied together. Except for that strange jigsaw puzzle we came across… I’ll let Jason try that one.
I am Phil’s inquiring mind.
In all the excitement, the clock has continued to tick. It’s now below the ten-minute mark and the music, playing quietly in the background, speeds up slightly and intensifies the experience. It seems we have a few more steps to take before unlocking the final door. We need help.
I grab the walkie-talkie and radio the front desk for a clue. They are quick to oblige. There is no shame in seeking assistance. Communication, after all, is what this whole thing is about.
She suggests I pick up the morse code book and look towards the ceiling tiles; something about the way they are laid out…
We make it out out with 8-minutes to spare.
I am Phil’s desire to do it again.
And there you have it, a few spoilers peering inside the experience. See, the puzzle room, the escape room, the treasure hunt, whatever you choose to call it, they are all set up so that players can succeed; you just need to let go and explore. (Failure is not the goal of the business owner.)
Interact with the room, play with the books on the shelf, anticipate the passageway behind the fireplace. There are secrets everywhere if you’re willing to look hard enough.
The story, names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this blog are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred. Sorry….these aren’t our actual puzzles.