Imagine you have been blindfolded and handcuffed. You’re led into a cold, dark oblivion. A door quietly closes behind you. Once you tear off your blindfold, it is revealed that you are not alone in this mysterious room. You and multiple other hostages are locked inside a dingy, dark room. Luckily, your captor is not present. The only way out seems to be through solving a complex series of riddles, clues, puzzles, and codes before the clock runs out and the captor returns. Does this sound like a nightmare to you, or would you be willing to pay for this kind of fear?
At Escape Room Erie, you are immersed in an interactive game where “the outcome is anything but certain.” In this simulation, you have fifty minutes to escape the room by working through clues and riddles with a group of friends, relatives, co-workers, or even complete strangers.
Located at 23 W. 10th St. in downtown Erie, this particular Escape Room has two options: the “Abducted” and “Lost Laboratory” storylines. Each has its own unique set of clues on their respective backstories.
Owner Scott Leah says that the Escape Room is “a great team building exercise as it forces each group to work as a team allowing important… traits to come about: communication, cooperation, cognitive thinking, the delegation of authority, and so much more.”
Sophomore Joe Gallagher recently participated in the “Abducted” room with a small group for a friend’s birthday. He says despite being familiar with his group, they still did not communicate very well at the beginning of the activity. “If [the participants] are not communicating well, this will definitely force [them] to talk and figure things out with other people instead of trying to figure it out on [their] own,” Gallagher said.
The Escape Room phenomena originated in Japan, and it internationally spread about three years ago. Although some of the rooms include scary storylines, others are more intellectually based. Leah said his business partner, Joe Lukas, approached him with the idea after seeing the concept on popular TV sitcom, “The Big Bang Theory.” The Erie branch opened on Oct. 9, 2015.
Currently, a group of General Electric engineers holds the record for escaping the Abducted room in a mere thirty minutes. Other Escape Rooms’ time limits vary; most commonly, sixty minutes is the standard allotment.
Escape Room Erie’s current success rates are 40 percent in the Lost Laboratory room and 35 percent in the Abducted room.
“Our future plans will be greatly affected and determined by the public,” Leah says. “As long as people are interested in the concept and continue to book on a regular basis, we will keep expanding and/or change as needed.”
Future plans could include adding another room, changing out the clue paths, and completely stripping the rooms and starting over with all new storylines.
Tenth-grade participant Jessica Delio says, “It’s surprising for a city like Erie to have something cool like this.”
Those interested in learning more about this activity can visit their website at www.escaperoomerie.com. Leah advises anyone considering participating in this activity to remember that “two heads are better than one; three are better than two.”