Escape rooms provide mental challenge, fun

Escape on Main is located at 340 N. Main Street in St. Charles and has rooms designed from groups of two to 10 people.
Photo by Kyle Rainey

Clues hidden in the rooms lead to secret passages, locked compartments and hints that could mean catching a killer in London or saving a friend from being executed in a prison.

This is the 60-minute reality in one of the escape rooms in St. Charles.

According to Mastermind Room Escape website, an escape room is “a real-life game experience where people participate in various activities, find clues and solve puzzles to work as a team to escape out of a room in 60 minutes or less.”

“It’s the curiosity that you don’t get to have every day.”

Chad Collier

The escape room phenomenon started in Kyoto, Japan in July 2007, according to Escape Room Franchise website. The publishing company SCRAP started it known as the Real Escape Game. Over the years the business grew and spread to Europe and eventually North America.

“An escape room is a completely different immersive experience,” Lindenwood senior Katie Olson said. “It’s not just math and simple logic puzzles; you really have to use your creativity.”

Katie Olson has been working at Escape on Main since early last summer. Her first escape room experience was a run-through at Escape.

“It was exciting; you get the adrenaline rush of getting a puzzle right,” she said. “I don’t know what it is about opening up a lock, but that’s very satisfactory for people. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, because I didn’t know what to expect.”

Like Escape, another escape room place, Mastermind Room Escape in St. Charles, features traditional escape rooms, Manager Chad Collier said. The rooms use puzzles, combination locks and electromagnet locks that pop open to reveal secret compartments to challenge players.

Mastermind Room Escape has walls covered with the names of people who have escaped the rooms in 60 minutes or less.  Photo by Kyle Rainey
Mastermind Room Escape has walls covered with the names of people who have escaped the rooms in 60 minutes or less.
Photo by Kyle Rainey

“[It’s] the curiosity that you don’t get to have every day,” Collier said. “You walk into a room and you’re told to touch everything. Anything could be something.”

Katie Olson is a game master. She said game masters are responsible for making players feel comfortable, confident and ready with the mental tools they need to be successful.

“We have to know the room backwards and forwards,” she said. “We have to know every single puzzle, how to get it and [know] what it means.”

“You’ll probably learn something new about yourself as well as the people you go into the room with.”

Brendan Olson

Game masters at both places use cameras to monitor groups as they try to escape. At Mastermind, the game masters communicate tips and clues to players through walkie-talkies.Katie Olson said she uses a monitor to display messages to stumped players.

Considering Valentine’s Day, Brendan Olson, staff manager of Escape, said seasoned couples should come to the rooms, but that they may not be suitable for first dates. He said the rooms get personal and people can expect to see the worst and the best of whom they’re with.

Collier said he enjoys watching people being skeptical of escape rooms changing their minds. He said once two elderly people came in with an office group and “were just not having it.” After just a couple minutes in the room, they were running around, looking at everything and were “ecstatic” afterwards.

Brendan Olson said the experience will challenge people mentally.

“You’ll probably learn something new about yourself as well as the people you go into the room with,” he said. “How you function as a team in sort of an inherently stressful [situation] is definitely something that people tell me they’re glad they did this.”

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