Claustrophilia

In Do, September 2016 by Cameron Walker

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The number one rule when locking oneself in a room with a zombie? Wear practical shoes.

John Raines was playing one of the undead during a team-building event at Raleigh Room Escapes, which he runs with co-owner Rebekah Carmichael, when a woman in towering heels created a bit of a disturbance.

“As soon as I broached her personal bubble, she shrieked,” he says. “Dogs in Guilford County are still wailing.”

She panicked, plowing through the crowd in an attempt to get away, but her shoes proved her downfall. She tripped, taking out a coworker and tearing off a hunk of drywall in the process.

Although most people don’t get quite so excited, escape rooms are quickly becoming popular in Raleigh; players are flocking by the thousands for choose-your-own adventure fun. Conceived in Japan in 2007, escape rooms have spread to almost a thousand cities worldwide. The premise is simple: for $15-$30, players are trapped in a room and must hunt down and solve clues in a tight timeframe in order to be set free.

By their nature, escape rooms can be distressing to those with a fear of confined spaces. However, players are never really trapped—those who want to leave, can—but many games have a “No Re-entry” policy.

“People coming and going kills the suspension of disbelief necessary for our room’s immersive qualities,” says Raines. Players should check each venue for age restrictions and if game elements could trigger health concerns such as epilepsy.

Why are escape rooms trending?

Escape rooms aren’t just about breaking out of a locked room; they allow a player to escape reality.

“We call it experiential entertainment,” says Lynn Horan, who owns Cipher Escape with husband Mike. “This is kind of like jumping into the screen and participating. You’re actually experiencing it.”

“You get to be transported to another world,” adds Raines. “You get to survive outside yourself and work as a unit and have a blast.”

Horan has seen friendships form and families bond while trying to solve the puzzle.

“I’ve seen grandparents and grandkids high fiving each other, because they’ve done something together,” she says. “They had a common goal, and they learn things about each other.”

Fonville Morisey Vice President Amy Aldridge recently visited an escape room with her management team.

“We found that we look after each other and have each others’ backs,” she says.

Raleigh resident Lauren Arnett and her husband recently visited Cipher Escape with family and used the bonding experience to share a secret—they were expecting their first child. They surprised the family by having the ultrasound photo and a custom rhyme slipped into the final envelope.

“It took them a minute or two to realize what it meant, but they loved it!” says Arnett.

Horan was excited to help and is looking forward to the next reveal.

“You could even hide an engagement ring,” she says. “No one has done that yet, but I’m sure it’s going to happen.”

Great Escapes

Think inside the box at these Raleigh area escape rooms

Raleigh Room Escapes

Story-driven, sociologically-based experiences with live actors

Rooms: Trapped in a Room with a Zombie, Escape the Tramping Ground, The Formula of Escape

Cost: $20-$30 per player

raleighroomescapes.com

Cipher Escape

G-rated, puzzle-based experiences—average solve rate of 32%

Rooms: NC Photo Hunt Escape, Geek Room, Brewery Escape

Cost: $25 per player

cipherescape.com

Tic Toc Escapes

Interactive games in themed environments

Rooms: Green Room, Locker Room, Night at the Mausoleum

Cost: $15-$30 per player

tictocescapes.com

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