60 Seconds to Escape

The door clicks shut. We are locked in—and our only way out is to find and solve the clues that will reveal the door-lock combination. For an instant, the four of us stare at each other. Where to start? Then, we begin to madly dash around the room, hunting for clues. 59 minutes to go.

Jonathan Cox, Creative Director of Escape OKCSound like the type of mystery you’d enjoy solving? Then you’ll be thrilled to know that Oklahoma City offers a new venue where you can try your hand at sleuthing in person. The Escape OKC is a live-action escape challenge–the kind with lots of clues, symbols and puzzles to solve. You and up to five team members enter a room full of clues, play Sherlock Homes, and escape—all in one hour.

“It’s a unique experience where you can have fun and stretch your mind with a group of friends,” explained Jonathan Cox, Creative Director.

“I found something!” shouts Jordan Long and Erica Buckwalter simultaneously. “Me, too!” says Anna Hintz. These are the three teammates who share the locked space with me. Each holds pieces of paper in varying sizes, handwritten clues that will reveal the first snippets of information we need. Nothing makes sense—yet. 58 minutes to go.

Teams are locked into one of four differently-themed rooms. Each room conceals a different mystery. The most common question Cox hears is, “Is this a horror experience—like in those Saw movies?” He is quick to assure that the experience is similar, except no one is going to murder, kidnap, maim or hurt you. Cox grinned. “Customers who make it out of the room are more likely to be repeat customers.”

Looking for clues!Although first-time players are anxious before going into the room, once they enter, they realize that fear is not the motivating factor–working together to solve the key code is the real challenge.

Groups that communicate well and capitalize upon their teammate’s strengths are more likely to solve the challenge.

The dimly-lit room we are locked into is simply furnished but spacious. We spread out the clues we’ve found so far. Some clues refer to ancient times, some are very 21st century. “I wonder if this symbol means anything?” Anna muses. 32 minutes to go.

“Not to give anything away, but history has always had intriguing mysteries and secrets that no one has figured out,” Cox said. “When I’m building the scenario for a room, I rely a lot on history, philosophy and humanities—because that’s what I’m most familiar with.” Cox, who writes all the storylines, intends to switch the room themes every season. He is currently setting up a Halloween room for the month of October, but he’s already thinking ahead to future escape adventures.

“I’ve got it,” Erica shouts with triumph. “Here’s the code!” We cheer. She reads it aloud and Jordan rushes to the door to input the numbers and…nothing happens. We stare at each other in dismay. What are we missing? 17 minutes to go.

Looking for clues!“You should see the looks on the faces of the teams in the waiting room when they hear people yelling inside the rooms and pulling on the door handle,” Cox said. He laughed.

“I’ll also look back at the tapes if a room is having a low success rate, so that I can figure out how to make the clues more successful,” Cox said.

We’ve rearranged the clues and still, the door doesn’t unlock. 1 minute to go. Jordan makes a last desperate try, while Anna scours the room for an undiscovered clue. 5…4…3…2…1 Time up. Cox opens the door. “You were so close! But you missed this…” He shows us the clue our team had overlooked. “Arghhhh! We should have found that!” Erica exclaims. I have to ask, “Are we your first group to fail?”

According to Cox, only 30% of the teams escape the room before the hour is up. The industry average is about 15%, but he wants it to be challenging—not impossible. That makes us feel better.

“Did you have fun?” Cox asked. “Yes!” We agree that we would definitely come back and try another room.

On the way home, we discuss our group adventure. “There were enough steps that everybody had a chance to have an ah-ha moment,” Erica says. “It wasn’t like three steps and you’d solved it.  It was like seventeen steps, and you still hadn’t solved it. There was the right amount of trickiness.” Anna agreed. “Next time—we’ll escape.” 

To learn more, visit www.theescapeokc.com.

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