When I first heard of escape rooms, what came to mind was a room with the walls slowly closing in, from which I’d have to make a stressful, David-Blaine-esque escape.
But after doing some research, I found that escape room businesses aren’t even legally allowed to lock you in the room.
Nonetheless, I was ready to put my skills to the test, so I headed to Escape Sacramento (1831 I St.) to see if I had what it took.
Escape Sacramento has three different courses: The Seance, The Gallery and The Heist, which range from two to eight people.
I wanted to bring along my smartest puzzle-solving friends. But since they weren’t available, I took seniors Adam Dean and Aidan Cunningham and my brother, junior Bryce Longoria, instead.
Since weekends are the most popular times, the only room that wasn’t already fully booked on Saturday morning was The Seance, so I secured the last four spots in the six-person room.
When we arrived, we were immediately intimidated by a wall of record times for the rooms. Our choice, The Seance, had been completed in 22 minutes and 24 seconds by someone who had done over 100 escape rooms.
And we also learned that escape might not even happen.
“Only one in five actually escapes this room,” puzzlemaster Brian Rasmussen warned us while we waited.
“We’re going to set a record,” I replied jokingly.
After talking with the two assigned members of our team, Addison, a brown-haired teenager with glasses, and his friend, I found that all of us were amateur escapees.
So after going over the rules and instructions, Rasmussen walked us into a dimly lit room – filled with a coffee table, letters, cabinets, a lamp, a chair, locked boxes and a boarded-up door leading to the second part of the room – and explained the situation.
“You guys are paranormal investigators investigating the house of a psychic who has released a demon from the spirit realm,” Rasmussen said.
“You have one hour before the police show up. This screen in the corner will act as a timer and will give you clues if you get stuck. Communication is key.
“Good luck,” he added before closing the door.
We immediately got to work.
“This wall has to mean something,” I said, pointing at what I thought was a sundial.
No one cared.
They instead began looking around the room. I was still staring at the sundial when Addison proclaimed, “I got it!”
We all turned to see that he’d opened the first box in seconds.
“How’d you do that?” I asked.
“I just looked at these letters right here on the table,” Addison responded. “Look at the dates. It’s obvious. What does this key open?”
“How does this door even open?” Bryce shouted, interrupting Addison.
“Shh! This kid is so smart,” Aidan said. “Just let him work.”
“Look, the key opens this box,” Addison said, finding a box filled of cards.
“The cards fit right into the table. We have to put them in order. If we use that code on the wall, we can read these letters.”
On the back of the entrance door, there was a code comprised of ambiguous symbols. While I was trying to match those symbols to the ones on the sundial, Addison was using them to crack the code on the table.
Due to security reasons, I couldn’t take a picture of the code, but it was insanely complex. Even with a pen and paper, it would’ve taken me forever to decode.
But Addison did it in seconds.
“Look right here,” he said.
“It says ‘four swords,’ so put that card there.”
After repeating this process for the other cards, the boarded-up door opened remotely. We, a group of six amateurs, were on pace to break a record set by a professional!
That door led to an even darker room containing a typewriter, a locked armoire, a desk and a teacup. Once again, Addison took the lead and opened the armoire.
We arrived at the final puzzle with 30 seconds left to break the record. Addison typed in the combination.
It was incorrect.
But we recovered and finished just two minutes later.
After opening the final door remotely, Rasmussen greeted us in the waiting room.
“Wow! You guys did great,” Rasmussen said.
“That was the second fastest time ever! What do you want your team name to be?”
We SCDS students wanted “Addison the GOAT” (Greatest of All Time), but Addison preferred “The Master Detectives.”
Since Addison was the reason we’d escaped in record time, there was no debate.
Before leaving, I asked Rasmussen about the sundial.
“Oh, that thing is useless,” he said. “It’s just a decoy.”
I had spent the greater part of 20 minutes studying a wall that had nothing to do with helping my team escape!
After patting myself on the back and reminding myself that escaping is in fact a team game, we moved onto our next venue, Enchambered (2230 Arden Way).
Enchambered has two rooms – Containment Breach and The Whispering Halls – and is building its third, The Hidden Tomb. We decided on The Whispering Halls, which holds up to 12 people.
We arrived and met our eight teammates, who would be helping us investigate an old Victorian manor.
Not having Addison greatly reduced our chances of success, but being forced to actually think for ourselves made the experience more fun.
On our own we suffered through failure after failure, but completing a puzzle meant it was all the more satisfying.
While there was only one door in The Seance, there were four in The Whispering Halls, plus other secret crawlspaces and staircases.
After struggling through the first several puzzles, we finally made it to the second-to-last one. The electric clock on the wall was ticking down; we had only 10 minutes left.
But this puzzle looked familiar. It was the same as the puzzle from The Seance: the card slots.
After figuring out the order, we placed the cards in their slots, opening the door to the final puzzle.
Unfortunately, we had only five minutes and no idea what to do. So we spent our last seconds screaming and running around the room.
I think we would’ve definitely finished if we had had fewer people. With 12 it was just too confusing. Everyone was talking, and it was hard to keep our clues organized.
Although I would recommend both places, I would go back to Enchambered.
Enchambered is less about competition and more about having fun. The rooms are bigger, and the puzzles are more intricate.
But if you are really competitive, Escape Sacramento is for you. And if you’re aiming for a record, you need to build an efficient team, keeping in mind that more people is not necessarily better (unless you can find a team of Addisons).
Why not take a stab at The Seance to see if you can beat The Master Detectives?
—By Jake Longoria