The walls of the small room you find yourself in are covered in charts and monitors depicting incomprehensible technical jargon. A timer continues to tick down as you and your friends attempt to deduce what to do next. Do you try the padlock on the door again, or do you try to solve the riddle written in code on one of the monitors across the room? Do you look through the desk in the center of the room for the fourth time to see if you missed some kind of clue?
Those questions and more will go through your head as you try to find your way out of an escape room, such as the one at Somerset Escape Rooms, which opened recently in the back rooms of Somerset Sales, Service & Rental (416 Main St.)
"I have my rooms set so that everybody will be challenged. The thing is that not everybody is supposed to get out. It is not supposed to work like that. I don't want it to be too easy. You want it to be complex enough that people who are experienced are still challenged. And the people that aren't can come back and try again," said owner Bonnie Hall.
Visitors have one hour to solve clues and finding hidden objects to help them find their way out of the room. Hall suggests that visitors come early to sign waivers, go through safety measures and learn how the rooms work. For example, learning how to use different types of locks throughout the room that conceal clues. According to Hall, none of the rooms will be locked after visitors enter, for safety reasons.
"I had the room too hard at first, so I've been making it easier and easier so people have a chance to figure it out and can have more fun while doing it," Hall said. "The other thing that makes it hard too is that some people have done this before, so they know the tricks of the trade. But other people don't, so if you've had a bunch of people who have done an escape room before they know what they are working for."
The idea to open an escape room in the back of her sales, service and rental business came to Hall after she experienced an escape room for the first time last winter.
"We had this space here and we just didn't know what to do with it. I went to my first one and I loved it. On the drive home I was thinking that I could do that. So here I am doing this," Hall said. "I loved the experience so much that I just wanted to do it myself."
Currently, Somerset Escape Rooms has a single escape room available to guests, but Hall is working on a second room's finishing touches. According to Hall, to create a room, she starts with a theme and finds ways to hide puzzles throughout the room using that theme. Her first two themes are an ice cream shop and "Cindy Anna Jones."
"One clue leads to the next. You have locks around the room that they have to get into and those lead to more clues," Hall said. "You could be looking at something in one place and another group member could be looking somewhere else, but it all ties together. You just don't want to make it too obvious, you want them to make some leaps."
Hall's passion for games and puzzles helps her come up with many of the puzzles and clues for her escape rooms naturally. However, she also researches other escape rooms by watching videos of people attempting to solve puzzles on YouTube. So far, only one group has made it successfully through the escape room, Hall said.
"You don't want people to get frustrated in there. We think we have the first room pretty much narrowed down so people aren't just getting it or don't have a clue," Hall said. "And if you get stuck, you can ask for help."
The regular hours for the escape room are 4-9:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 4-10:30 p.m. Friday; and 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. on Saturday. Rooms are also available by appointment on other days and times throughout the week and weekend, Hall said.
"If we don't get a lot of people going through the first room we aren't going to go and change it until enough people see the first room. The ones in Minnesota are there for two or three years, but I want to change it more than that since we only have two rooms," Hall said. "I'm hoping that it goes really well and we can take it on the road and do a mobile room that we can take to the campgrounds and fairgrounds. I hope the small towns will embrace it."
For more information about Somerset Escape Rooms, or to book a session, visit Somersetescaperoom.com or call 715-303-2111.