This seems to be the year I do things I previously had zero interest in doing and actually enjoy them. (Such as the Spartan Race.)

A couple months ago, during my company’s internal conference in Chicago, my department did some team building at EscapeHouse Chicago – one of those escape room places. I wasn’t really looking forward to it – I’ve never had any interest in doing an escape room, and the thought of being “trapped” with a randomly assigned group of co-workers didn’t sound all that appealing. (Although I do generally like everyone I work with.)

I say “trapped” because the door we enter through stays unlocked so you can leave in the event of an emergency … or freak-out. 

I ended up really enjoying the experience and would do it again with friends. However, I would recommend getting a big enough group of friends so you are paired with people you know and not strangers. I think they send 10 people into a room together, so if your group isn’t big enough, they’ll pair you with others.

EscapeHouse Chicago has two rooms – when I went, my group was assigned what I’ll call The Dark Room. (The other group was assigned “The White House” which looked like the Oval Office and was well-lit. Our rooms were darkly lit and we needed black lights to uncover some clues.)

Our experience wasn’t actually an escape room, but rather a series of rooms. I didn’t realize this when we started. We entered a very small room, more like an entryway, and had to figure out the clues to unlock the first door to enter our first room-sized room. Once in there, you just start looking for clues. They could be anywhere – written legibly on the wall, written on the wall but only discoverable via black light, written on a piece of (laminated) paper in a locked box, etc. You have to go through any kind of door/box/bin/etc you can find to find clues or keys or codes. You have to kind clues to open a combination lock only to find a key inside whatever you unlocked that opens another lock that opens something with decoder ring that decodes what is ultimately another combination lock … etc. It can be maddening at times to find a bunch of clues/codes/keys and then have to figure out what goes where. There’s a lot of trial and error.  I’ve never unlocked so many padlocks in such a short time period.

When our team unlocked the door to the room we were in, we were so excited … until we realized it just opened into another, similar room that we had to get out of. WTF. You are timed (I think we had an hour limit), and you can request up to 3 clues from your … room monitor, for a lack of a better term. (They watch you via cameras and communicate to you via a computer screen.)  For our experience, we had to sing and dance in unison to indicate that we wanted a clue. (Our team opted for the YMCA.)

Our team took awhile to get through the second room, I think we all assumed that was the end so we didn’t need to budget for extra time. So when we had less than 10 minutes to go when we were unlocking the door out of room 2 … only to realize there was a third room we had to get out of, we started to get a little stressed. Despite getting some more clues, our team was unlocking the very last lock as our time ran out.

Which meant we failed.


Whatever. We tried.

However, I know I had a lot of fun, and I think my co-workers did too. Also, despite “failing,” our group worked well together. No one tried to take over, and everyone contributed.

After finishing our mission, we went to the bar/restaurant SafeHouse (below EscapeHouse), which is another whole experience in and of itself.  It’s actually pretty neat (during the day it’s family-friendly) and worth checking out on its own. Or a good stop for a meal before or after EscapeHouse.  (The food is decent, but the experience is much more exciting than the food.)

Have you ever done an escape room? What was your experience like?