Can YOU escape in an hour?

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

Escape rooms are a burgeoning form of indoor entertainment. Teams of people are locked in a themed room and given one hour to solve clues and puzzles in order to be released. But don’t worry: If you don’t solve the puzzles in time, you won’t be held hostage. Hanna Pierce, owner of Durango’s brand new Conundrum Escape Rooms, says it’s a major adrenaline rush. Recommended for ages 12 and up, there’s no big physical feats, so bring the kids AND their grandparents. We spoke to Pierce about why escaping is so fun and how hard it is to beat this thing.

How does your escape room work? You’re in a team of up to six people, put in a themed room together. Our first theme is Sherlock Holmes. While in the room, they receive one hour to solve clues, puzzles and challenges allowing them to escape, if they figure out how it all connects. In this particular room, Sherlock has located Moriarty, his big nemesis. The team needs to rescue Sherlock, but they have to figure out Moriarty’s location first. That’s the big goal.

Will there be more than one room?Hopefully by late July/early August we’ll have a second room up and running, which will be a Jesse James theme. Those two rooms will operate at the same time.

How hard is it to escape the room? Can anyone do it?Actually, escape rooms typically only have a 30 to 50 percent success rate of people escaping. So if you make it out, it’s exciting. During our test phase, we only had one group out of six make it out, and they required clues and hints. The teams get three clues, and the whole team has to agree when they want a clue. We have a Game Master who is always monitoring the game, so they send that clue in based on where they are in the process. It took the test group almost the whole hour to get out, 54 minutes total.

If you’re assembling a team of friends to go in, are there any skill sets you should look for? [Laughs] Definitely puzzle-minded folks really enjoy this, people who like going to trivia nights, and video gamers have a lot of fun because it’s like a live video game. But I think it’s a lot of fun for anybody. Usually if you have a variety of people, that works the best.

Is there a prize if you get out? Bragging rights! Teams also put their names on the “Escaped” board, and compete against each other’s time, trying to get out faster. If you’ve done it before, you’ll know too much, so it won’t really work to do it twice. We also have exclusive T-shirts sold only to people who’ve made it out. And you get a discount in our retail section.

What if you get in there with one bossy person? Can one person take over? That’s one of the best parts about getting to watch the games on camera – it’s a great social experiment. Sometimes you do get one person who is like, “I’m the leader; you guys are going to do what I say.” But you start to notice that the leader, though they may be really good at leading people … there’s so much going on, and if you don’t work as a team to solve all the puzzles you won’t make it out. So the leader almost starts out strong, then realizes they have to fall back and give everyone an equal part.

Why does Durango need an escape room?We’re definitely going out on a limb here, because most of these are open in bigger cities. But Durango has so many trivia nights, people here are very active and into going, doing and trying new things. Yet so many of those things are outdoor-focused! Not that we don’t love the outdoors. But sometimes it rains or snows or you just want something different to do.

What’s fun about this?Honestly, it’s an adrenaline rush. If someone gives you a challenge and says “You only have this much time to do it,” you get so immersed and focused on your task, you start losing track of time. Your heart starts racing. You get excited when those big “aha!” moments happen. It’s almost like skydiving or going rafting. You get that rush, and when it’s over, everybody is just hyped up.

Anya Jaremko-Greenwold


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