Escape the Ordinary: Locked in an Escape Room (for Fun)
To escape this article, find another word for “escape” that rhymes with “glee.”
The Rogue Valley offers a bounty of group activities from eating out, catching a show or hiking the Table Rocks, but perhaps none as mentally stimulating and potentially thrill-tastic as Escape Rooms, a frantic and fun activity popular in larger cities for the past several years and has finally opened in southern Oregon.
Taylor Long, who originally applied to paint the Escape rooms, but became the facilitator at Baffled in Medford says, “I honestly didn’t even know what an escape room was until I started working here, but it is my favorite job that I have had so far.” Now, she gets to guide escape artists through a funtastic experience in a safe environment and watch their reactions live.
So, what is an Escape Room? A physical adventure game where players solve puzzles and riddles to unlock clues. Designer and part owner, Keith Zimmerle, strives to provide group fun in a brain over brawn approach that guests and employees appreciate, and his masterpieces are mental more than physical challenges. Brainteasers, number puzzles, popular culture references, riddles, and general knowledge are all required to unlock safes, boxes, and surprises within 60 minutes.
About half of game players escape unless they enter the “Kidnapped Room,” located at the Rogue Valley Mall, which only has a 30 percent success rate. (Good thing it is just a game.)
Kira Bell, General Manager of the Escape Rooms, explains that each room has a unique set of challenges requiring different forms of logic, “We have some rooms that need more of a divide-and-conquer approach and others that require teamwork throughout.” She refers to the “Saving Wonderland Room” as a linear escape room because riddles and rhymes dictate progression.
“Baffled Escape Rooms” all began in Phoenix (Arizona) when Zimmerle was approached by Danny Torgerson, Rogue Valley native, to set up a room in White City. “Davinci’s Secret” opened in 2016, based on a popular room of the same name in Arizona.
And when asked, which came first: the room or games, Zimmerle says, “We start at the end and work our way backwards. If guests must find three specific cards, I think about how I can give them clues to point them in the right direction.”
Zimmerle hunts down the physical space first, selects the theme, and then creates all the internal games and puzzles in about a month’s time. At first, he and Torgerson tried it the other way around, and it led to more frustration than success.
Speaking of frustration—there is just enough of it along with fun, frivolity and even fear as deliberate elements of the experience. Bell says, “One of my favorite things is running the ‘Dollhouse Room.’ We get to play sound effects, make people scream and creep escapees out!”
Not every room is terrifying, but they are more challenging than most guests expect, Bell reports.
Seven Unique Rogue Valley Escape Rooms
Rogue Valley Mall locations:
Dollhouse Room: The scariest of the escape rooms, according to Zimmerle. Encounter two spirits. One who wants to help and another who wants to entrap.
Kidnapped: The most challenging room by far says Long. Because the puzzles and games are hands-on, harder to solve and take extra teamwork.
Saving Wonderland: Go ask Alice how to save Wonderland in time and be prepared to escape with a rhyme!
White City locations:
The Davinci Secret: Imagine choosing the chalice that may or may not be the Holy Grail.
Escape the Dragon’s Lair –Escape the dragon’s fiery breath and find gold by going medieval.