North Texas Daily

Too close for comfort: Groups try to escape the Square puzzle room

Too close for comfort: Groups try to escape the Square puzzle room

February 11
02:03 2016

Matt Payne | Copy Editor

@MattePaper

A tall, middle-aged man with blonde hair felt his breath shorten. His hands shook as he fumbled with an assortment of items surrounding him.

The man, Cam Thompson, and his group of more than 10 comrades remained puzzled. As the clock winded down, they began to worry about escape and their safety as the walls surrounding them seemed to compress. Tensions are high, anxiety pressurizes the air and the single hour the group is granted winds down quickly.

Escape the Square is located in the office building complex in the same building as Recycled Books. The entrance to the game appears to be just a regular entrance to an office. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

Escape the Square is located in the office building complex in the same building as Recycled Books. The entrance to the game appears to be just a regular entrance to an office. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

In the Opera House at 109 E. Oak St., adjacent to Recycled Books, Escaping the Square features rooms designed with clues, riddles and evidence that participants must decipher in order to escape. The current theme, dubbed “International Spy,” requires a party of at least two to collaborate in solving a mystery while racing against the clock.

“We all work together, but something adventurous like this required us to think outside the box,” Thompson said. “I definitely wouldn’t call this a waste of money.”

Thompson, owner of Texas Casino Parties, first heard about the interactive game through e-commerce site Groupon. After completing the challenge with his coworkers, he was smitten by the thrill of a sudden, speedy escape while simultaneously building team synergy.

A computer screen accompanies the players in the room to show the countdown clock as well as provide clues if the moderator thinks the players are stuck. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

A computer screen accompanies the players in the room to show the countdown clock as well as provide clues if the moderator thinks the players are stuck. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

“Not many people would pay to be locked in a room until, of course, they actually try it,” Thompson said. “This may be the start of a new trend for us.”

Co-owners Adriana Barker and husband Glenn established Escaping the Square after coincidentally finding a deal on Groupon for The Escape Room in Southlake and completing the first of five lock-in challenges.

The thrill they experienced after hustling to get out of their trap would lead to them completing all five of the individually-themed rooms and branching out to Dallas’ Escape Expert to do the same.

“You just don’t know the thrill of being trapped and using critical thinking with your friends until you try it,” Glenn said. “Putting down your smartphones, having old-fashioned entertainment.”

One clue required you to look through a window from a particular spot to get the letters to unlock a padlocked trunk in the room. Kristen Watson | VIsuals Editor

One clue required you to look through a window from a particular spot to get the letters to unlock a padlocked trunk in the room. Kristen Watson | VIsuals Editor

Glenn suggested the two look for a space they could overlay with their own clues, which would lead guests trapped in the lair toward the key to escape.

Adriana discovered a suite located in the Opera House that piqued the couple’s interest and called its realtor. The couple took the entire week of Thanksgiving off to organize the room.

After hours of manual labor involving the transport of heavy furniture up a long flight of stairs, Escaping the Square opened. Since Nov. 25, 2015, guests have been paying to squirm and synergize toward the goal of hasty escape.

“We’ve only received one ‘bad’ review,” Glenn said. “A three-star review on Yelp demanding more.”

Accounting senior Jake Oas opens the last locked box to get a key before he can escape the room. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

Accounting senior Jake Oas opens the last locked box to get a key before he can escape the room. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

With Adriana working as a wet chemist for the city of Denton’s environmental services and Glenn as the city of Lewisville’s water plant superintendent, the two have struggled to make time for their vice.

Even so, the opportunity of landing a spot on the Denton Square was too advantageous to pass up—even though it meant using money that would usually go toward paying their mortgage.

“This all initially started as an idea in our heads up to one big hobby,” Glenn said.

In spite of their enthusiasm for a clandestine indulgence, the couple is uncertain about the future of Escaping the Square, but its recent upswing in popularity only encourages their itch to keep the thrill alive.

“We had no plans of this after one date night; it wasn’t even on our radar,” Adriana said. “But now, we’re sort of serial escapists. Do the guests have more fun, or do we watching them? I wouldn’t be able to tell you.”

Featured Image: Accounting senior Jake Oas uses a cipher to decode a message to escape the room. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

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3 Comments

  1. Phil
    Phil March 11, 06:06

    The item in the main image is called the Mexican Army Cipher. Believe it or not this was a state of the art encryption machine prior to World War I!

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