The Cincinnati Escape Room is now located in Longworth Hall with a brand new room, Reverse the Curse. They believe in staying local and working within the Cincinnati community to provide immersive adventures. Now with three rooms, they continue to rotate their room experiences to keep to keep things fresh. Owner Doug Gross shares a sneak peek of the new room and what it takes to develop a new and unique escape room here in Cincinnati.
This is where room creation all begins! Developing creative, one-of-a-kind escape adventures can be tricky. Whether it’s a medieval theme, reverse a curse, or a prison break, there are endless options, but finding the most intriguing one is the challenge. The new room is Reverse the Curse, set in a 1920s-style New Orleans mansion.
“Paper” Build Out 3–5 Design Concepts
It’s not just the theme that’s important. “We must create an immersive experience and natural flow supported by puzzles and tech,” says Gross. This year, Gross and his team collaborated with UC Professor Mark Halpin and CCM to come up with design concepts. It was a win-win because the students gained real-world experience and the escape room team had access to some of the most creative brains in the area. This combination paid off big time and Reverse the Curse was “in production.”
“Karly Hasselfeld is the creative genius who can take a concept and turn it into an immersive reality,” says Gross. She spearheaded the room build out while Gross’s family worked on the puzzle design and tech. One part is audio/visual, including video clips when the guests walk in, the soundtrack they hear when certain things happen, and programming the puzzle. Electrical engineering work goes into developing the puzzle from scratch, like when the lights turn different colors or mechanisms start to move. For example, the new room features a mannequin head that lights up when you solve the clue, hidden rooms, a crypt, and many more surprises, all themed in “New Orleans cursed mansion” style.
The Cincinnati Escape Room is a local business and the team tries to source props and decor from vendors in the area. For example, the stained-glass window puzzle in the new room has glass from Kaleidoscope Stained Glass in Covington. “Karly is the Queen of thrift shopping and finding that perfect prop in a local antique shop,” says Gross. “The Wooden Nickel and the [Habitat for Humanity] ReStore—we reuse a lot of pieces from local places and it’s almost like a treasure hunt.” Once they needed a rotary phone from the ’80s, which they found at The Ohio Antique Mall in Fairfield. Antique malls are great sources for door handles, old furniture, and other gadgets to include in the escape rooms.
Test It Out
“It’s not like everything works the way you think,” says Gross. “We put months into a puzzle and if it doesn’t seem right, you just have to scrap it.” After a few teams do test runs, the Cincinnati Escape Room team will tweak a clue or change how something works to perfect the final design.
Open It Up
When everything is set to go, it’s time to launch the room! Each time a group goes into the room, there’s a gamemaster assigned to help. “Their job is to guide the participants through what we try and make a positive bonding adventure,” Gross says. “I mean, who doesn’t like successfully conquering a mission with your friends and family?”
Whether you’re a group of coworkers looking for a team-building activity or a few friends seeking something new, Reverse the Curse or one of the other rooms at The Cincinnati Escape Room is a fun outing that everyone in the group will enjoy. New this year, the Escape Room is partnering with BrewRiver Creole Kitchen for an Escape and Dine. People can book their New Orleans adventure together with a package discount. Before or after you’re finished with the room, stop over for dinner or a beer and replay the video of your team going through the puzzle. Visit the website to book a room and get ready to have some fun.