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Just past 7 p.m. on a recent Friday evening in Castle Rock, a group of six people finds themselves locked in a room.
With the click of the door, the three couples fan through the room, opening drawers, looking under tables and piling any object they can grab on a table. They’re surrounded by swords, shields, weathered wood furniture and books written in medieval script.
They need a clue, any hint at how to get out.
Then on a monitor with a counting-down clock, one pops on screen. The group unanimously pauses from scavenging the chamber and turns to reads the sentence.
With that, they’re on their way to escaping.
Sitting in a nearby, private room on the sending end of that message was Lucas Wojtalewicz. He is a “clue master” on staff at Epic Escape Game in Castle Rock, just one of the popular escape rooms popping up in Colorado and across the country.
Castle Rock resident Langford Jordan and his wife, Carol, opened Epic Escape Game, 611 N. Wilcox St., last October. It’s one of 11 locations in the country from the Denver-based company.
When Langford pitched the idea of opening an escape room, Carol said, she thought it was a far-off, one-day kind of dream. Langford said they should do it within a few months. Despite her surprise, Carol got on board.
So he left behind his career in engineering and leadership building, tired of constant travel and time away from family.
Escape rooms have grown in popularity over recent years, providing thrill-seekers an opportunity to step out of reality and into imaginary, high-stakes scenarios where the best chance at survival is a person’s own wit.
“I love games, and in my previous jobs I did a ton of leadership, team development,” Langford said.
Some customers are merely there for fun, but they also get corporate offices bringing employees in for team-building excercises, he said.
The Jordans and their staff designed all games available at the Castle Rock escape room. They started with a storyline, designed the sets, gathered props and brought their vision to life through five unique rooms.
There’s The Quest, which draws inspiration from The Hobbit and takes players through the Middle Realm to battle an evil wizard.
In the Red Planet, participants are space travelers whose ship was struck by a meteor shower. They emergency land on Mars, where the goal is to repair the ship and return home. Or, be stuck on Mars forever.
In Dinner at the Manor, guests of a dubious science mogul find themselves locked in a room after visiting his home under the guise of a dinner party invitation.
Happy Campers challenges players to escape a bear plundering their campsite who’s trapped them in their RV — to which they’ve lost the keys.
An in the newest game added this March, players of Super Powers strive to rescue super heroes from a radioactive-weapon-wielding villain.
“People like creepy, Langford said.
Each game is a series of on-theme puzzles and riddles that people must solve to ultimately find their way out. They’re given one hour. Clues cost them five minutes.
While games are underway, “clue masters” work from a control room where they can see and hear the players in each room. When the players get stuck, they can phone into the control room to ask for help. Clue masters can send hints to them in real time.
The games vary in difficulty. In the Red Planet, less than 20 percent of people successfully escape. In fact, it’s closer to 14 percent, said manager Lois Comstock. The 19-year-old has worked for the Jordans full-time since they opened the game room.
“Usually people get in here with about 10 minutes left,” Comstock said of the final room in the Red Planet. “If they’re lucky.”
If the success rate dips below 10 percent, they adjust a game to make it less challenging, Comstock and Langford said.
Overall, Langford said he hopes the escape room is providing creative entertainment for the community.
“I thought Castle Rock,” Langford said, “could use something that was fun.”
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