escape room

Elizabeth Frei unlocks a box at Escape Logan last Monday. The pirate-themed escape room opened April 10 in the location of the former Gia’s Italian Restaurant at 119 South Main St.

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With 16 minutes left on the clock, the four BYU-Idaho students-turned-treasure hunters were close to finding Buckingham’s billions in the pirate-themed Escape Logan, but fatigue was setting in.

“My brain is starting to hurt,” John Whitney said.

The first two puzzles are easy. They can be solved with a minute or two of deduction. But every time the young college students cracked a code and opened a new chest in the first brick-and-mortar escape room in Logan, more puzzle pieces appeared — and it wasn’t always clear what they meant. Sometimes they were led astray, but there were a few moments of clarity.

“Hey, they all spell out something!” Annie Pierce said as seemingly random items came together.

With the help of a few hints from Project Coordinator Carla Trumble, the team delved deeper into navigating the series of picture riddles, crossword puzzles and secret codes. They managed to swing open the back door with seven minutes to spare and a sigh of relief.

Once the adrenaline and frustration left their systems, the escape room virgins said it was a positive experience. Pierce said it helped to have four people working together.

“It took different kinds of brains, I felt like,” she said.

Whitney said it would be a good activity to get to know someone new.

“You get frustrated in there,” he said. “You can see if they’re going to quit or not. So for sure, it you’re trying to get to know a girl, to date her, put her in a hard situation.”

Tyler Green said Escape Logan would be fun for friends or a group date. They work at a ropes course in Idaho, so Green said they understand the importance of teamwork. Elizabeth Frei said the completing the escape room requires cooperation.

“If one person can’t figure a code, you have to be able to work well with the other person in order to get it,” Frei said. “You have to agree on things.”

Before the four students entered the pirate ship on Monday afternoon, Trumble and Business Owner Mark Lunt ran through the pre-game checklist. They secured combination locks to rustic chests and made sure the clues and puzzle pieces were in place: ABC book, dry erase marker, pencils, mysterious grid, tankard. Check.

With the puzzle reset, Trumble briefed the group on the basics. All of the puzzles can be solved with logic. Nothing is hidden. You don’t need to look under things. If they can’t figure something out, they can take a look at one of several clue envelopes for each puzzle that run the gamut of a gentle nudge in the right direction to more-or-less giving away the answer.

“My advice is to use your brain first,” Trumble said.

The concept of an escape room may seem foreign so some Cache Valley locals — because it is. Based on point-and-click video games, the first escape room appeared in Japan and spread to other Asian countries before appearing in the U.S. in 2012, according to MarketWatch.

Trumble said escape rooms have exploded in popularity in recent years. It’s an interesting business model, as after someone finishes the escape room, they can’t do it again — they would know all the solutions. But, they are addictive. She said escape room veterans in Salt Lake City are willing to travel to Cache Valley for a fresh challenge.

Escape Logan opened on April 10 in the location of Gia’s Italian Restaurant at 119 South Main. Gia’s devotees may notice that much of the rustic, ebony planks that make up the “pirate ship” were cannibalized from Gia’s tables, rafters and decor.

Business Owner Mark Lunt said opening the escape room is a creative way to pay rent while the two business partners continue the process of converting Gia’s, which has been closed for a year and a half, into Cache Venue.

Lunt said he has plans for the location to be a combination music venue, bar, restaurant and possibly a brewery. Trumble said she wants to open a children’s escape room for youngsters 10-and-under right next to the pirate room and plans on holding events, parties and murder mystery dinners.

As with many escape rooms, Lunt said he expects a good chunk of the the business to come from corporate team building. He said paintball used to be the go-to group dynamic activity, but now the trend is moving to escape rooms. Some will pop up for a year or two and then move on.

“It’s a mood ring business,” Lunt said.

There are a couple of typical routes to run an escape room: retain local ownership or franchise. Trumble and Lunt chose the former. They bought a PDF file for a few thousand dollars that provides all of the instructions needed to assemble the puzzles and then built the room themselves. If they were to franchise, Trumble said it would have cost them closer to $15,000. For the two business partners, it was very important to retain local ownership.

“We need more locally owned businesses,” Trumble said.

Lunt said his main goal as a businessman is to revitalize downtown Logan. Establishing Cache Venue, including Escape Logan, as a locally owned business is part of that vision to attract customers to a downtown that Trumble described as “dead and old.”

Trumble said Escape Logan is a good option for a family night or game night. They allow a maximum of eight people. The cost of Escape Logan is generally $20 per person, but there are plenty of discounts.

For more information or to book a time, visit Twitter: @RealSeanDolan

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