Locked in. How do you escape? Matching your wits with those of your teammates – or a group of complete strangers – you search for clues and use every available object to find the solution that opens the door.
You’ve imagined it, maybe even seen or read about it. MacGyver could do it with a paper clip and a rubber band. Agent Pendergast could produce what he needed from inside his black suit.
There have been many movies, television shows, video games and mystery novels depicting characters escaping from dangerous circumstances or locked rooms. Now you can try it yourself. Here at home.
Marion resident Jacob Jackson is opening Smyth County’s first escape rooms early next month. But you can go by and take a peek and learn more during the Christmas parade on Friday evening and enjoy some coffee, cider or hot chocolate.
Origin Escape Games is being established in the downtown Marion building between Hester’s Fudgery and The Wooden Pickle, at 116 E. Main St. It is expected to open for business on Jan. 4.
Jackson said he had the idea for the escape rooms after doing many himself, and convinced his parents, Dewey and Katey Jackson, to join him in the venture. They became escape room enthusiasts, he said, after experiencing one with him in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
“I’ve done about 20 escape rooms,” he said. “The first one I did I absolutely loved it!”
Jackson said he had never heard of escape rooms before seeing an ad on Facebook. He and some friends went to the one in Bristol.
“It was awesome!” he said.
Jackson said he saw the building to rent in Marion and talked his parents into leasing it.
“We’re hoping to bring something new to the town of Marion for the kids to do,” said Jackson. “There’s nothing for kids to do. This is for all ages 10 to 110.”
And by “kids,” Jackson is referring to not only teens and young adults who are always looking for adventure, but children and older folks as well. His escape rooms are for all ages – a scary one for those 16 and older and a family-friendly one for all ages.
“We’re trying to bring people into Marion and accommodate the residents as well,” he said, adding that “where they are located, escape rooms are very popular and attract many visitors.”
An escape room is an hour-long adventure game. The idea began with first-person interactive video games. With close to 5,000 now worldwide, escape rooms began in Japan in 2007. The concept quickly spread through Asia and Europe and was introduced into the United States in 2012. The Escape Game opened its first room in 2014 in Nashville, Tenn. Learn more at https://theescapegame.com.
Jackson said the closest to Smyth County until now have been in Bristol, Kingsport, Johnson City, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.
“They are very popular in this area,” he said, with the first one opening about three years ago.
Origin Escape Games will start with two rooms – the scary one and the fun one. The scary one, said Jackson, will be like a horror movie or haunted house and anyone ages 16 or 17 must have an adult of 18 or older accompanying them. The fun one is for anyone and will be reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland or Candyland. One room is about 650 square feet and the other about 550 square feet.
No one goes in the escape room alone. There must be at least two people and can be up to six during regular hours and up to 15 for private parties or reserved times. Jackson said the participants have one hour to figure out how to get out. At the end of the hour, the door will be opened. And anyone can leave at any time if they so desire. Those who solve the room and escape with record times will get their names on a leader board as a reward.
Participants will have the rules explained to them before going in the room, and those who do not solve the room and escape before the hour is up will learn what they needed to do to get out.
Cost for participation will be $22 per person. Hours will be 4:30-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to midnight on Fridays, and noon to midnight on Saturdays. A promotional package will offer the first 50 people to go through the rooms an opportunity to win prizes in a drawing.
“We’ve had a lot of good comments,” said Jackson. “They’ve been supporting it and saying this is what the town needs. Escape rooms are big attractions where they are.”
Jackson did a test run last Saturday for 10 people and they all loved it, he said. He will do another test of the other room this Saturday.
“It’s all geared toward team-building opportunities, toward teamwork,” he said. “You have to work together to get out. Bring a friend if you want to get out.”
The whole experience has been wonderful, said Jackson, with support from the town and he is looking forward to opening the business.
“This would not have been possible without God putting a hand on us because without that it wouldn’t have happened and so quickly,” he said.