I Escaped: UNF escape room first person experience

Liliana Kendall

Video by Courtney Stringfellow

You’re graduated, independent and thriving. Grad school is one semester away, and you have some time and money to spend. What better way to spend it than going backpacking across Asia?

You decide to stay at a hostel to get the full travel experience. Considering you’re in an unfamiliar environment, you get a good night’s sleep, fairly uninterrupted. When you wake up, you realize your room was ransacked by a stranger. You are locked in and have no way of getting out. However, the robber left you a trail of obscure clues you must piece together. How do you get out?

This is not a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, it’s the Backpack Breakout Escape Room hosted by Osprey Productions at the Student Union ballrooms on Tuesday. Groups of 10-12 filled the escape rooms. However, later groups went over the 12-person cap, my group included.

Liability forms were signed before entering the room, and an OP staff member handed us flashlights and led us to the entrance, explaining the object of the escape room. We were allowed to call an OP member for 3 clues maximum if we got stuck, and the goal was to break free in less than 45 minutes. The staff remained in the room the whole time.

We entered the hostel in total darkness. Once the timer began, flashlights flashed on and my group immediately gathered at the dinner table. Three plates (two of which had specially-arranged chopsticks) spelled out, “one.” I wondered if this was some kind of code. A Chinese restaurant menu lay open on the table, with some of the price numbers circled. IT movie posters were strewn all around the room, and crumpled notes with Chinese characters denoting Chinese years were on top of the dinner table.

The plates spelling out “One,” alluding to clues found on George Washington’s page in the U.S. president book. Photo by Liliana Kendall.

Me and several of my group members walk over to the sitting area and find a messy Scrabble game sitting on the table. Words like “you,” “can’t,” “escape,” and “leave” were on the Scrabble board. Random words like “puzzled” and “fuchsia” were also spelled out on the game pieces. We found a white board with random words written on it, the phrase “A raise let hers” sticking out in our minds. The word “dog” was also written in permanent marker. We find a briefcase with a six-digit code and attempt to open it by adding up the Scrabble word totals, which seemed like the logical thing to do. Next, we tried to open the briefcase with the circled numbers on the restaurant menu. However, none of these combinations worked.

While this was going on, other group members found a U.S. president book and were fixated on Calvin Coolidge’s page. Once we heard the OP staff member announce, “You have 30 minutes remaining!”, we knew we needed to use a clue. We had tried many numbers to no avail; it felt as though we skipped a crucial step. Our first clue had to do with the first president, which we all know to be George Washington. My group members flip to his page and find a six-digit number circled: it’s the date Washington was in and out of office. This combination successfully (and finally!) unlocks the briefcase.

Group members read and decipher clues left on the restaurant menu. Photo by Liliana Kendall.

We discover Chinese numbers and translations for various characters. Origami instructions were also inside the briefcase, instructing us how to make an origami dog. I remembered the word “dog” on the whiteboard, and it started making more sense. After one of my group members finished the origami dog, we notice that the back of the dog spells out a number in Chinese characters. While deciphering the number, another group member finds a tent bag with a three-digit lock on it. We try “820” to no avail. After reviewing the Chinese characters, however, we finally open the bag with the code “420” and find a locked iPhone.

One of the group members starts typing animal names for the passcode. None of them work, and we end up getting locked out of the phone twice (one minute the first time, five minutes the second time). The group comes to a general consensus that “ox” must be the password since that has not been used. We type “ox,” the phone unlocks and we are given the option to call an OP staff member to help us get out.

Before. Photo by Liliana Kendall.
After. Photo by Liliana Kendall.

My group successfully finished with 12 minutes and 54 seconds left. Of my group and the groups before us, we had the fastest finishing time. I wondered if we skipped some steps that threw us off in the beginning. According to OP, the plates spelling out “one” were supposed to hint at George Washington’s page in the president book.

I have never done an escape room before so this was totally new to me. Despite the multiple times I got stumped and didn’t think we’d be able to get out, my group collaborated efficiently to get us out as soon as possible. OP did an amazing job making the ballroom look as much like a hostel as possible. Floor mattresses, old furniture and various items from thrift stores completed the look. After this, I now know that if (for whatever reason) I ever get robbed and locked up in a random hostel, I’ll be able to escape in no time.


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