Voluntary Constraints

Get Free With a Little Help From Your Friends

In which we try—and fail—to work our way out of Escape Room Houston.

By Michael Hardy February 8, 2015 Published in the February 2015 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Houston Escape Room 
100 Jackson St., Ste. 120.

5:42 p.m. Five Houstonia colleagues show up at an unmarked warehouse north of Minute Maid Park. Our intent: to lock ourselves up in a room together and try to escape within an hour. It is a game, one called Escape Room, and it costs $22 a head. We pay $110 to a nice young woman manning the front desk. She advises that we use the restroom before we enter the Escape Room and are presumably unable to do so. We do so.

5:46 A nice young man sketches out the scenario. A secret agent by the name of Agent Mo has mysteriously vanished, he tells us, although not before hiding a wooden nickel and a key somewhere in her apartment. Our mission is to find the nickel and the key, using the latter to get out of the room. If we complete the mission within the hour, all will be well. If not, a cloud of poisonous gas will kill us. We are not sure what will happen to Agent Mo or indeed what she has to do with any of this.

5:50 We are ushered into a windowless room that is roughly 20-by-30 feet and equipped with a dining table, chairs, a desk, an electric keyboard, a television, a rack of clothes, and other miscellany, including a locked trunk, a bottle of wine, a magnifying glass, a Godzilla action figure, a copy of the Bible, the script of The Glass Menagerie, and a few other books. The young man, who will stay in the room to observe us, starts the timer.

5:56 The Houstonia team begins aggressively ransacking the room for clues, whereupon we notice our colleague Paul rubbing his forehead. He removes his hand and blood is seen to trickle from an open wound. He has apparently stabbed himself with a coat hook. “Man down!” we scream. “Am I bleeding?” Paul asks. We confirm this. “I’ve never seen this before,” mumbles the young man, escorting our fallen comrade from the room.

6:01 The young man returns—alone. We ask if we can open the bottle of wine. “Only if you win,” he replies.

6:03 Paul returns, his head bandaged.

6:06 Frustrated by our lack of progress, we plop down on an armchair and begin to read The Glass Menagerie. It is even more boring than we remember.

6:14 If Laura’s mother mentions that damned gentleman caller one more time we’re throwing the book across the room.

6:15 We throw the book across the room.

6:20 The young man announces that we have reached the 30-minute mark. We have found neither the wooden nickel nor the key, and Agent Mo has become a distant memory. Our intrepid band plows ahead nevertheless.

6:26 The young man gives us a clue. Nothing. He gives us a clue to the clue. Still nothing.

6:45 Five-minute warning.

6:48 We find the wooden nickel. No key, though.

6:50 Time’s up: we lose. Teeth are gnashed, garments rent.

6:53 The young man points out how we could have found the key. More gnashing and rending.

7:02 We take a dim view of our performance. The young man tries to cheer us up, informing us that we came closer to escaping than 65 percent of the groups who have tried. We are indeed cheered, even though 35 percent of the groups came closer and the Escape Room has only been open for a few weeks. We learn that no team has yet escaped the room. Also, there is another room under construction in the same warehouse. We vow to return and earn at least a 70. As we’re leaving, the young man instructs us not to tell anyone what happened in the Escape Room. Disheartened, we slink off into the night, wondering how we will be able to tell readers about the evening without telling them about the evening.

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