Enthusiasts call them escape rooms, but at Eleventh Hour Enigma in Tulsa, the doors aren’t locked and nobody is tied up. Instead, players work in teams to advance toward the exit by using their brains … and a few other body parts.
“You get together a group of friends, co-workers or family members,” says Melisa McCelvey, president of the attraction. “You have to complete the mission in a set amount of time by solving mysteries and riddles.”
Parts of the game rely on the power of observation, but logical and sequential skills also come in handy. Players might find themselves using all their senses.
Tino Pascuzzi, co-owner of Sanctuary Escape in Oklahoma City, says he and business partner Louie Hernandez offer an “extremely immersive” experience.
“We are very much a detail-oriented, set design adventure game,” he says.
Eleventh Hour has two games. In Tulsa Time, players enact roles of law officers trying to save the city from attack. Winchester’s Widow is set in 1906 San Jose, California, as players attend a ball, and the mansion they’re in is changed forever.
Sanctuary Escape, near Frontier City on Interstate 35, has games called The Lost Dutchman’s Mine and La Famiglia, a nod to Pascuzzi’s Italian heritage. Pascuzzi says The Lost Dutchman is based on a real-life miner who wandered into the Superstition Mountains in Arizona and was never heard from again.
“The Dutchman is a little more physical,” he says. “You may get a little dusty; you may get a little wet.”
Eleventh Hour is in Tulsa’s up-and-coming Pearl District, so “we get a fair amount of traffic from people coming into town for concerts and also from convention tourists,” McCelvey says. “We had a family recently from Los Angeles. Every time they go to a new town, they find an escape room.”
McCelvey loves the universal appeal.
“A woman came in who was celebrating her 84th birthday [and] brought the four generations behind her,” she says. “There is a demand for an activity that appeals to multiple generations.”
McCelvey is working on a game with a World War I spy theme, and Pascuzzi is developing two new games, one of which “will be replayable up to five times. You can be one of five characters and your tasks are completely different.” More games will be added because not many people want to play the same one twice.
Eleventh Hour is open Wednesday and Thursday evenings, all day on weekends and other times by appointment (eleventhhourenigma.com). Sanctuary is open daily (thesanctuaryokc.com/escape). Rooms should be booked in advance, and most games last about an hour. The ideal team size ranges from four to six people.
“When people finish the game,” McCelvey says, “I always want to be out here to give them a high-five. You can feel their sweaty palms. [It] is a real adrenaline rush.”