We had less than ten minutes left to solve the crime. We dashed around the room, raising lanterns to see the suspects. “Who did it?” “Where’s the guy with the mustache?” “No, not that one. It’s not him.”
We made our desperate search at the Cincinnati Escape Room during our “221B Baker Street” adventure. Located about five minutes from downtown, Cincinnati Escape Room offers two other challenges as well. “Secret Cincinnati” tests Cincinnati natives to uncover secrets, and promises that “you will never look at a bowl of chili the same way.” Meanwhile, “Prison Break” turns guests into jail-breakers who must “escape the cell and bypass the security system.”
A few days before our adventure, we checked the calendar on the website, reserved our time, and paid by credit card. About a half hour before we needed to leave home, we rounded up our group, and headed out. Escapees only get an hour to solve the puzzles, and the clock starts at the ticketed time, so we didn’t want to lose any precious seconds.
And arriving on time might be jeopardized, if you don’t know where you’re headed. The Escape sign on Montana Avenue, a busy street right off the highway, is hard to see. But, we mastered our first challenge of finding the place, parked (for free!), and went up to the fourth floor of the building. A friendly receptionist greeted us, and told us to sign in. Minors need parents to sign off on a waiver, since the experience is recommended for ages 14 and up.
After we’d all registered, we were advised to use the restroom before the events began. A few did, and the rest of us waited, and heard screams. Lots of screams, from behind the walls. Next a group of men and women were ushered out of the room in handcuffs. “Good luck,” they said. “Have fun.”
I felt a little nervous. Another group emerged, four men and four women, who apparently met behind Cincinnati Escape Room’s closed doors. “You almost did it,” the receptionist said. “We came so close,” one woman whined. Everyone in their group agreed, as they posed and smiled for a photo. “The picture will be on our Facebook page,” the receptionist said. “You can download it from there.” The group thanked her, and mumbled as they left, talking of trying again, and of being so close.
We didn’t want to be close. We wanted to win. Inside the Baker Street briefing room, two videos prepped us. The rules demanded no destruction of property, picking of locks, or use of screwdrivers, and the next video told us that our mission was to prove our sleuthing skills to Sherlock Holmes himself.
Victorian-inspired décor set the mood in the room, along with classical music and a curious Oriental rug, all rolled up — with legs and feet protruding. In one hour or less, we had to solve the crime, grab the treasure, and escape the room. At first we wandered around, clumping together, clueless. We touched stuff, opened drawers, read things, and wondered what to do. Nothing made sense.
But then a clue came. And we found a key. And pieces started to fit. We worked alone, in pairs, and hovered over puzzles together. One of us had an idea, and sometimes it led to a solution, and sometimes it didn’t. But at last we knew what we were doing. Triumphant music celebrated our successes, but we hadn’t succeeded, yet. We were so close. But the clock was ticking. We knew the killer, had the treasure, but couldn’t unlock the door. With less than two minutes left, our youngest had an idea. We tried it, it worked, and we escaped!
2300 Montana Ave, Suite 420 Cincinnati, OH 45211
For more escape room fun, check out Sherlock’s Escape Rooms in Florence (sherlocksescaperooms.com), Escape the Room Challenge in West Chester (escapetheroomchallenge.com), and Breakout Cincinnati (breakoutgames.com/cincinnati).