Marc S. Kruza

Hella Houdinis

The Basement

Kidnapped by a serial killer, trapped in his giant trash compactor, and given 35 minutes to escape. Danny, Noriko and I were trapped in this real-life scenario… well, real, but complimented with legal waiver, claustrophobia warning, small air conditioning unit for comfort, and large "panic" buttons in case anybody got cold feet. The Basement Escape room, in Sylmar, CA, made my last Mystery Dinner Theater experience seem like a bingo game at a nursing home. Here is our story, exact details, riddle answers and order of tasks changed to protect us not from serial killers, but from lawyers.

After the cast member… I mean, serial killer's apprentice, locked us in the room, we looked around us to find a ten-by-ten room full of gauges, keys, locks, mirrors, magnets, numbers, pipes and other clues.

One clue let me do what I do best: Math. It read like a high school word problem… multiply this value, add to that value, and apply the answer to a different location across the room. This required multiple hands and eyes, and therefore, team work. Future rats, navigate your maze well.

"This 10-number key pad makes absolutely no sense," I said to myself, frustrated after having entered what I thought was the correct number at least ten times. The numbers seemed completely faded. Was this part of the puzzle? What order were the numbers? Were they like a phone touch pad or calculator? Future victims, solve for yourselves.

Another task involved fishing a small object out of a small space with a hook… except we dropped the freakin' hook down the space. For a minute, we thought we might have to press the red "panic" button and beg the staff to able to start over. But before I could start fishing with my shoelace, Danny was able to fish it out with the serial killer's string sans hook. I don't think the serial killer's lawyers would mind revealing to my readers this was not part of the puzzle… just us being morons.

Another task involved a dive into the sewer, retrieving two objects, and listening to a Morse Code… future code hackers, decipher on your own.

3 minutes left… we were almost out of time, and I'd spent way too much time on one clue. Noriko moved a few more clues into place, and we waited a few seconds, waiting for another audio or visual clue, but instead heard on the loudspeaker "Decompression sequence deactivated," followed by an Indiana Jones style "victory" soundtrack… we escaped! We won! We shared a triumphant high-five.

The cast members congratulated us, entered our team name as "Kruza39" since I had just had my 39th birthday, and told us about other Escape Rooms in the area. If you are ever out on Friday night and you and your friends feel like a riddle before a rum runner, or a puzzle before a pub crawl, check out your local Escape Room.