If you’re looking for spoilers on how to escape, you won’t find them here – the Escape room is too much fun for me to ruin it for you!
Greg Buck came up with the idea of creating his own Escape Room following a father-daughter trip with his youngest daughter, Madison, to Columbus, Ohio last summer before she went off to college. In their search for something to do, Madison stumbled upon the Chamber Escape Room, which Greg highly recommends, and they decided to give it a try. Though they enjoyed themselves, they kept thinking of ways the experience could’ve been better. “The more we thought about how to make it better, the more we realized that we could do it as well.”, said Buck. “After almost a month of obsessing about escape rooms, my wife gave me an ultimatum, ‘Shut up or do something about it.’ A month off of work and countless hours of preparation later, the rest was history.”
Set up like a functioning doctors office on Dudley Avenue in Parkersburg, the Escape Room is an experience that challenges you think outside the box, searching for keys, combinations, and clues to work your way through the “Good Doctors” offices, exam rooms, and medicine cabinet to find an alternative way out.
Upon arriving to the Escape Room, you are welcomed by the hospitable owners, Greg and Kerri Buck, where, in a doctors office style waiting room, you’ll fill out a waiver. Mr. Buck explains that the waver is more to protect you from harming yourself during the experience than anything. (As some people will apparently go to some crazy extremes to find ways to escape.)
After the waivers are signed and everyone in the group is accounted for, The Bucks give you the backstory about the Good Doctor, a patient of his, and your mission. You are then gathered around a computer screen where you are shown some footage of the Good Doctors suspicious-acting patient. That’s when everything hits the fan as circumstances force you to hurry into the hallway full of locked office doors and you’re given 45 minutes to find an alternative way out before the Good Doctor comes in and finds who’s been scavenging around his office!
“It’s a movie that you are a part of. It’s a living video game where you are the controller. It’s an altered reality that you must make sense of.”
The Bucks attention to detail in this experience is incredible. One detail, which I won’t spoil for you, was found by my group about halfway through our time frame and really gave us a kick in the rear to find the way out. Had I not known this was a game, I would’ve totally freaked out over what we found. It changed the dynamic and gave us a new sense of urgency. It definitely adds a unique touch for each group that finds this clue. When you find it, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about!
“You get to participate, hands on, in a seemingly real environment that challenges you to think, observe, anticipate, and communicate with others in order to reach a common goal.”
When asked to describe the experience to someone who has never heard of an Escape Room before, Buck responded, “My favorite description is that you can either sit and watch a movie, or be a part of one. The Escape Room WV tries to immerse its “escapees” into a believable (somewhat) story. You’re not just solving puzzles. You’re not just heading toward an inevitable finish. If we get it right, you get to participate, hands on, in a seemingly real environment that challenges you to think, observe, anticipate, and communicate with others in order to reach a common goal.”
Mr. Buck says the plan is to utilize both sides of their current layout to allow for two separate escape experiences to be running at once, while regularly changing the escape themes to keep “escapees” coming back for more. “We’re new at running an escape room, but my best guess is changing (themes) quarterly. We have enough room to run 2 completely different escapes at one time, so if we can set it up properly, we should be able to stagger the running of both where a theme changes every 2 months.”
The Bucks are currently working on a Halloween Themed mini-escape. “The Haunted Library should see groups of up to 8 people thrust into a dark and foreboding hallway after registering and paying for their library cards. Once they make their way into the room at the end of the hall, they will meet the librarian who will require each to approach with their card for verification. She will then “ask” for them to retrieve certain items for her which have been hidden throughout the room…maybe a fall reading list of books they need to check out. Her demented daughter, affectionately referred to as “pet” will be behind an iron barred door, but fortunately for the group, not close enough to reach them. Once the librarian is satisfied with the group’s success, they will be sent through the iron barred door and into a small maze where the exit can be seen but not easily reached. Now where did that crazy “pet” run off to?”
One rule of the escape room is that you are not allowed to bring your cell phone or camera into the escape room. understandably. But what the Bucks found was that it also forced participants to disconnect from their cellular devices and truly communicate with one another and live in the moment.
Greg also shared that while the escapes are entertainment, they are also being used to collect data. “We collect data on each group as they tackle the various puzzles and progress through the story, towards the escape. We are looking for patterns based on individuals’ age and gender, but also for patterns based on how certain ages and genders communicate with others. This is all leading to a much bigger objective. We live in a digital age where we attempt to communicate in as few words as possible. Our communication is gradually shifting from interpersonal expression and verbal communication to 140 characters or less tweets, cramming as much input into small messages or blurbs as possible. We are losing our ability to communicate as human beings and we don’t even know it. A study of this magnitude and scope is years away, so we aren’t planning for it currently. We’re simply collecting as much empirical data as we can for the time when we need to use it.”
Greg and his wife Kerri are from, and grew up around, Parkersburg. They have family and many friends in the Mid-Ohio Valley. The Escape Room WV is their labor of love and how it is received by this community is very important to them. When they’re not locking people in office buildings, they both have other jobs. Kerri is a chemist and works in a lab in Marietta and Greg has been a self-employed IT consultant throughout the MOV since 1999.
The Escape room has a range of different levels of difficulty. Halloween and haunted escapes will run the last three weekends in October. We escaped the normal level, but nobody has escaped the advanced or expert level. Will you be the first? To learn more and to book your reservation, visit the Escape Room WV’s website.