Don’t get excited. We’re still at the dock. In fact, we are still going back and forth between house and boat so we have not yet escaped Tacoma. But we HAVE set the trapped spirit of Harry Houdini free by working through all the puzzles in a locked-room adventure called ‘The Last Escape‘. And we didn’t have to leave Tacoma to do it. If you don’t know why that excites us, then you haven’t been compelled to drive from Tacoma to Seattle.
‘The Last Escape’ is a puzzle room located in the very cool old post office building downtown in Tacoma on A Street, just up the street from the marina. Rather than buying a lot of useless stuff for Christmas we decided to give our family the gift of adventure and the anxiety implicit in having a time limit to unlock puzzles and codes. It works like this: You go into a room, the staff locks the door, and then you have 50 minutes to figure out how to get out. There’s a story line, and that makes it interesting, but that takes second place to the puzzles, codes, and mysteries you have to solve in order to get the clues you need. The clues lead to keys that go to locks and if you are successful in a ‘DaVinci Code’ sort of way, then you free yourselves, and, in this case, also the spirit of Harry Houdini, from the room. We managed to do it with 3 minutes to spare. Whew!
I have never participated in an activity like this, and frankly, the idea of being in a locked room with no way to get out for an hour filled me with a little bit of irrational dread. No bathroom? No food or water? I can live without food or water for way more than an hour. But if you tell me that I can’t use the bathroom for an hour, then I immediately have to go. Plus, I kind of like my doors to open and close at my bidding. This would be outside of my usual comfort zone.
I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t even worry about that locked door once inside because this puzzle room is so cool to look at that it took me right in. It’s staged like a Sherlockian 19th century library. We were greeted by Madam Dana, a ‘medium’ who reads Tarot and is gifted with the ability to contact ‘the other side’. She begins by doing some Tarot readings (and yes, she really did read the cards!) and setting up the story line. Then she hangs around as part of the experience. Maybe she might also give a little tiny hint here and there as well, and a good thing, too because these puzzles are puzzling! The beginning minutes of the experience are like being cast in a play on a stage where only one character knows what’s going to be happening. I loved it and was disappointed that Mike was the only one who got to have his cards read. It was an uncannily accurate reading!
Our first puzzle involved looking for clues that would give us the secret code to unlock a special cabinet. After the first success, I was kind of hooked. This was way better than those cheap decoder rings we used to order from the back of cereal boxes! I’m not going to spoil the fun by telling you anything more about the room or its puzzles. But I am going to say that you should hurry and buy tickets for this before it’s discovered by all the hordes of puzzle lovers in the South Sound area. You buy your tickets on line for 25$ a person. There can be up to 10 people in the group, and you may be placed with other people if your group is smaller. We were pleased to have our group of 8 in the room to ourselves. The room is not large, and as you have to solve one puzzle at a time, 8 adults were plenty in the room.
This is Tacoma’s first puzzle room, but it’s not its last. Adventures By Appointment is working on a new room to be called “Red Scorpion: The Extraction.” I’ll bet it’s also going to be great. In addition, they are working on a room to go along with the Tacoma Ghost Tour. This one will be historically accurate and it sounds like another winner. Tacoma could make a name for itself in puzzle rooms!