Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer / Sam Zachrich
Every now and then, we all need an escape. Now you can break free right here in Westfield, at The Escape Room USA. Founded in 2015 in downtown Indianapolis, located directly above The Old Spaghetti Factory, that location was the first escape room in the state of Indiana. One year later they opened a second location in Fishers. During 2016 and 2017, escape rooms swelled in popularity. The coronavirus, however, served to winnow the field.
“COVID was nasty to the industry as a whole,” says Brendon Harbron, Chairman of The Escape Room USA. “Collectively, we saw roughly a third of escape rooms across the country close. We feel very fortunate to be through the worst of the pandemic and are looking forward daily to welcoming guests into our venue.”
Not only did Harbron’s escape room locations survive the pandemic, but this month they are also opening a brand-new location in Westfield. Like the other locations, The Escape Room USA team has poured a lot into each unique adventure with regard to design and artistry. Harbron, along with his wife Jennifer Harbron, CEO, and Don McPheron, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Escapitect (a term The Escape Room has trademarked), ensure that each adventure is magical.
“Making a story into an immersive adventure takes time and planning, and it’s so rewarding in the end,” Jennifer says.
“We work as a team, using creativity and design detail in new ways to bring an adventure to life,” McPheron adds.
The Westfield location will offer five adventures. It’s not accurate to call them “rooms” because they have an average of three rooms per adventure, due to lots of secret doors. A popular adventure is Escape the Titanic. One of the founders of the Macy’s department store and his wife nobly decide to give their lifeboat spots to others and will ultimately go down with the Titanic. As their loyal servants, your group must find a cache of jewels and return them to America for Macy’s to avoid bankruptcy. This adventure is unique in that the whole room is built on a slant so it feels like the Titanic is sinking.
“Despite being a tragedy, people love the tale of the Titanic,” Brendon says. “Guys love it from the adventure side and women like the romantic side of it.”
Another adventure is Jail Break, where your group is framed for a crime you didn’t commit. Not only do you have to get out, but since the Sheriff and his brother-in-law (the jail’s Warden) are in cahoots, you also have to gather evidence to prove your innocence.
The Escape Room USA team is bringing back and revamping one of the very first rooms, Hoosier Hysteria, which is based around an evil sportscaster who stole the Indiana high school state championship basketball trophy. Your team has to enter his game room and reclaim the trophy.
The KGB Interrogation, set in the 1960s, casts you as American agents who have been captured by the KGB. The bad guys plan to give you a drug that will turn you into a Soviet agent long-term, unless you escape.
Early in 2022, The Escape Room USA creative team will open their newest room called the Grand Elven Adventure, a fairytale-esque experience in a woodland setting. It will be two to three times the size of a normal adventure, and can amp up or down in difficulty depending on the age of the group.
There is an 80% to 90% success rate for most adventures, meaning that most teams are able to get out prior to the 60-minute time limit. With the help of the Adventure Guide, who accompanies each group and provides up to three hints along the way, the majority of teams escape with four minutes or fewer to spare.
“If you can get out in 45 minutes, you’re in the top 5%,” says Brendon, who suggests that first-timers start with a more basic adventure. “People think, ‘I’m smart, I can do really well,’ but if you’ve not done it before, it can be tricky.”
Each location has a room considered more challenging than the others. At Westfield, that’s the KGB adventure.
“That room is hard,” Brendon says. “Probably half the people are successful all the way through, and half aren’t.”
One outcome from the pandemic is the realization that when it comes to a team situation, many people like working with those they already know. Pre-COVID, if someone bought four tickets for a six-person adventure, that left two tickets open that could be purchased by another party. Now, however, all adventures are private, so when you book, it’s just your group that’s on an adventure together.
Anyone who is worried about safety standards needn’t be. The staff has all the necessary fire-safety training. Though you are “locked in,” there is a button next to every door that opens it. Should the building lose power, all doors in the building automatically unlock.
Though the point is to get out, everyone has a blast being locked in.
“People enjoy escape rooms because they love the experience of doing something with other people, especially coming out of COVID when we were denied the opportunity to be with others,” says Brendon, who loves watching people have fun. “To come in with a group of people, and put aside life and have an adventure together, is like reading a fiction book that enraptures you in a story. You get to live that story for an hour with people you care about. That’s pretty awesome.”
Prices vary depending on group size, and costs range between $30 and $44 per person.
The Escape Room USA Westfield is located at 16848 Southpark Drive. For more information, call 317-556-1873 or visit escaperoomusa.com.