Contributor Leigh Gibbens headed to Grimstone Manor to be voluntarily trapped in Halloween hell. Did she make it out in time? Read on…
My husband and I recently celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary.
As it approached I thought, “What better way to spend the evening than desperately trying to escape from a locked room?” He’s a good sport (and a smart man), so he responded, “Sounds great, hon.”
That’s when I told him our two kids would be joining us. And my sister. And my parents.
For my husband the proposition suddenly became a little more frightening…
But the truth was I had a Groupon that was rapidly nearing its expiration date and I needed to use it or lose it, as they say. So that’s how, with full family in tow, we ended up celebrating 16 years of marriage: locked in a room together trying (some more desperately than others) to get out.
For those who aren’t aware, Escape the Room games are live action puzzle adventures that have popped up all over the GTA in the past few years. Essentially, you get “locked” in a room with a small group of people and have to use your collective wits and intuition to solve a series of puzzles in order to escape. The games usually run for an hour and the rooms have different themes, story lines, and difficulty levels to suit different interests.
There are a number of locations in Durham, and the one we visited was S. Capers Break Out Zone in downtown Oshawa. After checking out the website I was thrilled to discover that S. Capers is currently running a “Scary Escapes Event” with Halloween themed rooms – complete with live monsters to make the experience even creepier. As a Halloween and horror movie lover, this is right up my alley.
My easily frightened nine-year-old son, on the other hand, was suddenly not so sure. He now looked almost as concerned as my husband was at the prospect of being locked in with the in-laws.
“What do you mean there are monsters in the room? Like, actual real monsters? Right in the room? What will they do?” Valid questions to be sure. I can’t even begin to imagine what was going on in his head – his vivid little-boy imagination running completely amok.
So I made my first call to S. Capers to get the lowdown because, while I love all things scary, terrifying the little guy would clearly be considered a parenting fail. The staff member I spoke to was extraordinarily helpful – patiently discussing at length which of the rooms would be the most family-friendly and explaining that they have different scare levels that you can decide on beforehand – from fully interactive to no monsters at all. And that at any point if we deemed things “too scary” we could dial it back a notch further. Clearly this wasn’t the first time they’d dealt with nervous puzzle enthusiasts and had it all covered. Our discussion left me completely reassured that we would all have a good time.
I went online to book only to discover that the only evenings we could go occurred after my Groupon expired – curses! So I called back again and explained my dilemma – one born completely from my own procrastination – and am happy to report that S. Capers came through for me. After checking with the manager they called me back right away to say they could make it work. We hadn’t even set foot in the door and already they had two thumbs up in my books for great customer service.
S. Capers is located in an old building in downtown Oshawa which they refer to as Grimstone Manor, right across from the public library. The location definitely adds to the vibe of the experience – complete with a front parlour waiting area, creaky old stairs, and an attic which is where our particular escape took place.
After entering the front door we were promptly and enthusiastically greeted by hosts who signed us in, then ushered us into another room to watch a short video which explained the general rules of the game – what we should and shouldn’t touch, how to get help if we needed it, what the different levels of interactivity (or as my son refers to it “scariness”) were and so on. The intro was professionally done, the hosts were welcoming and helpful, and we were all raring to go.
Until we got upstairs and the wee boy saw that the lights were out, the room lit only with candles and a single flashlight. At that point he decided that perhaps this game wasn’t for him after all. He and his Dad spent the first 5 minutes or so huddled on the attic stairs in serious discussion while the rest of us started the game. Whatever my husband said worked like a charm however and soon enough our youngest member was searching for clues like everybody else. He was an old pro by the time we hit the 30 minute mark.
The puzzles were challenging but achievable, and all in all we did pretty well – we were on the right track with the final puzzle and almost managed to escape within the hour. Unfortunately, and much to the dismay of my highly competitive 13 year old daughter, we didn’t quite make it. We patted ourselves on the back anyway and declared it a win.
The experience was a fantastic one from start to finish – from the first call I made until we had our photo taken at the end of the hour. It turned out to be a fun way to spend our anniversary after all (even according to my husband) and we plan on going back again soon to try another room.
Next time, however, we’re leaving the kids at home.
S. Capers Break Out Zone is located at 83 Centre Street, Oshawa.
About the Author
Leigh Gibbens grew up in Oshawa. After several years in foreign locales (Kingston, Montreal and Toronto), she moved back after starting her own family. She plays many important roles in her daily life including freelance copywriter and project coordinator, wife and mom, community volunteer, student, household CEO, and most recently – What’s On Oshawa contributor. Leigh loves to attend community activities of all sorts and can often be spotted with various family members in tow at events around Oshawa.