Ever Feel Boxed In? Try Breaking Out of a Haunted New Orleans Mansion
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because this Southern gothic adventure is well worth a visit.
The vintage rotary telephone rings. Should I answer it? After all, I’ve only just walked into what looks like an old-fashioned perfume shop on this hideaway street in New Orleans’ Central Business District. There’s not another soul in sight. The phone rings again. Nervously, I pick it up. “Hello?” A woman’s voice responds with a strange request: She recently bought a love potion here for her cat and dog who were fighting like, well, cats and dogs. But it backfired and now the two are getting along a little too well. Would I happen to have any hate potions in stock?
So begins my bizarre journey through Escape My Room, an interactive mystery-solving adventure set in the boozy-and-bluesy heart of the bayou. Individuals or groups of up to eight book an hour in one of four themed rooms, from the Mardi Gras Study and the Jazz Parlor to the Smuggler’s Den or the Inventor’s Attic. (The latter was one of 17 worldwide to win a Golden Lock-In Award from Room Escape Artist, of the 258 rooms the escape review site visited in 2017.) “There are few escape room companies that are designed on a singular theme, from front door to exit. It’s incredibly rare to see something that is that cohesive,” says David Spira, who runs the site with his wife, Lisa.
Only about a third of groups end up escaping before time runs out.
You begin in the waiting room, where a set of clues and an I Spy–like game of finding objects commences. Eventually, an in-character guide ushers you to the back of the building, explaining the rules and then locking you into your fate. While it’s bad form to give away the secrets within — taking pictures of the room is prohibited — what awaits includes dusty journals full of riddles and secret doors that open through crafty contraptions. If ever the tasks are too difficult to suss out, you are encouraged to simply look up to the ceiling, say your guide’s name and proclaim, “We need a hint!”
Antique furniture and paintings adorn the venue, which was inspired by the DeLaporte mansion — a historic home torn down for the construction of a hospital complex. Many of the DeLaporte relics are scattered throughout, a peek into an estate that could only exist in the Big Easy. That creative commitment also makes Escape My Room stand out: “The aesthetic is completely unique,” Spira says.
Originating in Japan, the escape genre has boomed worldwide in recent years. The number of escape rooms in the U.S. has grown from 22 in 2014 to more than 2,300, according to Spira. Some escape enthusiasts boast of having played nearly a thousand rooms. Escape My Room, which opened three years ago, sees as many as 2,000 customers per month, and a fifth of its business is from corporate events, says Andrew Preble, its founder and creative director. “It creates greater social bonds” than the typical after-work happy hour, Preble says, which is part of the draw.
Your chances of success are better with a bigger crowd, but it’s not easy: Only about a third of groups end up escaping before time runs out. Those who get frustrated can try again, but Escape My Room tickets aren’t cheap: $32.84 each with tax. And those looking to tack this onto their New Orleans booze cruise might want to sober up before playing. “One of the jokes among serious escape room players is that it’s impossible to have a substance abuse problem while being addicted to escape rooms,” Spira says.
Playing with only one other sleuth, I wasn’t able to finish in the allotted hour. But the escape game still thrilled with its old-time charms and its ability to keep me on my toes. Posing for a picture and then tossed back onto the streets under the New Orleans night sky, it felt as if the mystery wasn’t over, but had just begun.