It’s inconspicuous, but just above the Old Spaghetti Factory’s green awnings hangs a small sign. It’d be a blip on your map if we were in a video game, and you probably wouldn’t peg it as a sprawling, puzzle-filled dungeon.
But here, tucked in the heart of the city’s business district, a group of friends hid one of Indy’s newest, most fiendishly difficult puzzles: The Escape Room.
After the elevator doors opened on the second floor of the building, my friends and I entered the venue’s lounge, crossing a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows on our way to an empty table.
In a few minutes, we’d be locked in a room and have one hour to find clues, solve riddles, and discover keys and combinations to (hopefully) escape it. Scott and Marjorie Neal opened the attraction with Brendon and Jennifer Harbron in October 2015.
“Everything you need to solve the puzzle is in the room,” Jennifer explains. “All of the answers are in here. One thing leads to the next, which leads to the next, which leads to the next.”
Our chain started with a referee named Ian. He handed us what looked like orange dinner menus detailing the situation we were in: We were to search a local sportscaster’s room for a stolen 5A high school basketball trophy, and couldn’t leave without it. (Was the guy Dave Calabro, perhaps? Conrad Brunner? Bob Kravitz? It didn’t say).
The room has a max capacity of eight participants, but we were going to find the trophy and escape with just three. And so Ian opened the door.
It was a man cave complete with a library of sports literature, dartboard, banners and flags, among other sports-related props. A TV set on the front wall appropriately played music from the movie Hoosiers while displaying our 60-minute countdown.
Being the tidy sleuths we all are, we tore everything apart and put anything noteworthy we found in a big, jumbled mess on the pool table.
“There’s nothing physical in any of the rooms. It’s very much about mental agility and teamwork,” Jennifer says. “You have to work together to find the clues and solve the puzzles. The ones that get out the best are the ones that work together the best.”
We navigated our way through safes, locks, and keypads. We experienced momentary spikes in excitement each time our path took an unexpected twist or a new secret was unearthed. We were gliding through with ease; surely we’d be done before an hour.
But then we got stuck.
We were around 25 minutes into our search, and though we weren’t feeling completely defeated, we were helplessly sliding in circles around the hardwood floor.
It seemed like the thieving sportscaster was in the clear. We didn’t want to do it, but we knew it was time.
We used it to request our first of three hints. It helped. Ian had been watching all of the game from a wall of televisions with camera feeds from every corner of all five of the playable rooms, so he knew exactly where we were in the process of solving the overall puzzle.
We were in an introductory-level room called “Hoosier Hysteria,” but the hallway outside has doors to a mock bank vault, art gallery, jail cell, and interrogation room where other groups were simultaneously searching frantically for gold, paintings, keys, and a top-secret drug that turns people into Soviet agents.
We pushed forward and used our final two hints, rationalizing that we’d be better off using them to ensure that if in fact Calabro was the culprit, he would never speak at the IMS on race day again.
Regardless, the thought kept us going. Discovering something new started to make us feel anxious instead of accomplished. It meant the trophy was still further away—what if it was frozen in a hockey rink underneath the floor in Coach Kravitz’s goalie gloves?! We were out of luck, hints, and, apparently, sanity.
But then, in the final few minutes of our time, Ian offered us one bonus clue in exchange for a joke. Sure, he probably fake-laughed over the talkie after hearing it, but hey, his help in crunch-time got us the trophy with just about two minutes to spare.
A photo shoot with the stolen prize. Wristbands that boasted, “I got out”. High-fives all around. When we finally ran through the door with the award, we didn’t really care which of those old cats stole the trophy. We were satisfied leaving the room winners.
The Escape Room will be opening another location in Fishers sometime this fall. For more information and booking, click here.