We were instructed to enter the 14-story federal office building at 701 Loyola Ave. and tell the security guard we were going to the fourth floor.
It was a Saturday, and the building was virtually empty. Leaving the elevator, our instructions said to walk to the end of the long hall, where an old chair sits outside a door.
“Escape My Room” was written on the door. We opened it and walked inside to find a parlor that looked like it was taken from an old estate. …
For my three friends and me, it was time to play the game.
It’s called Escape My Room, and it’s the brainchild of Andrew Preble and Michelle Calabro, two young entrepreneurs who opened their unique attraction to the public this week.
In the parlor, there was a low-slung sofa dating to at least the late 1960s, the kind you might find in a grandmother’s once-stately home. Photos lined the walls.
On one table was a glass case displaying a well-preserved rooster with the head of an alligator. Another case displayed a macabre diorama with moving parts, and two others held a long-dead baby gator and an iguana with a human head.
On the ceiling was a chandelier made of campy plastic swans and flamingos.
The couple gave us time to relax in the “parlor” before emerging from behind a curtain to explain our mission.
“The year is 1990 and Odette DeLaporte has invited you to her study. As the last remaining heir to the DeLaporte fortune, she needs your help locating a treasure that went missing a long time ago. She has agreed to meet with you in the hope that you can recover what’s been lost.”
We had read the backstory on EscapeMyRoom.com, so we knew a little bit about the DeLaporte lore. It seems the eccentric family’s mansion has been demolished to make way for the new medical complex downtown, and Mrs. DeLaporte’s life is in disarray. The family’s belongings, everything from Carnival memorabilia to furniture, photos, antiques and oddities, have been relocated to a suite in this building.
After signing a waiver stating that we’d be locked in a room for one hour, we were led into the “study.” The door closed behind us and the game was on.
Inside, we found pieces of Carnival masks and notes from Mrs. DeLaporte. We were so busy we’d forgotten that hidden cameras and microphones were recording our every move.
Suddenly, Preble called us to attention via an intercom. “Mrs. DeLaporte would like you to arrange her Comus cups on the shelf.”
For the next hour, every puzzle we solved revealed clues to the next one. We found keys and codes to open a door into a second room and numbers to open combination locks. Our group succeeded in escaping the room, but Preble and Calabro said less than half of participants in their test groups have escaped before time runs out.
“Every group is different,” Calabro said. “Everyone has a different approach to the space. Some people come in and just explore, and that ends up paying off because there’s so many things that don’t jump out at you.”
The story that Preble and Calabro came up with is fictional, but the Carnival history is real.
“When you’re playing the game, you don’t realize you’re learning, you’re just playing through the game. Then it’s like, ‘Oh, wait, I learned about Momus, and that’s no longer a parade now.’ And maybe someone will go home and say, ‘Why isn’t it a parade anymore?’ and they’ll look it up on their own.”
The Mardi Gras study room will remain open for a year and then will change to another room in the DeLaporte house. The next room will feature a jazz theme and more of the DeLaporte story.
Tickets are $28 and can be purchased on the website, EscapeMyRoom.com.