This article is part of an occasional series examining entertaining things to do in Mansfield.
You think you know people, but put them in a different scenario and you can discover a lot of hidden sides. When my husband, Bob, and I decided to experiment with the Mad Scientist’s room at Mind Maze, we uncovered some interesting (and a little unnerving) traits of our best buddies.
Friends Aaron and Gigi Wadley and Annette and Bob Geisel are escape room veterans and volunteered to show us around. All four had already worked their way out of the Mad Scientist’s room last year, but assistant manager Patrick Prejusa assured us the room had changed and would still be a challenge.
Since Bob and I were escape room newcomers, we didn’t even have an idea of what was going to happen. Prejusa put together a test tower in the lobby just for people like us.
Using clues, we had to open combination locks, using a series of numbers or letters, or were given small keys to open padlocks. But even the test tower wasn’t easy. Some clues were only visible under black light, others had to have the numbers or letters aligned perfectly before the lock would open. We flunked the test tower, giving me a sense of foreboding about the actual escape room.
Gloria the doctor’s assistant (Stephanie Williams in a red-stained lab coat) showed us through the room, gave us the rules and told us to scream if we needed any help. She gave us an hour to find our way out, set the clock and left.
Bob and I were left staring at the door, wondering what to do next. Our friends, not so much.
These responsible adults, people we have known for years, sprang into action, tossing the room with the expertise of cat burglars. They jerked open drawers, rifled through books, ran their hands under counters and started stacking their loot on top of an old wooden desk. Gigi and Aaron studied a chart on the desk, laying a grid Annette found over it, to find the first clue.
Bob and I stood their with our mouths open in shock.
Turns out, the room is even more complicated than the test tower in the lobby - and we were lost. But our friends knew what to do. They efficiently worked their way through clues, finding and assembling body parts for a human anatomy that I hadn’t seen since eighth-grade health class. Clues were hidden in drawers, on keys, on walls, in closets, inside pipes and even required doing a test tube experiment to reveal one.
We also found fake $100 bills that we could use to buy clues from Gloria, and we got close. After trying a key in every lock in the room, even our pro friends were stumped. Gloria conveniently popped in the room to see if we were still alive and pointed out a clue, that Gigi immediately interpreted and solved. And we were off again.
With time ticking down on a large digital clock in the corner, I was getting a little concerned, but no one else looked worried. Even Bob was popping open locks and interpreting clues, while I pretty much wandered around trying to find anything they might have missed. I called out clues and watched in amazement as my buddies piled up body parts (some of those even had clues!) and cracked codes. With 15 minutes left, I called out the final clues, Gigi unlocked a key and gave it to me to open a cabinet, where I found a freaky cat skeleton that let us know we had solved the case.
Escape rooms like Mind Maze have become popular, drawing about 200 people a day, Prejusa said.
“It’s a sense of discovery like Christmas,” he said. “You don’t know what you’re going to get.”
The rooms attract families and companies for team building, Prejusa said. And they return, whether they unlock the final clue or not.
“People come back because they enjoy it, and people come back because they need closure,” he said.
Aaron, who likes playing escape games on the computer, was introduced to the idea on the “Race to Escape” television show on the Science channel. So Gigi bought the experience for him for his birthday, bringing along Annette and Bob Geisel, both engineers.
Bob Geisel also had some experience from a work outing.
“The whole team went, a bunch of A-type people in a room in Dallas,” he said. “We had to go through four doors, more than combination locks. We didn’t make it out, though.”
Mind Maze has two other rooms, the Wild West and Secret Agent. Escape rates are about 30 percent for the Mad Scientist, 17 percent for the Wild West and only 5 percent for the Secret Agent. Cost to compete is $30-$31 per person after taxes.
Gloria dropping into our room was not just a lucky coincidence. She and Prejusa keep an eye on things, laughing at people as they try to figure out the clues.
“If people look uninterested, then we go in to help them through it and tell them bad jokes,” she said.
The best advice for getting out of an escape room is to take someone who knows what they’re doing. Without our friends’ help, Bob and I would probably still be in there.
Good to know that if we ever actually get trapped somewhere, our friends can get us out.
1301 U.S. 287 North, Suite 107