Photo: Emily Christie

The New Adventures of Old Emily: Escape Room

Emily Christie experiments with escapism.

When I heard that RAG week was hosting an Escape Room challenge, I knew I’d have to take part.

Not to brag, but I’ve read the whole SparkNotes page for a Sherlock Holmes novel, so I was more than prepared. Rallying my housemates for the ultimate test on our relationship, we made our way to the Union and had our first glimpse of the room we would be “locked” in for an hour. The only way to escape: solve a puzzle and find a code.

Our room was themed around bioweapons and the possibility for the destruction of the world, a pretty fitting topic considering our current climate. Our task was to find a code that a deceased scientist left behind, in order to prevent huge loss of life. When the timer started, I immediately looked under all the tables, despite the hint from the supervisor to check on top of the desk. I found myself questioning the safety labels put on the tables by the University. Why do tables need safety labels, I mused skilfully. Is this all part of the game? Were the objects on the table mere smoke and mirrors and I had uncovered the real puzzle? Had I solved the challenge before it even began?

I hadn’t. They were just stickers. While I was having an existential crisis about the safety standards of furniture, my friends had opened all the envelopes and put the clues in order.

I knew there was no real danger, but something kicked in and my mind started working overtime. Searching through lab coat pockets, underlining key phrases, and utilising batteries and a magnet, I managed to retrieve a key from the bottom of a test tube. Success; we had completed the first section. But then came the real problems.

With a half-solved puzzle, we all started thinking too deeply. The sticker crisis was back, but this time it had infected the whole group. We broke open a sealed jar of what looked like blackcurrant juice and rice and poured it into a beaker, shone a torch on a stuffed elephant to try and find a hidden code and stared at a blank map of the world for five minutes repeating “it has to mean something.”

It didn’t. Eventually we unlocked a safe and worked out a code using a list of countries and the torch, but we still had a missing combination. Then ensued much shaking of locks, pacing, and overthinking every number in the room. With twenty minutes to go things weren’t looking good.

One hint (and confused glance from the supervisor at the rice filled beaker) later, and it was revealed that we had actually had the code for the last fifteen minutes. Our frenzied lock shaking and number crunching was all in vain. We had solved the puzzle with time to spare (even if we didn’t realise it right away). I felt enlightened, considered changing my degree to Criminology, and wondered if I was one of the greatest minds of my generation. Needless to say, I was soon humbled.

Overall, it was a great experience – really different from anything else I’ve done in St Andrews, and I would definitely take part in something like it again. I was most proud, however, of my housemates for not murdering me, even considering my backseat problem solving and suggestions to “turn it off and on again” when we were trying to open a safe.

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