Rachel Novak, the Resident Director of Courtyard and Richardson Halls, and Derrick Burkhardt, the Assistant Resident Director of the 8-plexes and Girton House, created and organized a “Haunted Hospital” themed escape room. Novak came up with much of the storyline for the experience, while Burkhardt focused more on the puzzles for contestants to solve. The escape room enrolled participants as journalists investigating the story behind an abandoned quarantine ward of the Courtyard hospital. They were to discover what plague the ward was treating, who the doctor heading the research was, and where the doctor might have gone. Participants were challenged to find all the clues and solve the puzzles leading to the answers within an hour. Keys in slime, notes under tables, a magnet maze, and various other images, words, and number puzzles. The codes led contestants to the correct conclusions to finish the room within the allotted time limit.
“[Creating the escape room] was a pretty intensive process; it took about 3 weeks just to figure out the types of puzzles and the storyline and to create all the context for the clues,” said Novak. This was quite a task, considering the originality of the whole experience, but as Burkhardt noted, “We had the mindset of ‘don’t overthink things, just get it done'”. Though the creators may have been able to keep themselves from overthinking, contestants couldn’t always avoid it. However, one of the participants, Nathan Kramer, appreciated the heavy cognitive load of the challenges. He remarked, “I really enjoyed how different each puzzle was…there was a lot of thinking on the fly”. His team escaped in 38 mins and 20 secs with no hints, the best time of any team that participated.
Creators and contestants alike raved about the escape room’s success. Considering that over 130 DSU students participated, Novak and Burkhardt were very pleased with the turnout and hope to host more in the future, perhaps one every semester. Novak even mentioned another one coming later this semester that might be holiday themed.
The creators would like to thank all that contributed to the success of “Haunted Hospital”, especially Bailey Bays for her assistance in facilitating the room, and everyone that signed up, attended, and supported the event.