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Gone in 60: An ‘escape’ from school stress

Sixty minutes of adrenaline, anxiety and quick thinking – this isn’t a haunted house, and it’s not a horrifying exam, either. A few blocks down from Bradley at 1028 SW Adams St. resides Gone in 60 Escape Games.

An escape room is an interactive game in which people are locked in a room with other participants and have to use elements of the room to find clues, solve a series of puzzles and escape before the time limit is reached.

Sara Fickes, a co-owner of Gone in 60, said one of the main components to the rooms is the atmosphere.

“We don’t do anything warm and fuzzy because we’re really good at making things creepy,” Fickes said. “There’s nothing that is going to jump out at you. Yes, the look and feel of the room can be a little unsettling, but that’s the point – we want [customers] to have the anxiety of wanting to escape that room.”

Fickes said she and fellow co-owner Matthew Ruder were first inspired to create escape rooms after volunteering at a haunted house in 2014. They’ve since used their knowledge of haunted houses to incorporate one key feature into their escape rooms – immersion.

“We got hooked on wanting to challenge ourselves to create this [immersive] environment that also challenges the brain,” Fickes said.

Fickes said the complexity and suspense leaves attendees with an adrenaline rush.

“[By the time customers leave,] they’re just buzzing with excitement and talking about the things they had to do to get out of the room,” Fickes said.

According to Fickes, Gone in 60 currently has two rooms, but she said she and Ruder are working on a third and are hoping to eventually manage four in total. Besides incorporating various locks, puzzles and technology, the rooms also emphasize stimulating sight, sound and even scent to raise customer anxiety levels.

But what ties everything together is the story behind each of the rooms, Fickes said.

“Our goal with story lines and the creation of them is really just to make sure we can have the player or players be able to connect with it … so we don’t want it to be so specific that it just seems so outlandish,” Fickes said. “We want it to feel as realistic as possible.”

The crew goes through detailed measures to ensure the atmosphere is as intense as possible.

“[The scenario] in the Coven room [is that] your Great Aunt Sarah passed away, and you realize that she was up to some very interesting things,” Fickes said. “There are ambient sounds … different levels of interaction to get your anxiety up, and smells as well, which are very musky.”

The only catch is that customers have to be able to handle locking their phones in another area.

“It’s an opportunity to get together, reconnect with people … We want to take them to a different reality,” Fickes said. “We love the ‘wow’ factor we give the people when they step into the room. They really feel they are escaping their reality for at least an hour.”

Gone in 60 costs $28 for adults and $23 for any college student with an ID. Booking can be made online at http://www.gonein60.com or by phone at 309-419-2461.

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