Meet the Creators of ‘The Key of Dreams’, a brand new immersive experience in the UK


For fans of the weird, the wonderful, and the utterly immersive… Something exciting is coming in 2024. From the creators of The Locksmith’s Dream comes an announcement of a new experience: The Key of Dreams.

We sat down with the two creators, Ivan and Laura, a super-team of designers and creators to find out just what The Key of Dreams is, and what can players expect.

So, what is The Key of Dreams?

Laura: The Key of Dreams is a bit tricky to categorise – maybe we need to coin a new phrase for it. It shares some DNA with escape rooms, immersive dining experiences, Secret Cinema, Punchdrunk immersive theatre and experiences like Phantom Peak, but yet isn’t directly comparable with any of these. In the most basic form it is an overnight immersive and interactive experience with an unrivalled attention to detail and a feeling of consequence.

Ivan: As part of that, guests explore a 17th Century manor house in Wales, discovering secrets that are both real history of the place and parts of the stories we weave there. There are a range of puzzles to solve, from simple trails following paths of clues to unlock boxes, narrative told in snatches of letters, journals, artworks and objects to discovering the stories of the characters of the house through interacting with the actors. The actor to guest ratio is four to one, this combined with the length of the experience means that people develop strong opinions about the characters, their trustworthiness and motives.

There are a range of puzzles to solve, from simple trails following paths of clues to unlock boxes, narrative told in snatches of letters, journals, artworks and objects to discovering the stories of the characters of the house through interacting with the actors.

Laura: Hospitality is also a huge part of the experience for us. The twenty fours hours that the experience lasts comes with all the meals you’d expect – and more. There’s an arrival lunch, an afternoon tea, a banquet dinner with stories and mysteries woven through the dishes and after dinner nibbles served in the bar where you can relax with a cocktail to celebrate your excellent sleuthing. The following day, a hearty breakfast sets you up for the final investigations.


You’ve compared it to other immersive experiences – but what else sets The Key of Dreams apart?

Ivan: At its heart, the Key of Dreams is about connection.

These can be human connections with other guests, the actors or characters in the stories. Moments of realisation provide another spark of connection, whether it happens when a puzzle clicks satisfyingly into place; when a piece of music suddenly makes everything come together and make sense; when you realise who a character is and how they were involved with one of the stories you have followed; and the friendships made along the way with other guests.

Laura: We are huge fans of weird fiction and of role playing games like Call of Cthulhu. We love the depth of description and attention to detail that helps to make the deductions, and to help us feel truly immersed in the world. While we consider the word immersive to be overused, it really is what we are trying to create here. That for the twenty four hours you exist in the house, you are part of the strange, timeless place; the outside world seems distant and less real while you are there and you happily give yourself over to the dream-like quality of the experience.

Just sitting in an ancient house, in front of a roaring fire surrounded by the ghosts of history, is an experience that cannot be translated into another medium. When you weave ‘imagined’ history through that experience, the ghosts of the real people with the imagined, factual events with the phantasmagorical, then it becomes truly extraordinary.

The Key of Dreams

Meet The Collector

What was the design process like for creating an experience like this?

Laura: Much of our design process revolves around the concept of ‘apophenia’ which it turns out is a much more recent and less commonly used word than anyone who knows us might expect! Apophenia is “the human tendency to see connections and patterns that are not really there”. But in our world of course they often are!
Ivan: We take all of the details we have, historical facts, characters, places in and near the house, objects, sounds, colours, flavours and smells and then create links between them. Attention to detail is a big deal. When attending our events, we want the suspension of disbelief to happen naturally, to slowly creep over you, like the dawning realisation that comes over a character in a Lovecraft story. You won’t find any bits of paper with roleplay effects, you won’t be told how you are feeling, and you won’t be expected to believe anything is something other than it appears to be. But if we’ve done our job right, you’ll find yourself muttering over scraps of paper in a corner lit by lantern-light, pointing at some feature of the craved wall, or telling a character your deepest fear (even though you strongly suspect that by doing so you may be imperilling your mortal soul).
Laura: When we write, we become pretty deeply immersed in everything ourselves and I’m not sure how good it is for our own sanity! But apophenia works! We recently had a guest message us to say that he was convinced that we’d hidden a secret message in our website and he’d been scouring it for hours to try and work it out! And of course – he may be right…

Ivan: There’s actually a quote I love from the Sherlock Holmes reimagining Elementary that sums it up this part of the design and the experience perfectly:

“It has its cost, learning to see the puzzle in everything. They’re everywhere. Once you start looking, it’s impossible to stop. It just so happens that people, with all the deceits and illusions that inform everything they do, tend to be the most fascinating puzzles of all.”

The staircases inside the Key of Dreams

Connections between people (and things) is at the centre of this experience, could you talk more about how The Key of Dreams brings people together?

Laura: We say that our events have no ‘right way’ to experience them and it really is true. For previous events we have run, we’ve had people turn up in character and hold their role all weekend in how they interacted with the actors and other guests. We had people come along with their partner or family members who knew nothing about the experience that they were coming to, we had escape room folks who came and sped off around the house following clues, interrogating the characters and  solving puzzles, and everyone loved it.
Laura: Creating an experience like this can be a bit overwhelming, by design there is far more than people can experience in one sitting. We make sure there is plenty of story to follow and we try very hard to ensure that there isn’t just one way to solve each problem. For instance, when writing trail clues, we usually have three ways to solve them: there is the ‘I’m a fan of the stories’ who has the knowledge, the ‘I’ll put in the legwork’ who can go and discover the answer from a specific place in the house and the ‘I’m a researcher’ who can find the answer in the commonplace book that they are given on entry in to the house.
Ivan: In a roleplaying game, whether of the tabletop or live action variety, if someone isn’t in character when they should be they break the social contract which makes the game less enjoyable for the other participants. We want to *invite* our guests to play a role when interacting with the actors, to believe in the stories and events, but on their own terms and at their own pace. As they get deeper into the stories and the experience it becomes easier, and all the more delightful to unexpectedly find yourself trading dark secrets with a denizen of the house, or making a connection that makes complete sense within the dream-like logic of the house.
Laura: As someone who suffers with anxiety and can easily become overwhelmed, the experience is designed to include the opportunity to be in a quiet space while still being near the flow of the action. We have puzzles in the bar and in the quiet sitting room, which develop the story, but also help people just to take some time to reset. Additionally, building in some structured activities like a house tour, or dance class with the actors, is a great way for people to learn more about the lore without feeling awkward about approaching people.

The Key of Dreams is set in the past, how does technology factor into the experience?

Ivan: While we don’t force people to have to accept that they are experiencing time travel, the house is itself out of step with the real world, even more so at night. Because of the 1920s vibe that the place has, we aim for the experience to be as diegetic as possible, from music to objects and the technology/science elements. We don’t want people to be wondering how they should be reacting to something, a speaker behind a picture might be able to play atmospheric music, but from the context it isn’t clear how you should respond to it, pretend it isn’t there, or consider who and why it was placed there.
Ivan: Our aim is for the technology to always be in service to the experience and the story, so that they contribute to that little moment of delight that the guest will remember and tell their friends about. We have some utterly delightful embedded technology planned for the Key of Dreams, which should really give a sense of magic. We aren’t ready to reveal our secrets at this time, But we have been dabbling with psychometry and spirit photography!

One of the rooms in The Key of Dreams

Finally, what do you hope people will take away from their experience at The Key of Dreams?

Ivan: A sense of magic and wonder. To be drawn into a world both familiar and unfamiliar in an extraordinary place. To have stories to tell about the little moment of delight. There are physical mementoes of course as well, from the ‘Commonplace book’ crammed with clues, and diversions that each guest will get, to other ephemera that they will get to take away.
Laura: The world we live in can be a hard one; it can be relentless and unforgiving. There is a joy to be found in letting go of that for a day, exploring a strange and mystical place, even if you’re interacting with some sinister beings and unravelling some unpleasant stories. There is a special quality to a shared experience, whether that is dining with fellow investigators, exploring a house, uncovering secrets, and plotting with (or against). There is a Lovecraft quote which captures our hopes that our guests will,

“clothe life in embroidered robes of myth and look through the ivory gates into that world of wonder which was ours before we were wise and unhappy.”

Laura: We love our growing community of cultists, investigators and enthusiasts!  Your readers should have a peek at The Key of Dreams website, and if it appeals can sign-up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook or Instagram. We also have a blog on our site, which is where I get to talk about my passion for literature and we’ll talk more about the design or inspirations as they arise.

Laura: Our website has information about what you can expect and about the house and how to book. There is also a section on ‘Investigations’ that is currently rather heavily redacted which will fill up over time with teasers and snippets of lore about the world (prize for the reader that creates the best red string diagram!). Over the next few months there will be more information about the characters, societies of interest and objects of curiosity appearing – so do check back. The best way to keep up to date with everything is to come and join our mailing list. That is where the date announcements, competitions and early access to new details will be in the newsletters.

How to book The Key of Dreams?

The first two events have been announced, and will be on the 27th and 30th of April 2024.
Discount for The Escape Roomer readers! As a special treat for The Escape Roomer fans you can get a 10% Discount for all April tickets until the end of October. Just use the code APOPHENIA when you check out.
You can also book a deposit for a future 2024 event and get a 10% discount early-bird discount as well.
Find out more at The Key of Dreams” and you can book here.

The Key of Dreams Poster

Interview with Jamie from Challenger Escapes


A few months ago, I completed the DecodeXP teambuilding day with my workplace. Throughout the day I spent quite a bit of time discussing all things escape rooms with Jamie and had such interesting discussions I knew I had to interview him! It took a few months, but we managed to grab a coffee together and he gave me a chance to pick his brains.



Hey Jamie! Great to see you again. One of the things that struck me before was your interesting background. Could you remind me about it?

I was an army officer for about six years, and I still do some things with the reserves. When I was about 25 a group of us took a trip to Budapest and we did three or four more advanced escape rooms there. It made me realise three things – firstly, the complexity of the build in Budapest was way ahead of what there was in Europe at the time, which meant there was the opportunity for the tech to be used better in the UK. Second, we picked up on the fact that the team in the escape room really reflected what we were like in real life, and I was especially interested in the dominant and less dominant characteristics coming out in that environment. Finally, the time you’re in an escape room is completely unique and personal to you, which is an incredibly powerful time that has relevance in the corporate and business world. Earning a free sample or a team photo, rather than buying it or just being handed it, is a massively profound change on the way you think about that.

Long story short we decided to test these theories and we created the first room in the UK to be built in a shipping container! It was 40ft long, called “Heist”, and it allowed us to learn how to build experiences. From there, we kind of wanted to focus on not just commercial experiences, but whether we could get brands to offer this to their people as a retention or internal marketing strategy. We tested this with Dyson, who was our first big client, and I worked with their engineers to build a room harnessing different bits of Dyson technology.


There’s a really cool YouTube video you can watch here!



I saw the video of that! I think it was amazing how you worked the Dyson technology in, and I think it was Dyson’s most popular social media campaign that year? That was pre-covid though – I imagine the pandemic affected your business quite a bit?

Yeah, during Covid we obviously couldn’t run these in-person rooms anymore, but it gave us the time to focus on creating DecodeXP. We took the best we could find in the industry and the army and brought this team of behavioural analysts together to create a product we knew would be valuable once we came out of Covid.


Your experiences are always unique. Do you have a philosophy or method for designing your rooms?

We’re continually iterating on how to make problem-solving a learned skill, rather than just something we do day-to-day but don’t practice. We basically want to focus on the needs of the client first; understanding that and then developing the experience afterwards, which is a bit different from how others maybe do it. Our Samsung room was a great example of this – the initial brief mentioned that it was for an influencer campaign, but it was only after spending time talking to Samsung that we realised the intention was to livestream the room, which meant we wanted to have lots of puzzles which were quick and easy to solve (no one wants to watch someone sat there thinking for a while), and make sure there were lots of flashy effects and wow moments that would look great on camera and make great content.


Of all the experiences you’ve created, what is the most fun or satisfying puzzle you created?

We’re about to launch an escape in the Aviation Gin distillery, which I think is unbelievable. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet Ryan Reynolds, but the marketing agency had a very clear vision which we’ve replicated in the escape room. There are some really fun things in that room, like having to make a cocktail. It’s definitely the most satisfied I’ve been with a room.



Assuming you enjoy escape rooms yourself, what is your favourite trope to see?

The element of surprise. Anyone who has done a few rooms realises there’s an element of continuity, so anytime I’m genuinely surprised by an outcome it’s really cool. There are some great moments in the latest ClueQuest room that kind of completely flip what it is to be an escape room on its head. I think that’s the next stage for more traditional escape rooms – finding ways to break off the narrative. There’s a need to continually innovate now, especially in bigger towns and cities.


What would be your dream escape room to play, and what would be your dream room to design/build?

Before Covid we were talking to Darren Brown for a while. I’m also a fan of how immersive ‘The Crystal Maze’ experience is and the way the actor and set are used there. I think there’s a market for an escape room that offers multiple endings, that you can do more than once as an individual and have different outcomes. We’ve got some rough designs for this already, but I’d need to get funding for it.


Do you find there’s much difference between UK and US rooms?

I think we’re probably still slightly behind America. In America, some of the rooms we did were just next level. Not necessarily in terms of puzzles or narrative, but in terms of set design. The stuff that these guys do is awesome and really immersive. There’s no need for reliance on padlocks anymore – you can get electronic locks and even full puzzles fairly cheaply, so there’s not really any excuse anymore.


What about theme? Is there one theme you haven’t seen that you think is being missed/slept on?

I’ve not yet done a space-based room, certainly in the UK, that I can look back on and go “That was really, really cool.” So maybe a cool space room.

(We here at The Escape Roomer recommend Spacescape at Ctrl, Alt Escape. We’ve also heard there’s a new space room at Co-Decode, and although we haven’t done it their other rooms are great!)


What’s your favourite room you’ve done? Or what is a room you’d recommend?

I hate this question! I always recommend ClueQuest – they’re the only rooms I’ve done in London that have the same standard as I see elsewhere. Other rooms I’ve done in London have unique narratives but are let down by the puzzles. Galactic Warriors in Prague was unbelievable and was probably the most immersed I’ve been.


When it comes to building puzzles, is it always solution first, or do you sometimes immediately know what you want to do?

I think we always have immediate inspiration about the types of puzzles we’re going to use, but there’s a lot to be said for not pre-empting what we’re going to design. Sometimes companies already have ideas, and then we have to explain why they won’t necessary work which obviously isn’t a great foot to start on. We spend a while in the workshop and have a relatively similar structure each time, where we try to understand what the client wants and then sometimes the solution presents itself, rather than needing us to engineer it. Often requirements like certain functionality or results, or time and budget, quite quickly narrows down the options.


After running so many sessions you must have some great stories! Anything you can share?

I think we’ve had a few storm outs. I think people tend to see it as a challenge of their cognitive ability, which it really isn’t – none of the puzzles are that complex, and they’re more designed to generate teamwork, or see where the natural teamwork comes to the fore. Often, we have people inadvertently leaning against clues or completely missing something. I’m a terrible watcher though – it’s hard not to jump in and I have to force myself to be more passive. It’s also interesting seeing how a room of officer cadets might behave versus a team of accountants. The more rooms we do, the more data we get, so we’re redesigning the programme to focus more on different types of puzzles solving, so moving the escape room to later in the day and focusing on individual puzzles and escape room boxes to start with.


Has there ever been a case where someone has behaved completely differently in an escape room than you thought they would be, or afterwards seemed completely different?

We actually ran a session where my ears pricked up because one of the girls in the room had found the perfect solution but just as she was speaking someone else spoke directly over her and said “we need to go and do this”, so I started a stopwatch. They carried on and around 18 minutes later they got back together and said “we can’t solve this puzzle”, to which the girl said “yeah, here’s the solution”, and I paused the stopwatch. In the debrief session (which we always do after a room) we pointed out that she’d had the answer way before and that it had cost them 18 minutes. That sort of thing is fine in an escape room context, but you take that into a meeting room – how many times have you seen someone’s idea in a meeting spoken over and ignored? What if that’s the idea that gets you to the solution?


What’s the spark that keeps you going? What do you really love doing?

Such a good question. I really like the creative phase. I’m really selfish and like the fun bits. My brother Sam, our Operations Manager, very much deals with delivering the product, the setup, making sure the right staff are there and that everything actually works. I’m not very good at that bit, but I like taking a new concept and working out how to get to there. That’s the bit that I really enjoy.



If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

I’d probably still be with the army, or like a manager or consultant. I don’t know – maybe I’d start another business. I like the idea of getting up and being accountable for what I do each day, and if we have a good sales meeting we go out for a nice meal, and if we have a month of bad meetings we go to McDonalds. It’s kind of fun and a more interesting way of doing our day-to-day. We’re lucky – we work with some really cool clients, on numerous different projects, and the longer we keep going the easier it gets from that side.


Who’s been your favourite client?

It has to be Dyson. We were just two guys with a shipping container and they trusted us with this massive campus and project, despite not really knowing how we were going to do it. We got to work with their comms teams, and my fondest memory has to be explaining how to engineer a puzzle to a room of 200 Dyson engineers!


What’s next for DecodeXP/Challenger escapes?

For DecodeXP we’re about to launch residentials – 48 hour-long, more immersive experiences that really test people and take them out of their comfort zones.
For Challenger escapes we’re working on a big project which I can’t talk about yet, as well as launching a video game room at ComicCon and the Aviation Gin room that I mentioned before. We’re also expanding our work with Savilles to do more building-based rooms in the next six months. I don’t know what else we’ll do, but we’ll keep going!


Sound interesting? You can contact Jamie Pollard-Jones via the Challenger Escapes website

Meet Mitchell Clifford, the Creator of The Murder on Hemlock Drive | Interview


An exciting new crowdfunding campaign in support of the murder mystery video game “The Murder on Hemlock Drive” is about to launch, and we caught up with the game’s creator, Mitchell Clifford, to find out more.


Mitchell Clifford


Mairi: Hey Mitchell, it’s great to meet you! Please introduce yourself.

Mitchell: Hi! My name is Mitchell Clifford. I am a multimedia artist from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Mairi: And is this the first video game you’ve created?

Mitchell: Yeah, this is my first video game. So my, my background is in electrical engineering, but I’ve always had an interest in the stories that people tell each other and how do you can use technology to enhance those stories.

Back when I was in high school I was really into animatronics, things like the Dark Crystal and Jim Henson stuff. So when I went through college my main focus was electrical engineering. I mean, you’ve gotta make money somehow, right? But I focused on getting into a school with a great art program. This let me do both.

From here, I’m self-taught. I have some background in coding from the engineering, but learning video game engines, that part is all new to me. I really got into game design when I started attending conferences for VFX, they often showcase a lot of video games and art installations. I’m fascinated with how people tell engaging stories through multimedia and non-traditional formats. Interactive technology is great.



Mairi: Totally! But what about you, what are some of your favourite games?

Mitchell: From an early age I started out with the Pokemon games. I played Pokemon Yellow and I couldn’t for the life of me beat it. Like, I raised a Level 70 Pikachu and always ran out of money. The funny part is, I finally beat the game years later in college. Haha!

More recently my favourite genre has become puzzle games. I’ve loved playing Gris, Superliminal, Monument Valley… Games like that!

Mairi: How about murder mystery games?

Mitchell: Well, the murder mystery genre is very interesting because my writing a mystery into The Murder on Hemlock Drive came from the storytelling point of view. My first job out of college was really boring, but it let me listen to audio books for hours and hours. At first, I was reading through all of the new Nancy Drew Chronicles because they were all at my all free on my app. Then I got into Agatha Christie, went back to Sherlock Holmes – I read everything I could!

They were such an important part of my life I wanted to make one of myself. I’m not going to compete in the literary field- haha no. But I did want to bring fun and interactivity into stories like this with a video game.

Mairi: And so The Murder on Hemlock Drive was born! How did you go about writing the story?

Mitchell: Sure, so when it came to writing the story, I was inspired by an Agatha Christie book called Towards Zero. It’s such a great way to write these stories. The murder is 0.0 and then everything branches out from there. So I’ve kind of started from there: Here’s the murder! Then working the story back, like how did all these people get here? And then once I have that, I can be like, well how do you solve that? How do you like untangle the mess that happened back here and then have a conclusion?



Mairi: Will the game just be on PC, or Consoles too?

Mitchell: To begin with, it’ll be on and steam. The goal there’ll be PC Linux and potentially Mac too. The whole time I’ve been working on the game I’ve actually been imagining it as a tablet or mobile game, so that’s the next step for me. It depends on the interest.

Right now there’s technical demo available on It’s got your basic mechanics, the look, the feel, and the music too. I’d definitely encourage people to try it out if they’re interested! It gives you a real feel of the game. I’ve been using local Cincinnati based artists for the illustrations – Evan Verrilli makes the illustrations, and Ethan Kimberley and Katie Carson produce our music.



Mairi: And if the crowdfunding is successful, what’s next?

Mitchell: We have some stretch goals too. If it does really well, we’ll be expanding our team – I’d love to bring on someone to do more animations for the game, and we can add more levels and expand the look and the feel. It’s been quite hard as a solo game developer. Right now I’m not a full-time designer, my time is split between lots of activities. So even one more person would give us twice the capacity to make the game even better for launch. Expansion stories would also be really fun if the crowdfunding goes really well, there’s so many different stories I want to tell.

Mairi: And finally, what are you hoping the game will achieve once it’s launched?

Mitchell: Haha, well I don’t want to like put too much on it, but I’m hoping that it will be an interesting experience. There’s different character traits and different ways to solve it. So once you solved it, you really feel like you figured it out on your own.

I built in a couple of newer elements, like this risk system, you have to push people for answers, but if you push people too much then it’ll come back to bite you. Perhaps the killer will be alerted you’re on their track, or perhaps people will just feel like you’re an asshole and won’t want to talk to you anymore.

But yeah, I’m really just hoping it’s fun. Even if small amount of people play and really enjoy it, that’ll be good!

We thank Mitchell Clifford for taking the time to be a part of this interview!

If you want to keep up with The Murder on Hemlock Drive, check out the website and Mitchell’s page here.

The Escape Roomer Interviews: Professor Puzzle


Earlier this year Professor Puzzle, the UK based puzzle game company, launched one of the snazziest looking escape games in-a-box we’ve seen in a while: Danger in the Deep. Set on a submarine, players are instructed to “navigate your way through the deserted sub, crack the shutdown code, disable the warheads, and locate the enemy agent. All in two hours!” You can read more about what to expect in our latest review, or head directly to Amazon to pick up a copy for yourself!



We recently had a chance to catch up with James and Elliot, two of the game’s creators to find out more about themselves and what exactly goes in to creating a game like Danger in the Deep. They’re both incredibly busy working hard on designing some fantastic looking games for the future and so we’ve tried to limit this interview to just a few key questions about their most recent game, Danger in the Deep. Though believe me, I could pick their brains for hours!



Meet James, Game Designer at Professor Puzzle

Mairi: Hey it’s so great to meet you both! Please could you introduce yourselves?

James: Ooh, shall I go first?

Elliot: Yeah, I mean I’ve never heard you say your name-

James: It’s James Smith, and we’re not just colleagues but actually long time friends as much as it pains Elliot. Haha! I’m the game designer for Danger in the Deep, so I wrote the story, designed the puzzles, and so on. I joined Professor Puzzle about two years ago, I spent the first summer tweaking a couple of their existing games, but Danger in the Deep was the first time I got to work closely with Elliot!

Elliot: I’m Elliot Humphries, a senior designer at Professor Puzzle. I’ve been with the company for over 10 years, from back when we were just a couple of guys in a room above a warehouse selling metal and wooden puzzles. But over the course of those 10 years we’ve grown from 4 or 5 people to well over 50 of us now! I’ve been involved in the design for a long time, but the escape room games only began around four years ago. That’s what I’m focusing on now. They’re pretty cool because they take the “Puzzle” part of the Professor Puzzle brand but make them a bit more relevant for the modern consumer compared to the puzzles we created 10 years ago.


Meet Elliot, Senior Designer at Professor Puzzle

Mairi: Oh wow, a long time! How did you both get into the puzzle game industry?

James: Me? Definitely not a typical trajectory. I graduated from studying Classics at university… So I’m responsible for 100% of all Greek and Roman references in Professor Puzzle! Then I worked at my local council for about 7 years, and another local council after that. I’ve always been into games, and one day Elliot suggested I come to work for Professor Puzzle. Back then the company was just beginning to focus even more on the escape room games. The thing that appealed the most was the writing aspect of it. So making something that’s not just a pick-up and play game, but a whole story you’re experiencing through the game. That’s sort of inherent in escape rooms in general and I wanted to take our boxed escape room games in that direction.

Elliot: As for me, I joined Professor Puzzle right out of university. I used to live in this small town called Shepperton and that’s where Professor Puzzle first started. The team was a five minute walk up the road, which was basically the other side of town! I started out helping with filling out invoices, helping at the warehouse, and then it became more and more about the design. I very much fell into it but it aligned so well with my sensibilities and that’s what’s kept me here for so long!


Mairi: Cool! And what kind of games inspire you both?

James: I’ve played a lot of Exit and Unlock games! They’re consistently good and very concise – I think my first one was the Pharaoh’s Tomb. But beyond escape room games I play a lot more video games than I do book or tabletop games to be honest. One of my biggest inspirations behind parts of Danger in the Deep was a fantastic video game by Lucas Pope called Return of the Obra Dinn. I think it’s the best puzzle game since Portal. Now I don’t want to give away too many spoilers but one of the puzzles in Danger in the Deep which I call the “Chain of Command” puzzle was inspired by Return of the Obra Dinn. Originally that puzzle was going to be the big finale, but as we came up with more ideas it evolved away from that and now it sits comfortably in the middle.

Mairi: How about you Elliot?

Elliot: Same actually, I’ve done a lot of the Unlock! games and I find those really fun. I do those with my wife and they’re not too hard, not too easy, nicely in the middle! Haha forgive me, I’ve got a little left over brain fog from covid, so the thought of doing one of the more difficult puzzle games out there and expending the brain power needed to solve them terrifies me!

Elliot: One game that really jumps to mind is again, like James, a video game. It’s It Takes Two – from a co-operative angle I thought that game was amazing, and I think that’s something we try to put into our games too. We want to give players stuff they can do together. We’ve even written the words “Collaborative Escape Game” on the box! As you know there’s three books in Danger in the Deep and players have to work together collaboratively as they work through all the information – someone has one piece of the puzzle and another person has another piece of the puzzle, and so solving Danger in the Deep requires a lot of collaboration and communication.

Elliot: From a design side haha, I don’t know. I’m probably the worst (or the best) at pulling inspiration from lots of places and putting strange visual references in these games and hope nobody pulls me up on it!

James: Elliot’s also got a reputation for sneaking himself into every product in the Professor Puzzle line! If you look closely you’ll probably find a photo of Elliot in there somewhere!

Elliot: Haha yeah, there’s only a small handful of games where I’m not in them in some way.

Mairi: Yeah I spotted those, are all the photos of the crew members in Danger in the Deep your colleagues?

James: Mostly! There’s one or two who were stock photos. Originally that puzzle was going to be illustrated, but then Elliot came back with a “What if we do a photoshoot?” It was unfortunately in the middle of the COVID lockdown, so we had some challenges there. The crew members you see in the game is everyone we could get into the office.

Elliot: I ordered a load of boiler suits too, all mediums and large, then two of the guys who I asked to come in are six foot four and they didn’t fit in anything!

James: In the end it was a ‘each person in front of a green screen’ sort of thing. Everyone’s a colleague except for two of them, the commander and the captain, they were stock images-

Elliot: Stock images, but they were your body! I just put an old man’s head on James’ body and no one could tell!

James: Haha, I’ve got the body of an old man!?


Danger in the Deep Puzzle Design – Before and After!


“If we put a detail into the game, there’s a reason!”


Mairi: So tell me more about Danger in the Deep! Where did the idea come from and how did you bring it to life?

Elliot: Ooh, big question! So with any new game we really start with the rough idea then start making loads of lists and ideas. We had the central idea for a submarine, so we knew we wanted a blueprints or a map, then it was a case of thinking “Ok, what is in a submarine and what can we make puzzles out of?” We come up with a quota for how many puzzles and what we want out of them.

James: We always start big and need to cut it down so that we’re left with the best stuff!

Elliot: From there we build a narrative flow diagram which is useful in allocating the story beats, such as where puzzles happen, and making sure it’s evenly paced. A flow diagram is a great visual way of telling how and when things interlink. Over time we build up these really crazy maps!

James: It can be a mess for a while but it gets better. It’s super important to establish that theme right at the start too. So it’s not just the setting. We began with ‘submarine’ but there were so many directions it could have gone. It could have been like you’re on the HMS Belfast in London and you’re stuck on it for example. The angle we went with was inspired by James Bond with a dash of The Incredibles as well. That vibe can really inform the puzzles that go in the finished game, so when you go “it’s a spy thriller on a submarine” you’re not just looking at mechanical wiring puzzles, you can have decoding puzzles, you can shutdown nukes, and use gadgets to investigate and interact with the submarine.

Elliot: From a physical standpoint as well, when we were designing Danger in the Deep we had a specific box format to work to with the internal tray fittings the same as the Starline Express and The Grand Hotel. So we thought “what can we do with this?” and started to think about all the things we could fit in and hide into the space.

James: One of the key things for us to to make sure everything has a purpose as well. That’s something we did with this game, a lot of the little details in the booklets and on the box give clues as to how to solve puzzles. There are many puzzles in there that can be approached in different ways too. One player may not pick up on all the details, but if we put a detail into the game there’s a reason. I won’t give any spoilers so let’s just say there might be more than one way to solve a puzzle!


Danger in the Deep – Behind the Scenes


Mairi: What’s coming next for Professor Puzzle?

Elliot: We finished work recently on a new game set in a Gothic castle called “Curse of the Dark“, or as I like to call it, it’s internal codename which James absolutely hates is “Spooky Castle

James rolls his eyes and laughs.

James: So, many of our upcoming games follow a similar format, they’ll be tile based, have a scratch off symbol hint system, have a series of books, and a big centrepiece- like the blueprints. Curse of the Dark is a much bigger game. In Danger in the Deep there are 22 cards, in Curse of the Dark... Let’s think… There are about 60, 65 odd cards. So it’s big, really big! We’re really proud of it!

Mairi: When is Code Spooky Castle– haha I mean Curse of the Dark due to release?

James: We hope we’ll have the finished product back from the factory by April-May time, but it should be in stores by late May.

Mairi: Any others?

James: There’s also a kids escape room game launching this summer set in an aquarium, for ages 8 – 12, again I can’t give an exact time but very soon!


Elliot & James with their upcoming game, Curse of the Dark!


“Make games you’d want to play, make them good and be proud of them.”


Mairi: Okay final question, what advice would you give to somebody who wanted to create puzzle games like yours?

James: Big question! So I suppose we both kind of fell into this ourselves, but my biggest advice would be simple: Just make stuff!

Elliot: I’d also say it’s really important to make things you’d love, or games that you’d want to play. With Danger in the Deep we really wanted to create this game, but a few people had some uncertainty about the theme. We were like “I don’t know if this is going to be a success, but look we’ve got this really good idea and if you let us make this it may not sell well but it will be good.” As a creative person, you obviously want things to sell really well, but more importantly you want them to be good.

James: Yeah absolutely. Make games you’d want to play, make them good and be proud of them. One more thing I’d add is that our first versions of every game were on Word documents and Excel. They’re just scribbles, drawings on a whiteboard or silly cartoon people doing poses. Point being, you don’t need the best tools or funding or a factory to produce your game, your first version can be on paper and card and whatever you can find around your office. Don’t be afraid if the first version is rough. Nobody, certainly not us at Professor Puzzle get it right the first time. You go over your game with a fine-tooth comb and keep improving it.

Elliot: Yeah nobody springs into the world fully formed and makes a perfect game the first time. And if they have then they’re incredibly lucky and they probably won’t be able to replicate that effort the second time round. So yeah, just get out there and make stuff with confidence!



A huge shout out to James and Elliot for taking the time to chat to us. If you’re interested in checking out Danger in the Deep, you can head to Amazon – don’t forget to leave a review!


The Escape Roomer Interviews: Little Alex Horne!


Here at The Escape Roomer we’re no stranger to puzzles no matter the form – room, box...or treasure hunt?

Last year Alex Horne released the fantastically titled ‘Bring Me The Head Of The Taskmaster‘ book and with it launched a global treasure hunt that has taken over hundreds of minds globally, as well as spawning a Reddit community and, naturally, a few of us here have also been obsessed.

It turns out that Alex is a very lovely man – each month he hosts a Zoom for those treasure hunters who crack the code, and has kindly allowed us to send him some questions of our own!



Hello Alex! Thank you for taking a break from a busy day of assisting to answer some eager questions from us, and congrats on your recent awards! We have been avidly following the Taskmaster Treasure hunt and would love to know how you came up with the idea?

I’ve always enjoyed treasure hunts, inspired, I think, by Easter Egg hunts as a kid. I like chocolate. A lot. I also like interactive things like Escape Rooms and The Crystal Maze. So it was a fairly short leap to get to making a Taskmaster Treasure Hunt. I must admit, however, that I didn’t know about Masquerade when I thought of the idea. I genuinely thought I was the first person to put a treasure hunt in a book!



How long did it take to create the treasure hunt?

It took about a year of lockdown. It was a useful distraction for me and, I hope, my two helpers, Dan Trelfer and Owen Powell. We would send ideas back and forth, stretching our brains and confirming if things worked or didn’t.



👆 Dan Trelfer & Alex Horne on Dan’s Vlog 👆


How did you come up with the puzzles? Are there any you’ve had to change as the hunt progressed?

I suppose I came up with the puzzles in the same way as I come up with Tasks from the show – I shut my eyes and hope for the best. There’s no plan or formula. They just sort of fall out of my brain. And ever since we left the confines of the grid in the book, we’ve been super-flexible. Readers have been far smarter than we gave them credit for so we’ve had to adapt every single time another clue is needed.


Has anything surprised you about the hunt?

I couldn’t believe how quickly people solved the 100 questions in the book. Unbelievable. I expected people to help each other on things like Reddit, but I was definitely – and pleasantly – surprised by just how far and wide the hunters would be spread. I’ve been in touch with people from every continent.


Bring Me the Head of the Taskmaster community


What’s been your favourite experience from the Treasure Hunt so far?

I host a zoom once a month for people who’ve found the details for that. It’s really fun to meet people who have invested so much time into something so silly.


Is there anything you didn’t manage to squeeze in that you wish you had?

No! It’s all there! My only regret is that I haven’t been able to film the whole thing because there have been some fantastic visual moments.


Is it too late to join the hunt?

Absolutely not! There are people joining all the time and everything is still possible to solve.


Do you have any advice for puzzle-makers out there?

Find a friend to test your puzzles on. You WILL make mistakes! You need to check and check again. Finally, be ambitious!


The hunt is quite puzzle-y, so you must also enjoy escape rooms, right?

My family and I love escape rooms. They bring the best and worst out of us, but they are always a valuable experience.


What’s the best/most enjoyable escape room experience you’ve had?

We spent a wet few days in Galway before the lockdown and the escape rooms meant it was one of our favourite ever holidays. They were simply laid out but well planned and brilliantly run. Also, we escaped (after just a couple of hints!)


If you had a magic wand (or an Assistant’s Assistant) what sort of escape room would you love to experience?

I’d like to go in an escape room set on the moon please.


You’ve just launched Taskmaster Supermax +, which is the first time a television show has essentially launched its own worldwide streaming service. Can you tell us a bit more about what to expect?

Well, it’s a curious experiment but the main idea is that it’ll be the ad-free home for all things Taskmaster. We will keep putting things up on Youtube, but EVERYTHING will eventually be on the Supermax+ platform: the international shows, extras, bespoke content and, of course, every single episode ever.



So you’ve got the Taskmaster Treasure Hunt, Taskmaster TV show, and The Horne Section…what’s coming next?

I’m literally going on holiday in 4 hours. I can’t wait – and nor can my wife!



Thank you so much for your time Alex! We hop you have a well deserved holiday! There is still time to get your hands on the book and join in the hunt, or just try out some of the challenges!

Hopefully The Escape Roomer team will soon be the owners of a silver bust… 😉

Sliding across the floor to unlock the final door! – An Interview with An Enthusiast


It’s October, and a new month brings a new chapter of An Interview with an Enthusiast! In this series we chat to some of the UK’s (and the world’s) biggest escape room enthusiasts to talk about some of their favourite and most memorable experiences.

Meet Georgie, the escape room reviewer behind Discomlogicated!

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Georgie – I’m originally from Wales, but moved to London a few years ago. By day I’m an analyst, which probably plays into my love of puzzles! I started by escape room review blog ( around room 50 – I’m now on over 120! I am also a pretty active member of the “UK escape room enthusiasts group” on Facebook, which is where I met the inimitable Mairi!

Escape Rooms, Board Games, Video Games..? What’s your poison?

I grew up on board games, dice games and card games thanks to my mum, so they’re definitely in my blood! Video games too – Monkey Island was a big favourite of mine, which I think all laid the foundation for my escape room addiction! 

The Secret of Monkey Island

The million dollar question – how many escape rooms have you done?

Current count is 126. I don’t count virtual rooms because I haven’t done many…because they just don’t hit the same.

Which was your very first escape room?

My very first room was the secret agent room at Puzzlair, Bristol. It was for my 21st birthday (I’m coming up to 27 now), with a couple of friends. It still ranks quite highly for me – it had a secret room I didn’t see coming, quite a sneaky puzzle and was non-linear. It also had lots of the classic puzzles you’d expect, so was a great taste of things to come!

Looking back, the set design was extremely basic and it’s probably a below average room now given what’s on the market, but at the time it definitely ignited a spark.

And how about your favourite escape room?

For the last 5 years my favourite room was by TimeRun (if you know, you know), which also closed 5ish years ago.

However, they were recently bumped by the amazing “Locked In Edinburgh” this past summer! You can read all about it on my blog, but essentially they hit alllll the points I look for – set design, immersion, staff, and puzzles (quality, quantity and individuality). Both the rooms we did there blew me away.

I truly believe this room (The Cutting Room) is an absolute work of art with how perfectly everything fit together, and should be used as an example for other budding room designers.

Review of The Cutting Room, Discomlogicated

Image (c) Discomlogicated

What are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve ever had in an escape room?

I’ve had to refer back to my list to remember, which probably isn’t a great sign! Most of mine come from either near-misses (sliding across the floor to unlock the final door when we had less than a minute left in Professor Dunstan at Co-Decode Swindon) or just walking into an amazing set for the first time (most rooms at The Panic Rooms).

I also get really excited about hidden rooms, especially ones I don’t see coming – shout out to Ctrl Alt Escape in Margate for this!

My most memorable experience was probably at Spacescape there – we’d discovered a hidden area (woo!) which had quite an exciting challenge, we had limited time left so I was rushing perhaps a little too much…and absolutely faceplanted off a couple of steep steps (imagine the stort you have to scramble up). At the time I was high on adrenaline and walked it off, but I remember my knees, elbows and chin being pretty banged up, and the GMs were very concerned!

Desk, plant pot, picture frame – which do you look under first?

Oh desk absolutely – rip those drawers right out and check the back straight away. I tend to absolutely destroy those sort of rooms.

image (c) Discomlogicated

If I gave you a blank cheque to create a dream ‘experience’, what would it be like?

I would love a vertical room, so rather than unlocking hidden rooms horizontally, maybe you discover a ladder, or a trap door. I’d also add some replay ability there – you have to make a choice at some point which locks you out of half the room.

What are you most looking forward to in the next 3 years?

Getting back to life! I’ve got a list of escape rooms across the country I want to go to, and I’ve made more friends in the community to play with. I’m also in the process of buying a flat, so looking forward to creating a home.

Can you give us a short puzzle for us (and our readers) to solve?

I’m more of a puzzle-solver than puzzle-creator, sorry! However, this is one I remember hearing when I younger (like, 10) which I think explains my sense of humour and enjoyment of puzzles:

  1. How do you fit an elephant in your fridge?
  2. How do you fit a giraffe in your fridge?
  3. You’ve been invited to a party in the Savannah and all the animals will be there. You’re running late, but to get there you need to cross a river where the crocodiles live and there’s no bridge! How do you get across?
  4. Phew! You reach the party, but someone is missing! Who is it?

Answers (Highlight to Reveal!)

  1. Open the door, take out the food, put the elephant in and close the door.
  2. Open the door, take out the elephant, bend the giraffes neck and put him in and close the door.
  3. You swim – the crocodiles are already at the party
  4. The giraffe – they’re still stuck in your fridge!

“Astral Paths Wound Ecstatically”… And other Unique Puzzles! – An Interview with an Enthusiast


This month in An Interview with an Enthusiast, we spoke to Marissa Chan! Marissa is a recent graduate making big waves in the escape room industry as a play tester and all round escape room super fan! Presently, Marissa assists Scarlet Envelope in the planning of their games, and has also play tested for other companies, all whilst also working on her own fantastical puzzle creations on the side.

Here’s Marissa to introduce herself!

Tell me about yourself!

I’m a fresh Master’s grad, originally from Malaysia but spent 4 uni years in the UK. I studied psychology so I guess you could say I’m into all things mind-related, from understanding the way people think to brain-busting puzzles 😀

Marissa and Mairi at Breakin’ Escape Rooms London.

Escape Rooms, Board Games, Video Games, Theme Parks, Immersive Experiences..? What’s your poison?

Escape rooms are a classic! But I’ve recently been playing lots of boxed/subscription based puzzle & escape games and I am in love with them!

Which was your very first escape room?

I believe it was The Mysterious Room by Escape Room in Malaysia circa 2013. We didn’t escape 🙁 I was also quite new to puzzles so I didn’t have any experience going into it, but that’s where my interest in escape rooms began!

Poster (c) The Mysterious Room

The million dollar question – how many escape rooms have you done?

Honestly, probably only around 10/11 but I plan to do more now that I’ve finished school for good and have a job! 😀

I’ve also done about 12 online & boxed puzzle games if you’d like to count those!

Desk, plant pot, picture frame – which do you look under first?

Desk for sure – although looking inside them also helps 😉

The last TV show you watched suddenly gets its own licensed escape room. Hooray, or oh no?

The last TV show I completed from start to finish was Darwin’s Game (anime) so hooray in terms of games, puzzles & objectives but big oh no in terms of the game being potentially fatal.

Screenshot (c) Darwin’s Game

Can you think of a song that would make the perfect soundtrack for how you tackle an escape room?

Perry the Platypus’ theme is all I can think of right now. It’s been stuck in my head since I first saw this question, which was a few days ago (sorry).

When you’re not escaping from locked rooms, what do you like to do in your free time?

Play non-locked-room puzzle games!!

Otherwise, I’m a HUGE dog person, and a HUGE foodie! Pasta and burgers are my guilty pleasure. I like to read, journal, watch anime/TV series, play D&D. I also enjoy coming up with creative ideas like story or puzzle concepts, world & character building, physical crafts, etc.

If I gave you a blank cheque to create a dream escape room, what would it be like?

Literally just a room full of dogs or cats but the door is unlocked. Would get 5 stars on TripAdvisor.

Okay, but real talk, I really like the whole carnival/circus aesthetic so a cool story could be a visit to a circus and the ringmaster leads you into different exhibits but there are clues everywhere that lead to a darker twist and you have to solve the riddles to break a curse that has befallen the circus!

Finally.. A Fun Question! Whats Your Favourite season of the year?

WINTER!!! I love the snow and the cold and just bundling up in blankets with a hot chocolate. I’m the kind of person who wears shorts out in November/December so I’ll probably save a bunch on gas bills as well 🙂

Can you give us a short puzzle for us (and our readers) to solve?

I created this one for a team-building game and it’s based on a puzzle in a real escape room I had played many years ago, and I’m really proud of it!

(Peep the shabby photoshop skills – yikes!)

astral paths

wound ecstatically, show

nought but wisps emptying

a mess of thought

wandering wildly,

ending whimsically at my frigid soul

Hint 1: You need numbers but you have to start somewhere.

Hint 2: The red dots are your starting positions. Move them one segment at a time.

Hint 3: To find your direction, you better use a compass.

Solution: Each line of the poem contains a set of directions (N,S,E,W) corresponding to each digit. Move the red dot according to the directions in the respective line to trace a number.

Answer: 190720

“Guys, I think there’s a puzzle behind me.” – An Interview with an Enthusiast


This month in An Interview with an Enthusiast, we spoke to Deb, or as you may know her Deb Explores on Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook or as a member of Three Yees Escape Team. Deb is an escape room super fan based in Scotland, but when we’re not in a global pandemic she can be found travelling round the world vlogging about theme parks!

Tell us about yourself!

Hello! I’m Deb! I’m from central Scotland but when there’s not a travel ban you can usually find me over in the states visiting often. 

In the world of escapes, I was first an enthusiast – fairly recent since it took time to find like-minded individuals, making friends as an adult is hard! – then I became a Games Master which I’ve been doing since the end of last year. 

I’ve also helped a lot with painting and design and do digital marketing for my work so I’ve got a lot of freedom to be creative which I love! I was actually offered a job with a big company some years ago where I’d work with maintaining props and puppets but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be in the end so I’m thankful I’ve had this opportunity now in my life. Sometimes things have a funny way of working out and it’s one of the best jobs I’ve had for sure!

Photo (c) Deb Explores on Instagram

How have the last 2 years of your life been, global pandemic and all?

Ha. It’s been a rollercoaster for sure!

I was working in Orlando at Disney World when the pandemic happened. My program was for a year but after 6 months we were all sent back home. It was pretty heartbreaking, not just leaving my job early but also my friends and my first official escape team (Three Yees). We actually found out Disney World was closing while in an Asylum escape room. That’s some kind of cruel foreshadowing of the never-ending UK lockdown right there! 

All that being said and still having not seen most of my friends or my partner face to face in well over a year now, I’ve had a lot of good things happen too – my job working as a Games Master for one! Lockdown months also gave me time to really sit and think about my future and I’m excited to be starting university in the fall to study something new and exciting!

Desk, plant pot, picture frame – which do you look under first?

Rug! Can I add a rug? We wasted a hint by not lifting a rug before! 

But for those options then definitely the desk. Never take pictures out of the frames. Don’t be that guy! Haha. We glue ours closed.

Escape Rooms, Board Games, Video Games, Theme Parks, Immersive Experiences..? What’s your poison?

Oh wow… so many things I love. So, obviously Escape Rooms 🙂 

I’m definitely also a gamer. I grew up with a commodore amiga (showing my age here haha) then moved onto the Sega and Playstation. Puzzles have always been a big part of my life before escape rooms were even a thing. Currently i’m still playing Zelda Breath of the Wild and I’m a completionist so I won’t stop till I find every shrine! 

Theme Parks are what I vlog a lot of and visiting the states I tend to visit Disney and Universal parks often. I’ve mostly visited those in Orlando but when the travel ban is lifted I’ll be visiting those in California soon. Tokyo is also on my list to visit their Disney parks and just the city in general.

When you’re not escaping from locked rooms, what do you like to do in your free time?

When the world is more accessible and opened up I often vlog. I have made a little series of videos here in Scotland but I mostly enjoy it across the pond. The problem is a lot of events still haven’t been happening in Scotland that attend or have been happening virtually so it’s not the same experience. I’m also saving for a flight to the US as soon as the ban is lifted so I’m a bit restricted in where I can go at the moment. I have done a few reviewing some online escape rooms so if you’re interested in those or travel when it fully returns then you can find me at Deb Explores on YouTube. 

During lockdown I also spent a lot of time doing jigsaws and I still do now and again. Otherwise video games, haunts when it’s spooky season, cinema… A lot of the past year has been spent on different facetime or zoom calls, I need to get back out into the world again! It’s crazy cause for the past 5 years I’ve travelled a lot or worked to make money to travel, I worked on a cruise ship for a couple years too, and suddenly it’s been such a change of lifestyle. It’ll all return though, we’re getting there in most places around the world 🙂 

So which was your very first escape room that hooked you?

It was actually as part of a job interview. Years ago when escape rooms were just starting up in the UK I interviewed for a company and they invited me along after a chat to check out their rooms and see what the job entailed. I got locked in 2 of their rooms that day and I was a lot more timid back then so it was rather nerve wracking being locked in a room to solve by myself! I did it! I escaped! But I was a little underwhelmed which was partially because I’d see some online in the US that looked like something out of the crystal maze already and partially because it’s just not as fun escaping without a team to cheer with! 

What are some of the most memorable escapes you’ve ever had?

Ah I have so many! 

I was escaping as the Three Yees with a company where you watch the story and some safety while inside the room. You’re not meant to start solving puzzles but… you know? You have a look around… So while trying to look inconspicuous, staring forward and trying not to move my lips too much I alerted my team quietly, “Guys, there’s a puzzle behind me”. Of course, I’m constantly reminded of this to the point it’s on a reusable tumbler my friend Chloe made me. Imagine there being puzzles in an Escape Room? 

Another time I was with Chloe and Dylan in an Asylum room where the staff kept turning the lights off on us if we didn’t obey certain requests of the ghost. I feel like the GMs must have had a good laugh when the lights turned off and upon coming back up, Chloe and I were holding onto each other like something from Scooby Doo. We were also not meant to put anything on a rocking chair that belonged to our ghost but of course, Dylan forgot and absolutely did to which Chloe came up whispering in my ear, “Don’t look but Dylan has put the briefcase on her chair….”. 

Not an escape room, but I often go to Orlando for spooky season. On my last Halloween visit there, I was at a media event for a new haunt where I had an experience with a glowing necklace that meant scare actors could interact with me more. I had a blast! I was crawling around small spaces (RIP sunglasses) and was also locked in a cell with some pirates playing head to head playground games to win coins for a hidden bar. I can’t wait till I get to visit again for spooky season! Haunts are some of my favourite immersive events! 

Photo (c) Three Yees on Instagram

Can you think of a song that would make the perfect soundtrack for how you tackle an escape room?

It only works for certain rooms but I’d have to go with the Ghostbusters theme. I used to work in the Edinburgh Vaults as a Ghost Tour Guide and when closing down and locking up at night I’d always sing that to myself. “I ain’t afraid of no ghost!” 

How would you explain escape rooms to people who have never played one before?

Have you seen the Escape Room movies?… Just kidding! 

You are ‘locked’ in a room for 60 minutes (or the time allocated) where you have to find clues and solve puzzles in order to achieve your goal and escape! 

If I gave you a blank cheque to create a dream escape room ‘experience’, what would it be like?

I’d probably go for something Tomb themed, think Indiana Jones with it’s crawl spaces and a full adrenaline inducing experience. Of course I’d have to have some gross aspects to it like having to search for something through ‘monkey brain soup’ or hands in holes in the walls with fake bugs or slime. 

From the first room you’d progress deeper into the tomb with pressure pads set to trigger both good and not so good results…

I’d use more tech than locks to give it that full explorer feel: maglocks hiding secret cupboards, something to do with arrows in the right slots or places, maybe a directional puzzle cause we all love those hehe and possibly a knock knock or audio puzzle. I’m a fan of electronics and not GM triggers so I’d want to have the teams be able to trigger things by themselves. There’s a nice feeling when you know you’ve done something yourself. I’d definitely end it with grabbing a mysterious artifact setting off something within the tomb to leave you running from a boulder chasing you as you make your escape! Imagine the team running down a corridor towards a themed slide at the end and escaping down it to safety! Phew! 

The UK health and safety guidelines would absolutely not allow much of that so I’d have to relocate because I’d want to be near it. I visited a haunt with a slide a couple of years ago and it was epic! One in an escape room would be so cool! 

Can you give me a short puzzle for me (and my readers) to solve?

I’m not much of the online puzzle designer, my mind works better with tech and physical puzzles but I do do some basic ones for my work’s social media so I’ll give you one of these 👇

Photo (c) Escape Stirling

What could possibly scare a horror writer? Turns out it’s everything! – An Interview with an Enthusiast


This month in An Interview with an Enthusiast, we’re talking to Keith Dozois. You may know him better as the mastermind behind USB Escape! Keith is a play-at-home puzzle master who has grown his escape business from the ground up during lockdown.

Tell us about yourself!

So first and foremost, my name’s Keith and I live just outside of Toronto, Ontario.

I am, amongst other things, a huge enthusiast of all things ‘puzzle’ and anything mind bending. Of course, that does not mean that I’m always that great at them. In fact I often find myself taking the most difficult puzzle route to get to an easy solution, but I just love discovering everything there is about a puzzle to find the best way to solve it!

I’m in the escape room community as a creator, but I’m still learning and growing constantly. I came in through the backdoor of the escape room industry where most people have played a huge amount of live games and in lockdown have started playing at home games. I did the exact opposite, I started playing at home games and fell further in love with escape rooms from there.

So which was your first ever live escape room?

My first ever escape room was kinda terrible. I went with a group of engineers and I don’t need to tell you I am not an engineer. I’m somewhat smart, but they were next level smart, so we finished the room in record time. I think I only contributed to one puzzle and my genius friends went around and aced the rest.

I forget the name of the room, but there was a guy who was going to come eat us if we didn’t escape the room. That said, the puzzles weren’t anything to do with that, it was a bit of a mish-mash.

It was terrible and… I loved it!

But your escape rooms experiences have improved from there, right?

So this is this is the part where you end the conversation- haha! I’ve only done four or five in person rooms before the lockdown…

So it’s really hard to say! I’ve only done a few Canadian experiences here and there but yes, they’re a step up from my first as they’ve had much more support and love in them.

I hear about other escapes from other enthusiasts all over the world and it just leaves me wanting! Wanting more escape rooms and more travel! Things are beginning to open up in Canada so I already have a few trips planned for when I’m able to travel safely, but for the time being I’m consuming all the play at home escape rooms that I can.

So how many play at home games have you got through this lockdown, and are there any stand-out favourites?

I’m getting close to around 100 – I play everything from the big boxed ones you’d find at your local shops, to indie ones purchased overseas where the shipping is as much as the game itself!

One of the most memorable games I’ve enjoyed in lockdown is Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective! It’s just like in the Sherlock Holmes movies where the dots start connecting in the air around you. I remember playing this one mission from the Jack the Ripper Box and everyone was chattering and suddenly it all goes silent for me. It was a real moment of:

“Wait, if this happened, then this happened, it must mean this!”

That was the first time I actually got positive points in the game! If you’ve played it you’ll know you typically get negative points. Everybody loses against Sherlock but the trick is to lose the least.

Speaking of Board Games, do you have any favourites?

Oh absolutely! Some of my favourite games include Stronghold (published by the same people who made Terraforming Mars), and New Bedford, another worker placement game. So I have quite a few board games… I know some people collect board games and have around three or four hundred but I’ve only got around one to two hundred.

Wow, and here’s us still playing Monopoly!

Actually if you like that you should check out the history of Monopoly, it’s an amazingly interesting deep dive! For example, did you know it was invented by a woman and at the time nobody took her seriously so instead it was accredited to a man. It wasn’t even meant to be a game, it was a satire on how Capitalism doesn’t work. So the fact Monopoly takes such a long time and ruins families – it was designed that way!

If I were to give you a blank cheque to create any escape room experience what would you create?

So no surprise at all, I would probably stick to the horror theme!

I would want a mansion out in the countryside. It would be an escape room with as much of a ‘hands-off’ feel as possible for a truly organic horror experience. That said, I would’t want it to be a haunted house either. With haunted houses the principle is to go through it and be scared, or not be scared. With escape rooms your goal is to discover the story within an hour.

So this would be an escape room way out in the countryside and you have a whole weekend to figure it out. Half Airbnb, half escape room where you might get a call at 2am on the Friday night, and perhaps somebody would serve you breakfast in the morning and there would be something to discover.

It’s all about surviving the weekend!

Sounds like it would be a great setting for a murder mystery! Players must avoid getting killed off…

Haha! You know what? If I get that blank cheque I’ll have you onboard. The murder mystery aspect sounds like it would be really easy to add.

I did a murder mystery one time, I was an ‘audience member’ and each character came round and would talk to you and let you in on little bits of gossip here and there. It was extremely fun! So I love the idea. Immersive theatre – especially horror themed – is brilliant. Despite the fact I’m a huge chicken of course. I can dish it out but I can’t take it.

That’s so funny you make terrifying games but don’t love horror yourself?

It falls into a similar category of not trusting a skinny chef, or bringing your car to a mechanic who cycles to work. I’m scared of everything, so I know better than the average person of what is scary and how to create fear. I try to immerse myself in a lot of horror content especially during the creative process. I live in a scary old house and get scared pretty easily, so it’s easy to start from there.

What’s your greatest fear?

Oh man! My greatest fear?

Honestly it’s not a very exciting answer but it’s reptiles!

I especially don’t like frogs. I don’t want to hold a frog, I don’t want to touch a frog.

So if you could be any animal, what would you be?

It’s a great question! Everybody typically goes for a lion or an eagle, but I think you don’t get to choose. I’d probably end up being something like a mole rat. Life just rolls the dice and whatever animal comes up I’ll deal with it. Just not a reptile.

Thanks so much Keith for chatting to us at The Escape Roomer! If you want to keep up with Keith’s latest creative endeavours you can follow USB Escape on Instagram or TikTok.

Finally, A Puzzle to Solve!

At this point in these interviews we typically ask if the interviewee has a puzzle to share, but Keith has ALREADY created a brilliant puzzle for me to solve a few months back. So I’d like to share that, and how I solved it, below:


shout out to @usbescape for making this awesome puzzle!! i had a lot of fun solving (and cramming into a 60 sec video) #puzzles #escaperoom

♬ Astronaut In The Ocean – Masked Wolf

What Happens When You Mix Open Bars with Escape Rooms? – An Interview with an Enthusiast


I’m Chapter 2 of our “Interview with an Enthusiast” series, I spoke to Jamie from Armchair Escapist about all things escape rooms! Jamie is best known for covering escape rooms in Wales with his comprehensive reviews BUT did you know he’s also an escape game designer himself? Check out Dragon Egg Quest today!

Tell me about yourself!

Hi, I’m Jamie! I’m a somewhat overly enthusiastic geek stereotype from South Wales. I’m a puzzle designer and escape game reviewer over at Armchair Escapist. I cover escape rooms in Wales as well as play-at-home escape games.

The million dollar question – how many escape rooms have you done?

Here’s my shameful secret – I’ve only done about 40 real life escape rooms. Not even enough for my first escake! I’ll show myself out. 

I don’t get to travel much, so the vast majority of the rooms I’ve done are the ones near to me in South Wales.

Which was your very first escape room?

My first room was at Escape Rooms Cardiff when they launched, about five years back. As a former (disgraced) Egyptologist, I made a beeline for their Egyptian room – The Tomb. I was hooked instantly!

I went back and redid it a few years later to see whether I’d been wearing rose-tinted glasses, and it still held up. A very fun room to play!

Photo (c) Wales Online

What are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve ever had in an escape room?

I once did two rooms while pretty drunk. I was at a launch event and was waiting for some friends to arrive before we played one of their rooms. There was an open bar …

We didn’t get out. It didn’t help that it was their hardest room, and being three sheets to the wind definitely didn’t work in our favour.

We then tried their second hardest room, but there was about a 45 minute wait to get it ready and the open bar was still there.

Yeah, that worked out as expected.

Desk, plant pot, picture frame – which do you look under first?

Always the plant. Everything else is too obvious. Plus you look like a raging madman if the first thing you do is start hauling the greenery around, so everyone knows you’re serious.

The last TV show you watched suddenly gets its own licensed escape room. Hooray, or oh no?

I’ve been watching The Irregulars on Netflix, so that would make for a wonderful escape room. Victoriana, paranormal happenings, a sprinkling of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a huge hooray from me!

Image (c) The Irregulars

Can you think of a song that would make the perfect soundtrack for how you tackle an escape room?

I tried my best to find something both thematic and cool, but it didn’t happen. So it’s going to be Complicated by Avril Lavigne. If there’s one thing I do in an escape room it’s over complicate the simplest of puzzles.

And keep me away from the maths puzzles. I’ll say I can do them but under any kind of time pressure my brain turns to soup.

When you’re not escaping from locked rooms, what do you like to do in your free time?

I’m busy making them! I’ve started doing some freelance puzzle design, and I’ve made a print-at-home game for kids to collect missing dragon eggs.

I’m also parent to a toddler so any notion of ‘free time’ is inconsistent at best.

How would you explain escape rooms to people who have never played one before?

Escape rooms are a self-contained, hour-long team adventure with puzzles. You can be an explorer, an astronaut, a spy or a pirate for 60 minutes while you and your friends are in your own cross between an immersive roleplaying game and The Crystal Maze.

If I gave you a blank cheque to create a dream escape room, what would it be like?

I’d recreate the adventure from The Goonies – you’d start at a lighthouse restaurant and work your way through tunnels, booby traps and puzzles to wind up on One-Eyed Willy’s pirate ship. It would be epic! There’d be a lot of Rube Goldberg style machinery to give it that old school feel.

Can you imagine having to solve a puzzle that leads to a water slide? Shut up and take all of my money!

Can you give me a short puzzle for me (and my readers) to solve?

How about the puzzle I crafted based on your suggestion last Halloween? See if you can solve The Demon’s Smile:

Image (c) Armchair Escapist – check out the link below for the full puzzle!

A huge shout out to Jamie who runs Armchair Escapist for this brilliant interview! Jamie also creates fantastic play at home escape room games, go check out his site here!