Memorial Union opens escape room

Katie Darke, News Contributor

You walk into Detective Benny’s office to retrieve incriminating evidence against Puddles the Duck, but suddenly you get locked in. Fortunately, Benny has hidden clues to help you retrieve the keys, as well as the evidence for this exact occasion. Will you and your trusted team be able to follow the clues to uncover the evidence, escape the room and bring Puddles to justice?

The creators of the Memorial Union Haunted House, the MU Activities team, have constructed the MU Escape Room, from which puzzle-solving team members must escape by solving clues and challenging puzzles created around this exhilarating storyline of rival school mascots.

According to MU Digital Media and Marketing Coordinator Dakota Snow, the escape room has already been a big hit.

“There’s the desire to come back when (participants) see they are making progress,” Snow said.

MU Activities team members Jared Henningsen, Nate Cottle and Sean Kounovsky spent about eight weeks planning the puzzle-solving room—a month to plan and a month to build. Originally intended to be a one-time event at Halloween, the MU Escape Room was extended to run for the length of spring term.

“It was more of a reality to do it long term,” Henningsen said.

Despite the team’s efforts to make the escape room a lasting activity, it is still a time-sensitive event. Taking over a revenue-generating space, formerly the location of Many Hands Trading, the MU Escape Room has only found a temporary home. According to the team, the future of the room depends on finding a permanent residence in the MU.

The MU Activities team explained that the funding for the MU Escape Room comes out of MU funds generated by third-party reservations and events. This allows the room and all of its intricately designed puzzles to be offered free of charge to OSU students and staff.

According to Henningsen, all supplies for the room came from surplus at OSU. 

More necessary than supplies was the help from the MU Building Services, according to the activities team.

“Building Services helped make our puzzle ideas come to life inside the room,” Henningsen said.

The inspiration for the MU Escape Room came from a trip to an Association of College Unions International activities conference. According to Henningsen, the MU Activities team members attend ACUI conferences to grow the MU Activities program and discover ideas for future events.

According to the activities team, assistance also came from other groups inside the MU, such as the MU event coordinators.

“Coordinators have been incredibly supportive of us,” Kounovsky said.

The team cited one particular coordinator, Heather Rapp, as giving them a lot of encouragement during the planning process.

“This has been a learning process,” Cottle said. “We’ve never done anything like this before.”

According to Rapp, while she was supportive of the MU Activities team’s efforts in making the escape room come to life, she was also aware of the potential impact of the room on the Corvallis community, particularly the downtown business Escape Corvallis.

“We’re not trying to take business away from the one in Corvallis,” Rapp said. “We love supporting our community.”

According to the MU Activites team, the escape room downtown is also worth exploring for those interested in this kind of experience.

“We’re just giving people a taste of it,” Henningsen said.

Solving the MU Escape Room is a great team-building exercise, as well as a fun activity for groups such as the Forestry Ambassadors, who participated in the first public run of the room, according to Henningsen. 

Based on observations by the MU Activities team, there is one important tip for success, according to Cottle.

“Communication is key,” Cottle said.

Reservations for the MU Escape Room are going fast and will soon be fully booked, with Mondays and Fridays as the most popular days, according to MU Activities team. If students are interested in trying out the room, they can reserve a spot for three to eight team members with valid OSU ID numbers by going to the MU website. Time slots run from Monday through Friday at noon to 1 p.m., 2-3 p.m. and 4-5 p.m.