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GETAWAY TO SPOOKY FUN AT OTTAWA'S ESCAPE MANOR
by James Ross
(For Travel Writers' Tales)

The heavy door of the wine vault slams behind us, leaving us in the dark. We hear the horrible, cackling laugh of a killer, "Ah,ha,ha,ha," echoing down the corridor, trailing off in a menacing wail. "You're all going to die!" Then in a final sinister threat, the fiend promises to be back in exactly 45 minutes to finish the job. There is nothing but darkness and silence, save for the big clock on the wall, counting down the seconds to our demise, "tick-tock, tick-tock!"

I throw myself against the door and jiggle the latch locked. "We're finished," I moan in despair. "Doomed! I knew there was something odd about that fellow!"


1. Escape Manor "Dad, it's a game, he is the owner, get a hold of yourself," say my sensible kids. Oh yes, I am in Ottawa's Escape Manor with my wife and four teenage children. It is the city's newest entertainment rage. Escape Manor invites groups of two to six people to escape from four different scenarios; our creepy wine vault, a locked prison cell, a corporate office or an asylum. Once locked up and on your own, you have to work together to find clues and solve puzzles that will lead to freedom. It is a bit CSI and part Indiana Jones not simple, but a whole lot of fun. The catch is, success has to be achieved in 45 minutes or you will meet a tragic end, and, as I am learning, escaping a room here is no easy feat.


2. Waiting in the lobby

"Tick-tock!" We had decided on the wine vault because, I suppose, it has been a long-time dream of my wife to get locked in a wine cellar. In fact, I can't help but notice that she doesn't seem to be helping much in the early going. I remind her that it isn't red wine in the bottles, but the blood of the murderer's victims. This spurns her into action, and finally progress is being made. I can't tell you the clues we are uncovering, because that would ruin it for others. Needless to say we are making headway, with logic and method and teamwork, and only a bit of panic, mostly from me. We have unravelled some very perplexing riddles, but always there is the sound of the clock echoing through the room.

According to Billy Rogers, one of Escape Manor's four founders, the new attraction offers a unique experience. "It's a mystery within a mystery, and everything is in play in the room. You're the main character, involved, instead of watching it from the outside."


3. Behind Bars

"Tick-tock! Personally, as the tension builds inside the room, I think I would rather be watching from the outside. The wine vault's set-up is very clever. Just when you think you have something figured out, you're forced to try again. I guess that is why only 17% of guests actually manage to escape the rooms on time. This is a great team-building exercise. Unless your group works together, there isn't any chance of success.

The clock ticks down towards zero, and, and in spite of the progress we have made, we struggle with one more puzzle. I think we have lost, but then, like every great thriller, we decipher a final code in the nick of time, allowing us to find a key to unlock the door. We are saved!


4. Escape Manor's newest room: The Asylum

Is it just me, or does Rogers seem disappointed to see us walk down the hall and into the lobby - free? I guess failure brings people back to try again. I imagine we will return to test the other three rooms, (with more to come, promises Rogers). In "Prison Break," you are wrongly accused and locked behind bars on death row. Your last day has come, but the prison guards have gone on break and left the keys to your cell in sight. All you have to do is get to them. "The Darkness" is a corporate office, where you made a deal with a strange businessman, Lou Cifer, to further your career. Can you find that contract and escape with your soul before the Prince of Darkness returns? "The Asylum" is a haunted hospital with a mad scientist hiding in the basement. You must escape before the clock ticks to zero, or you could very well become the next human piece in a formaldehyde jar. Perhaps I could bring my in-laws for a visit, and lock them in this loony bin.

5. We escaped, so our photo is on the wall of success! Escape Manor is spooky, fun and very challenging but book early for a visit, as it is difficult to get in, and very hard to get back out!

IF YOU GO:

Find out What's Up in Ottawa at www.ottawatourism.ca

Check out the Escape Manor Experience at www.escapemanor.com

PHOTOS: By Jamie Ross

1. Escape Manor

2. Waiting in the lobby.

3. Behind Bars

4. Escape Manor's newest room: The Asylum

5. We escaped, so our photo is on the wall of success!

Travel Writers' Tales is an independent travel article syndicate that offers professionally written travel articles to newspaper editors and publishers. To check out more, visit www.TravelWritersTales.com

 


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