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Going out to get locked in- Escape Cullman coming soon

W.C. Mann

Tyson Pruett explains escape rooms to the planning commission.

CULLMAN - Escape games are growing by leaps and bounds across the nation, and now they’re coming to Cullman.  The Birmingham and Huntsville/Decatur areas each have three; Florence, Tuscaloosa and Gadsden have them.  We’re next!

The escape game concept is simple.  A team of people is locked in a room, and has to get out.  The execution . . . not so simple.  You get out by finding a series of clues that lead to other clues, eventually leading you to the key or combination that opens the door.  Oh, and . . . it’s timed.  In most places, you’ll have an hour to find all the clues, solve the mystery and escape.

The typical need for teamwork in the fast-paced scenario makes escape rooms great places for businesses to bring groups for team-building exercises.  They are also popular with church groups, families and school sports teams.

If you’re of the anxious claustrophobic sort, don’t worry.  The door opens with the push of a button for those who just need to get out.  Players are monitored via closed circuit television, and staff monitors might even help out with the occasional clue.

On Monday evening, Allison Meriwether and Tyson Pruett appeared before the City of Cullman Planning Commission to make a conditional use request to open a two-room escape game business at 103 Third St. SW.  “Escape Cullman,” as they call it, will feature a sports-themed room to begin, with a likely robbery/heist theme for the other.  Players age 14 and older will go in groups of six-eight to find and interpret clues, to work out the code that will open the door.

Pruett explained that many people think of escape rooms as something akin to the haunted houses that pop up around Halloween, but that they are actually something completely different.

“I want everybody to keep ‘haunted house’ way out of their heads,” he said.  “A lot of times, when people hear ‘escape,’ the first thing that pops in their minds is, ‘Oh, it’s a haunted house with people jumping out at you, and the lights; and it’s nowhere near that.  It’s going to be a family-friendly team building exercise, or something if somebody just wants to go burn an hour and have fun.”

The bottom floor of the two-story suite will house the game rooms, while the second floor will be a waiting area.  The commission was concerned about the idea of people being trapped inside a building, but Pruett calmed their fears.

“We’ve spoken to the fire marshal; there will be a button that someone can press right near the door at any time, if they need to leave, have a panic attack, or anything.  And the rooms will be monitored by someone who works for us.  If there is an emergency, we will know what’s going on in there at all times.”

Meriwether and Pruett hope to open Escape Cullman between mid-May and early June.  The Tribune will take a team to try it out (They called us guinea pigs--nothing scary there.) as they get close to the time, so watch for our report!

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