Carmela Klug has built her own northwestern Ontario-themed escape room just outside Emo.
Klug says the “Trapper Shack” is something to do that is new and different to the area.
Though this is her first time designing an escape room, its quality is far from amateur — four groups of testers have described it as “phenomenal,” “legit,” “fun,” and “surprisingly professional.”
“It’s very well thought out,” says Juliana Marx, one of the preliminary testers. “I liked how everything tied in.”
Klug has taken four groups of family and friends for testing — three groups of four, and another group of three — to gauge the room’s difficulty level. After a few minor changes, she says it’s ready to open to the public.
“I’m really happy with how it turned out,” she says.
Though Klug had some help from other family members, it was she and her daughter Katrina who planned, designed, and created the escape room together.
“This was definitely a two-woman job,” she says. “We had a lot of fun coming up with the concepts and designing the specific puzzles.”
She says it was a long process, as they worked on it during spare time throughout most of the summer. She estimates it took about 60-80 hours.
“We had a lot of secret meetings so my husband and son wouldn’t overhear,” says Klug.
She explained that her family is the reason for her creating the room in the first place.
Klug’s sister and her family come to visit every summer. She likes to have novel activities for the two families to do together. Two years ago, Klug made a version of the Amazing Race which she says was fun, but wanted something new.
“Our family has done escape rooms together before, and I’ve always thought it would be fun to design one,” she says. “It didn’t take very long for me to realize it was going to be a lot of work, so I tried to think a little bigger — how could I get more use out of it than just for my family?”
That’s when she looked into opening it to the public, and decided to turn it into a fundraiser.
“I’m not in this to make money — in fact besides the time invested, I’ve spent about $300 in various supplies,” she says. “But if I can bring some fun times to people and raise some money for a cause that’s close to my heart, then it’s more than worth it.”
Klug says the proceeds of the escape room will be donated to Cornerstone Christian School in Emo.
She is charging $20 per person. She recommends groups of three or four. The room is a repurposed 64-square-foot tree fort, so Klug is capping the participants at four, as the space can’t comfortably accommodate for any more than that.
Klug says participants will also need to be able to climb ladders, as the tree fort is about five feet off the ground.
“It’s very sturdy and safe, with a roof and walls,” she says. “Once you’re inside, you don’t realize you’re in a tree fort.”
Klug says she is flexible for booking times, but that the escape room will only be open until the end of September. She recommends ages 12 and up, as the puzzles might be too complex for kids younger than that.
It takes an hour to do, but Klug says one should prepare for an hour and a half. She asks teams to come about 15 minutes early for a quick intro, and there is a debrief once the challenge is complete, or time runs out.
For anyone who has never tried an escape room, you are never truly locked in the room. If you are uncomfortable, you can leave at any time. You and your team must use various clues to open locks, find patterns, and complete the room’s task before the hour expires.
Teams are allowed unlimited hints, but only those who use three or fewer will be featured on the leaderboard.
“Just like other escape rooms, we ask people who go through it not to give any details to others who haven’t participated yet,” says Klug. “The whole point is to solve puzzles and be surprised by what you find behind lock and key.”
She says while photography is not allowed, she can take a picture of your group at the end if you want a keepsake of your experience.
Klug extends an “enthusiastic invitation” for anyone to check the Trapper Shack Facebook page, or email email@example.com to book a time to escape.