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September 29, 2019

13th Hour: Dungeon, Great Room, Grand Parlor (Wharton, NJ)

Guest post by Matt Kimmel:

13th Hour Escape Rooms (formerly The Haunted Scarehouse) began as a haunted house, but as escape rooms became popular, expanded and built five escape rooms, with a sixth opening soon. We were able to play three. The company has a unifying horror theme, weaving a story about the notorious killer, John Hayden, and his family through each of their rooms. From their website:

"The Dungeon
Our newest room, the Dungeon offers a unique challenge that is only for the tough. Faint of heart beware. You start your game blindfolded and led to your cells. You get chained and locked into your cells unaware of your surroundings. Do you have what it takes to escape?

The Great Room
This is the Hayden families room of murders. This section of the farmhouse is known as the Great Room. This massive section of the farmhouse will challenge your witts in all fashions. Multiple sections, secret passage ways and puzzles you never experienced before will have your team running mad. What terrible secrets lies within the Great Room. Just what were the Hayden family members up too. 

The Grand Parlor
You all have been chosen, chosen for a simple task of wit and courage. It seems someone has misplaced Bishop Hayden’s ashes. As uncaring as this may seem, it’s actually very important. Bishop and Edna Hayden were a killing team back in their time and they must be reunited in the afterlife. If you find Bishop’s urn and they are reunited, we will let you leave without harm. If not, you will all become part of the Hayden farmhouse forever!"

Set Design, Technology & Puzzles 

The Dungeon
This one starts with a split-team experience, where each group member is placed in their own cell after being captured by John Hayden and must escape. The dimly lit, derelict basement isn't visually stunning, but it does a very good job at looking like a dingy murder basement. The puzzles were straightforward, and often amounted to using information found across the room to translate a list into a 4 or 8 digit code. The set design included multiple levels and secret doors, with at least one puzzle taking advantage of the multilevel set. There are stairs, so if anyone in your group has mobility concerns, make sure to check with them.

The Great Room
The Great Room is a more ornate room which continues to take advantage of multilevel set design. The technology here is more impressive; the venue's roots as a haunted house are on full display, and they're not afraid to use moving elements beyond simple opening boxes and doors.

The Grand Parlor
This room is the venue's newest room, and it shows in the variety of technology and big set pieces used. It's another multilevel room which uses its space fantastically, letting players use certain areas by seeing them prior to the players gaining physical access to them. The layout is impressive and the games opens up wonderfully. There are a lot of puzzles to manage and our team of four had more than our hands full with this one.

Memorable Moments 

The Dungeon 
The item discovered upon winning is a great use of the initial room setup. You'll know it when you see it.

The Great Room
Discovering a puzzle that is mostly inside a secret passage.

The Grand Parlor
First accessing the parlor room. What a great set piece!

Room For Improvement

The rooms were overall very good, but The Dungeon repeated very similar puzzles several times. The Dungeon and the Great Room lack ceilings (if you look up, you'll see straight up to the roof), and as a result, you can hear groups in other rooms yelling back and forth to each other. At times, the rooms also felt a little heavy on padlocks.

Overall Thoughts

The Grand Parlor Room was a masterpiece, including a variety of puzzles, setpiece elements, and technologies. The Great Room was a close second, and in almost any other location would've been a strong standout. The Dungeon was the oldest and simplest of the three, but it still had a couple unexpected tricks and turns and was quite enjoyable.

  • Set design: Great! Less good if you don't enjoy a haunted house aesthetic, since all the rooms share a horror theme
  • Difficulty: Ranges from easy to medium, nothing that is unusually punishing
  • Price: $29/person +$/person to make the room private
  • Number of players: up to 6-10 (recommend 3-6) depending on room. Some puzzles benefit from multiple players.
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Overall Rating: The Dungeon: ★★★★, The Great Room: ★★★★½, The Grand Parlor ★★★★★
See their website here: https://13thhourescape.com/

Disclosure: 13th Hour graciously provided discounted tickets

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