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Pandemic puzzle plays out in Grand Forks Escape Room

A deadly pandemic is spreading across the world, and the only way to survive is to find an antidote hidden in a room in Grand Forks. That is the premise of the Grand Forks Escape Room, located in Suite 40 at 100 N. Third Street. Participants walk...

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(Left to right): Scott Duisen, Melody MaCarthy, Binky Lee, Jessica Genett, and Trevor D. of XL93 radio hold up the 'clue' board for a hint at the Grand Forks Escape Room in Grand Forks, N.D. on August 6, 2016. (Meg Oliphant/Grand Forks Herald)

A deadly pandemic is spreading across the world, and the only way to survive is to find an antidote hidden in a room in Grand Forks.

That is the premise of the Grand Forks Escape Room, located in Suite 40 at 100 N. Third Street. Participants walk into a room and are locked in before a video describing the scenario starts. From there, they have an hour to interpret clues, solve puzzles and find the antidote left behind by an abducted scientist.

The business had a soft opening Thursday with a grand opening Saturday, and its schedule is quickly filling up with bookings, said Ashley Boswell, who owns Grand Forks Espace Room with her fiance, Tyler Bauman.

"It's been extremely positive," Boswell said of the local reaction to the business. "We had our first group that won last night, so they were just pumped."

Boswell said she and Bauman, who both live in West Fargo, enjoy hands-on experiences like geocaching, and they had gone through other escape rooms. They noted two escape rooms in Fargo were doing really well, so they wanted to find a city nearby to open their own version.

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Grand Forks became their first choice after they researched areas that could produce an environment for a successful escape room.

"This is just perfect for what we needed," Boswell said.

The face behind the scientist may be familiar to some. That's because Boswell and Bauman recruited Bill Lucas, better known as Ole, who entertains fans during Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks games.

"We reached out to him because he used to be my neighbor and I thought he would be perfect, which he was," Boswell said. "He was just amazing."

Escape rooms offer a hands-on experience compared to other forms of entertainment, such as going to the movies. It also is an opportunity for local businesses to utilize for team-building activities and to boost morale in the office, Boswell said, adding several have already contacted her for that purpose.

It's also a way to meet others, she added. The room is designed for parties of eight, but some sessions have hosted people from different groups, she said.

"We've actually had full sessions where people didn't know each other," she said. "It's a fun way to branch out and get to meet other people. We've done escape rooms with other people, and it's a blast."

Boswell said it has been fun to watch the groups work their way through the escape room, adding many didn't know what to expect. But once they started, participants really got into it, she said.

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The escape room is geared toward adults due to the complexity of the puzzles, and though it probably wouldn't be an ideal activity for a 9-year-old's birthday party, customers can bring children to help, Boswell said.

"I've been just really stating the puzzles, a lot of them are going to be too hard for them, but that doesn't mean they can't contribute," she said. "There's nothing that is inappropriate in the room. There is nothing that is scary in the room."

For now, the pandemic scenario is the only one the Grand Forks Escape Room is using, but it's possible it could use others plotlines, Boswell said.

For more information or to book a spot at the escape room, go to www.gfescaperoom.com .

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