Fans escape to Morgan Memorial

Published 10:24 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2018

They scoured the meeting room that was transformed into a living 1980s throwback on Saturday. Under posters for films like “The Thing” and “Evil Dead,” they searched for another clue according to the vague hint in letters lit by Christmas light on the wall.

Wendy McNellis brought her daughter Kayleigh, 15, and her cousin Kelly Terry brought her children Braeden, 11, and Lauren, 14. The five of them managed to solve the puzzles and follow to the clues to their goals: a figurine of fan-favorite telekinetic Eleven from the hit Netflix series “Stranger Things,” and the key that marked the finish line.

The group finished in about eight minutes, not bad for their first escape room.


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“I thought for sure they were going to yell ‘time’ any minute,” Terry said.

Library staffers Deborah Ward, Angela Martin, Amy Brunson, LaSandra Adams and Shauntae Holloway spent months planning “Escape the Upside Down,” a free escape room challenge held on Friday and Saturday at Morgan Memorial Library based on “Stranger Things.”

“They did a really good job, especially with all the vintage toys,” McNellis added. “That’s one of the things that makes the show so good, all the vintage stuff.”

They gathered a plethora of nostalgic items to set the scene of mid-‘80s Hawkins, Ind., the fictional town in which the show takes place, where the characters searched for missing 12-year-old Will Byers with the help of the young, powerful girl named Eleven, diving into the dark dimension of the “Upside Down” against nefarious government schemes and the terrifying Demogorgon.

“It’s like it’s straight out of the show,” Kayleigh said while looking at the elaborately decorated room.

Martin explained that she and other staff loved the show and knew they would have the props they needed. Coworkers loaned a “Dungeons and Dragons” set and other items, and she added her own collection of vintage memorabilia to the mix.

The wallpaper was made to match the walls of Joyce Byers’ home with the lit alphabet and the stereo played a combination of recognizable ‘80s hits like the “Ghostbusters” theme song and the original show soundtrack by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein.

“People are such fanatics of the show that we had to be on top of it,” Martin said.

Ward actually hadn’t seen the series before she joined the project, but she binge-watched both seasons in just three days.

“It was exciting, because I finally understood what the Christmas lights had to do with the Eggo waffles,” she said.

In an escape room, players have to work together to solve clues and puzzles using hints and strategy to complete the objectives in a limited amount of time. The library staff found a plan for a “Stranger Things”-inspired escape room online and tweaked it for their needs, Martin said.

Teams at the library had just 30 minutes to “find Eleven and escape the Upside Down before the Demogorgon finds you,” according to the first message when you walk through the door.

“It’s fun to watch them go through the steps,” Ward said.

Clues led teams to a cassette mixtape by Martin herself, a hidden dictionary safe and even hidden messages written with invisible ink. A hidden UV flashlight revealed the lock code “603” on each seemingly blank booklet page.

“Who would put 603 on every single page,” laughed Hailey Muench, 15, who did the room with Josef Muench.

Martin and the others are already percolating plans for future escape rooms based on their success in the Upside Down.

“We’ll definitely be doing this again, maybe in the fall,” she said. “I’m think a ‘Harry Potter’ theme but we’ll see.”