Escape Manor - Neil, Billy, Steve & Chris
How would you describe an Escape Room to someone who has never heard of one?
"Escape Room" is a themed adventure, where you and your friends need to solve a series of mysteries, uncover clues, work together, and act fast to be successful. You are the stars of your own epic experience, as we might be whisking you away to an Egyptian tomb where you have to escape the curse of a long-dead Pharaoh, to a famed art gallery where you have to steal a famous piece of art and elude the police, or to a haunted insane asylum where you are next up on the operating table. The objective is to escape the room before time runs out, using logic, teamwork and creativity.
What inspired you to get into the Escape Room business?
Escape Manor was created to add a dash of fun to Ottawa, and help our fair capital city break out of the nap room that everyone thinks we live in! You know exactly what we mean! We wanted to create a business that would get people excited, get them off their chairs and into the mix. There are more and more digital connectors out there, but our escape rooms force you to engage with real people, in real life ways, but in some very heightened scenarios. Escape rooms are such a natural way to bring people together in a social setting, we knew that it would resonate. It was also helpful to see how popular escape rooms had become internationally, and how the genre, being fairly new, was open to interpretation and could allow us to include local tastes, trends, and creativity into our offering.
How many people on average make it out of a room on the first try?
It varies - but most guests that haven't played an escape room before are still frantically searching for clues and trying to open locks when the clock strikes down. But fear not -- there is a learning curve, and once you understand the nature of the challenge, the odds of success greatly improve. Each of our escape rooms have a different rate of success, with our most difficult seeing about 8 percent of groups escape. That said, everyone has 100 percent chance of having fun, and you have the option of making the rooms easier by using additional hints to get you through; it really depends on what you want to get out the experience, and if you REALLY want that gratification of getting out!
Have you ever encountered a room you couldn’t make it out of?
We'd like to say we have an undefeated record, but unfortunately that's not true. In fact, I think we may have locked ourselves in one of our early rooms and had to call the outside world for assistance.
Billy is in the process of setting a new world record for most hours spent in an escape room. He entered the Diefenbunker two weeks ago and we haven't heard from him since. We think he found the underground bowling alley and is working on his 7-10 split.
Your headquarters are in Ottawa along with most of your locations where else is Escape Manor bringing the experience?
We are also located in Cornwall, Regina, and Brisbane, Australia. Our newest locations in Toronto and Saskatoon are in the works and will be opening shortly. We are in talks with Elon to be the first escape room in space. The ball is currently in his court.
How many themes or games do you have combining all of your locations?
All told, we have 24 unique experiences with different themes and puzzles to keep our guests guessing. In Ottawa we have 15 experiences, including escape rooms and outdoor city adventures. In Cornwall we have the unparalleled Escape the Jail experience, where guests need to break out of an actual penitentiary and run for the hills. We also have 4 escape room experiences in Regina, and another 4 in Brisbane. Our Toronto location opens in September with some pretty neat rooms as well (and axe throwing too!).
Who can play an an Escape Room?
Escape rooms are perfect for pretty well everyone and guests of all ages can enjoy! The cool thing is that we have so many experiences available that whether you are celebrating a night out with friends for a birthday or bachelor/bachelorette parties, or a work event, or a family outing, or you just want something fun to do on a Monday night, we have something for you. We also have a location specific for kids aged 6-12 called Escape Manor Junior. At the end of the day, we love helping people challenge themselves while working together with the people they love!
When you aren’t busy locking people up or working on new games and locations what do you do for fun?
We are always dreaming up new ways to wow guests and move the needle. Downtime fun usually involves visiting the creepiest or most elaborate immersive entertainment activity in other cities to see what is moving the crowd. We also enjoy bocce.
What do you see in the future of Escape Games and experiential entertainment concepts?
The data is pretty clear in that Canadians, and particularly Millennials, are looking to spend their hard earned dollars on experiential adventure as opposed to material possessions. For better or for worse, the material world has become disposable and so creating unique, shared memories is of greater value than anything else. We think that trend is going to continue for a long time and so finding new, innovative ways to challenge our guests and create a sense of adventure is hopefully a strategy that will serve us well down the line.
What Canadian Musician would you lock up and what room would you choose for him/her?
Billy: I’d lock up child favourite Raffi in the Forbidden Forest at Escape Manor Junior and tell him that he has to use a banana phone to call for hints!
Neil: I’d lock up Justin Bieber in the Cornwall Jail - he’s no stranger to a cellblock!
Chris: I’d lock up Arcade Fire in the Diefenbunker - there’s like 35 people in the band, surely they could figure out an escape by making a human pyramid or something!
Steve: I’d lock up Drake in Psycho, our hardest room - that guy could rhyme his way out of any situation!
How has Ottawa supported Escape Manor?
Ottawa is truly the hometown of Escape Manor. Us four owners all hail from Ottawa and are extremely proud to call the city HQ. Having grown up here, we all remember the days when you might be hard-pressed to find something fun to do on a Friday night that didn’t involve a poutine on York or paddy-wagons on Portage. When we first opened our doors and introduced the concept to Ottawa, we were met with unbelievable support in the form of advance sales, media coverage and general hi-fives up and down Queen Street. Since 2014, the City has continued to embrace Escape Manor, whether it be through escape room entertainment at our fixed locations, pop-up locations such as the Museum of Nature and the Diefenbunker or new outdoor experiences like Alibi. I think the quintessential symbol of support came last September when we called on Ottawans to help us set a new Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Scavenger Hunt - and we totally did it!
Are there any local businesses that have helped you get to where you are today.
To name a few, we'd like to thank: