Escape from California


James Rudolph, Staff Writer

At 7 in the evening this past Wednesday, over 50 students were locked in the Performance Center. Armed with only their wits and each other, students had to escape from the Performance Center in under an hour.

The Student Activities Board held the event with Escape Room, a company in Pittsburgh that offers a unique experience to its customers. They provide an interactive puzzle game in which a group of individuals must solve various riddles, puzzles, and mind games to escape a confined room in 60 minutes. Roxy Bautista, a representative for Escape Room, said the company is about 3 years old.

“Our puzzles are designed as team-building exercises,” explained Bautista. “They help bring our different qualities in people, like leadership, when working in groups. It encourages community and working together.”

Jessica Crosson
Students work together to figure out the hidden clue in this puzzle.

The captive students were presented with 9 puzzles to solve, each puzzle producing a number as its answer. Students formed groups among themselves and received a booklet containing riddles, which was used to decipher the answer from the 9 clues. The Escape Room staff explained the music they play will be clues for the puzzles as well.

All the puzzles had to be finished before you could solve the final puzzle to escape. Students could ask questions, but the staff reserved the right to refuse to answer. Hints were provided, but at a price: the first hint is free, but any other hint a team uses adds time at the end of the group’s total time.

The challenge began with much confusion between the groups. The puzzles consisted of various word and image associations, riddles, and number puzzles (without giving too much away to ensure the Escape Room experience for others). All the groups went to each puzzle at least once before real attempts at solving the puzzles were made. Students ran from puzzle to puzzle as Vivaldi’s “Spring (1st Movement)” played. Many of the students did not expect this set up.

“This really isn’t what I thought it would be,” said Jack Bennett, a freshman here at Cal. “I thought we would have to be getting out of, like, a confined area.”

Jessica Crosson
Staff members from The Great Escape Room in Pittsburgh. Check out their website:

A bell rang at 7:52, just minutes before the end of the allotted time and no groups close to solving the final problem, an announcement was made about a “bonus” award for the top 3 teams. Teams began to trade information espionage style. Students Jaylyn Hammond and Airona Walker were frequently accosted for information by a male student, but refused to give vital intel.

Several students seemed lost at first, relying on the prowess of some of the more experienced, like Corey Christopher White, another freshman who has done challenges like this before in high school. Other students simply anguished at their plight. One student politely asked, “Can someone hand me a cyanide capsule now?”

Jessica Crosson
Students try to put all of the clues together during the Escape Room event.

By 8:10, overtime, all groups got the hints for all puzzles, and an additional final hint given in the form of the song “Under the Sea.” By 8:26, there was still no winner and some groups simply left without an attempt to win. 8:45 hit, and two winners were announced, as both groups finished at the same time. The two groups were Baker’s Street and Scotland Yard.

Students gave mixed reviews about their Escape Room experience. Bennett, White, Walker, and Hammond all shared how this was drastically different from what they thought it would be. Both Hammond and Walker didn’t enjoy the experience, and won’t be returning for another round.

“The only annoying thing was my team,” said White and Bennett, who were on the same team together. When asked if they would return, both replies simply with, “Probably, yeah.”