Escape room coming to Elkader

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This image was taken inside the detective-styled and themed Noble Escape Room, which is coming to the Beauty Bar in Elkader for four weekends over the summer. It’s a race against the clock to solve clues, open locks and boxes and escape!

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


An escape room is coming to Elkader over the course of four weekends during the summer, in an attempt to bring a typically larger city experience to the small town. 


The Noble Escape Room, which will be housed in the back of the Beauty Bar, is the brainchild of Brett Moorman, brother to Caitlin Kuehl, owner of the Beauty Bar. Kuehl is also serving as the main point of contact, as well as working behind the scenes to get the project up and running. 


Moorman, who is an eighth grade social studies teacher at Mt. Vernon, said the project was inspired by his mom, who a few years ago “put on her own little escape room” for the family during Christmas. The experience, which Moorman described as “really cool,” was different, creative and a unique way to spend a family gathering, figuring out clues, locks and assorted boxes. 


“It was an enjoyable experience,” Moorman said. 


The family is also known to frequent escape rooms, enjoying the challenge associated with them, and with the knowledge gained from going through them. 


With mom lighting the proverbial fire, Moorman, along with Kuehl, set up some of their own rooms for family and friends in an outbuilding owned by Moorman called the “Corncrib.” It was during this time Moorman acquired a lot of props and materials (borrowed or purchased) and fiddled around, brainstorming ideas and utilizing an approach he’s developed during 11 years as a teacher. That approach is always looking for creative ways to do things and ways that make learning, and in this case entertainment, different and even more fun. 


For the escape rooms, Moorman sorts through different details like the clues, boxes and locations that will be used, all of which determine the size of the team necessary and the time limit required to complete the challenge. He finds the best place to brainstorm ideas is in the escape room itself, which allows the mind to wander. In the room, Moorman can also assess different scenarios that might arise, and it prompts new ideas to “flow.” 


He also bounces ideas off family and friends, who have been an invaluable asset over the course of his five previous escape rooms. 


Those previous efforts have included holiday- and missing author-themed rooms, but all have fallen into the category of being detective style escape rooms where participants find clues and navigate their way out in a set time. 


Moorman suggested this style adds a level of uniqueness to his escape rooms, because he can generate all the clues and settings without hiring people to make them for him, which creates a level of “authenticity” missing from larger escape rooms in the city. 


“I have discovered it is a hobby and I like the thrill and challenge of coming up with something different for others to figure out. It really exercises the mind,” Moorman said. 


When it comes to the challenges of creating an escape room, Moorman overcomes the supply issue rather easily, as most materials come from the family or are simply household items, like desks, mirrors, toys and pictures. The challenge then becomes where to put the items in the room and how to incorporate them into the clues. 


Another challenge is knowing who the audience will be and attempting to appeal to the largest group possible, something Moorman said is “tricky to gauge.” A significant challenge for Moorman is determining the team size and length of time each team has to complete the challenge. 


“It can be tricky to identify those aspects, as me running through it as one person and knowing its details can be hard to then pinpoint how many and for how long it would take a group,” Moorman explained. 


Moorman said he has learned more about difficulty level through trial and error of past rooms, assessing the level based on the performance of teams who competed in those rooms and, of course, by having family and friends do test runs. 


All this effort goes into making the escape room as close to perfect, and solvable for everyone who enters, as possible. However, Moorman admitted, “No escape room is probably perfect, and everyone’s thought process works a little bit differently. That’s what I think makes them fun and challenging to not only just make, but to do, as well.”


As for the name, Moorman didn’t want to call it the “Corncrib,” mostly because he’s no longer using the outbuilding he owns. Something else was needed, but he didn’t want cliché like “the great escape” or something that has already been used. So, he and Kuehl settled on the word “noble,” and from there, the name stuck. 


“We decided on the word noble, which means to me like ‘worthy’ or ‘honorable,’ so those that can escape are the ‘noble ones,’” Moorman said. 


The escape room is available for anyone feeling noble enough for four weekends during the summer, starting on June 24 and 25. Those dates will be followed by July 1-2, July 8-9 and July 22-23. 


The escape room has four openings on Saturdays and five on Sundays, and requires a three-person team. The time to complete the escape room is set at one hour. 


Anyone interested in participating should contact Kuehl at the Beauty Bar, either in the salon, on Facebook or by calling (563) 245-1339. 


People should consider doing an escape room for a variety of reasons, according to Moorman.


“First, I think this is a sort of attraction that smaller communities should get to experience to a degree without having to drive a ways, so keeping entertainment local. Next, I think it provides a great team building opportunity through overcoming challenges, brainstorming and communication. Lastly, it just gives you something different to do on a Friday or Saturday and doesn’t eat up a lot of time on a weekend,” he shared.

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