Are escape rooms scary?

Are Escape Rooms Scary?

Escape rooms certainly can be scary, but they don’t have to be. Here at The Basement, we specialize in horror-themed experiences, serial killers, and heart-pounding thrills. No cheap jump scares here, only a creeping sense of dread and unease. It feels like something with very, very sharp teeth is watching from just out of sight.

Escape rooms lend themselves to horror themes tremendously well. There is something so unnatural and unsettling about being locked inside a room with no clear means of escape. Before we even discuss the world of theming for escape rooms, the concept itself can be scary to some. In fact, non-horror themed escape rooms have to tip the scales hard in the opposite direction in order to fend off the creepy vibes that locking people in a room tends to elicit.

Why is an escape room inherently creepy?

The game master locks you, your friends, and family into an unfamiliar room filled with hidden keys, secret compartments, and mysteries around every corner. Your palms begin to sweat and your eyes grow wide, investigating this strange space.

The goal is to escape the room, to complete the bank heist, to stop the zombie apocalypse, or whatever else the designers have cooked up for you. After the door closes, the clock is ticking and the pressure is ON. What’s there to be scared of? It’s just a game after all!

Well, there’s PLENTY! Don’t disregard people’s nerves! That’s not cool.

Common Escape Room Fears

A Tight Squeeze

One of the most common fears encountered inside of escape room games is Claustrophobia. In order to solve puzzles, sometimes that means crawling into a tight space, or getting closed inside a cabinet or box. Most escape rooms will offer a warning attached to their games, or if you ask the staff about your particular phobias.

In my experience, I’ve found that escape room employees just want you to have a safe and comfortable experience. If things become too much or overwhelming, there’s almost always an exit button you can press to leave the game.

The Unknown

Most people possess a general fear of The Unknown. That eerie sensation when you just don’t know what could be in that dark room, or what the actor might do if provoked. The only way to quell this fear is to continue to investigate and discover clues. Even in escape games with lighter themes, this fear of the Unknown can make any experience feel a little scary. Just remember, these games are for fun!

The groundskeeper’s shed in The Courtyard – Sylmar, CA

The Anti Horror Escape Room

There’s a common misconception that all escape rooms are going to be scary. For those with more gentle sensibilities, there are plenty of adventure themed rooms for you to enjoy! Escape rooms don’t need to be scary to be fun! Although Edward Tandy may think differently, you definitely don’t need fake blood and jump scares to tell a great story through puzzles and clues.

Family-oriented games suited for players of all ages often rock a more colorful and friendly theme. For example, The Evolution of Games follows the development of video games and board games throughout history! Bright, exciting, and filled with awesome puzzles, this game doesn’t have an ounce of spooky-scary to be found. If you’re ever in Appleton, Wisconsin, check out this rad game!

Scary Escape Rooms Do it Better

Is this a biased take? Absolutely. Instead of shying away from the common fears associated with escape rooms, horror themed rooms lean into the drama and worry that comes from playing a puzzle game, locked in a room.

The Basement is a Horror Escape Room company that offers four, exhilarating puzzle games that play on your fears directly. You’ve been kidnapped by a cannibalistic serial killer and locked in his most dangerous game.

Horror Escape Rooms take all of the general escape room fears and amplify them with theming and story telling. These fears are given reason, given room to grow into genuine terror. Here at The Basement, we think that’s beautiful. Now, our escape rooms aren’t meant to scare the absolute bejeezus out of you, they simply lend a horror backdrop to amazing and challenging puzzles.

Fear Based Experiences

Some would classify escape rooms as fear-based experiences alongside Haunts and Horror Mazes. But there’s another kind of fear-based entertainment that doesn’t involve horror at all.

Thrill-seeking experiences like skydiving, whitewater rafting, extreme roller coasters, high-rise walks, and even spicy food challenges can ignite adrenaline and serve as a fun way to enjoy fear.

The majority of people are after some sort of fear-based entertainment in their lives. Why do we seek out things that scare us? Why is there so much joy found right alongside terror? Dr. Margee Kerr, a sociologist with an interest in the behavioral and health sciences, has been researching this very question. In fact, she has a fabulous TED Talk on the subject and has written an incredible book. Required reading for anyone interested in fear!

Fear without Horror

The Basement: A Live Escape Room Experience is staffed by a team of dedicated people that know a thing or two about fear. Horror movies, haunted house walkthroughs, scary escape rooms, all manner of ways to get scared. The Basement LA’s manager, Kyle LaCross II, has kindly shared an account of a non-horror themed, fear-based experience with us:

I’ve wanted to go skydiving for a very long time. Never afraid of the concept, it had always been something that I thought seemed pretty cool! Seeing videos of people falling through the sky, being abruptly interrupted by the parachute being pulled gets me excited every time.

When given the option of going to Disneyland or skydiving, I made the choice to jump out of an airplane. The magic that Disneyland touts can be seen as artificial; it was crafted by engineers and animators to hit all of the right nostalgia receptors in your brain, giving that “magical” feeling. Seeing the world by plummeting towards it at terminal velocity? Slowly descending with a large piece of colorful nylon, looking at all of the people that were once taller than you – but seeing them as ants? That’s real magic.

Arriving at the skydiving facility filled me with excitement. They kept asking me how nervous I was, and I kept saying “not at all”. I’m sure they’re very used to people being mortified, because the staff reacted with looks of bewilderment.

They got me in the harness and let me know there would be an additional person jumping out of the same plane as me. A Nervous Wreck of a person. When they asked who wanted to go first, I left the choice up to him! To my surprise, he actually volunteered to go first. I would soon understand exactly why.

The Flight

We drove to the plane – a little guy, barely fitting the four of us (Myself, Nervous Wreck, and our two instructors/jump buddies). Since I was going to jump second, I got in the plane first. I was staring out the back window, watching the ground get further and further away. As we rose, so did my excitement.

I’ve never had a fear of heights, much to my mother’s dismay. We reached our climb goal: 10,000 feet in the air. Houses, cars, large buildings, all looked like toys. People were indiscernible from their environment. Nervous Wreck looked like he was about to cry. I gave him an encouraging thumbs up, he gave me absolutely nothing. I don’t think he knew I was there anymore. Our instructors got us strapped in, ensuring there was no way we could get disconnected.

The door of the tiny plane opened. All we could hear was wind rushing into the hybrid cockpit/cargo bay. Nervous Wreck’s jump buddy edged them toward the open entrance. In an instant, I saw them both get RIPPED OUT OF THE PLANE AND SHOOT OUT BENEATH US, GOING FASTER THAN ANYTHING I HAD EVER WITNESSES. I. Was. Mortified. In that exact moment, I wanted to be back on the ground. But, not like, falling to it. Like, I wanted to just BE there. You know what I mean.

I considered stopping. I considered saying “Please, I don’t want to jump, I just want to go home”. Luckily, the fear manifested as adrenaline. All of the doubts in my mind transitioned to a sureness I had never felt before. I was fearful but focused. I inched my way toward the edge of the plane. My feet dangled off the edge. Before I had time to let my full terror take over me, my instructor pushed us out of the plane and into the open sky.

The Fall

I was falling, going faster than I’ve ever gone (free of machinery) before. Air was rushing into my lungs harder than I could exhale. After anywhere between 30 seconds and 10 hours passed, the instructor pulled the chute. My harness yanked taught, jolting my whole body incredibly hard. My descent was halted, hovering for just a moment before we began to glide.

Suddenly everything was calm. I could see islands off the coast of California that I never knew existed. The curvature of the Earth made it feel like the ocean’s waves were reaching out to me. In that moment, I knew no fear. Only what I had accomplished.

There is an innate gratitude after extreme fear is felt. In life-or-death situations, we’re usually trying to do the living part. There’s a reason that people drop to their knees saying “Thank You” after they’ve been saved. Facing the potential of death and surviving is one of the greatest adrenaline rushes that can be felt, because of the deeply rooted desire in all of us to live.

Simulating that kind of experience is so incredibly unique and powerful. Though I may have felt overwhelmingly afraid — though I may have felt like I could have lost my life — though I may have almost pooped myself 10,000 feet in the air… I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Facing your Fears

So if you’re asking yourself if escape rooms are scary, know that even if they are, you are probably in for the ride of a lifetime. Embrace the excitement, the fears, and all the puzzles. Sometimes the best game is the one that scares you. When you’re ready to book an adventure you’ll never forget, check out our experience page to read up on all of our games!

Kayden Ressel

Kayden is the owner of The Basement: A Live Escape Room Experience and an immersive design firm known as Nedyak Designs, LLC. Kayden has produced high-end escape rooms and immersive experiences for A-list celebrities, Fortune 500 companies, and many high budget creative projects.

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