A witch’s parlor? No, an escape room

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Jennifer Deutz welcomes participants into a normal looking office room, but in reality its an elaborate puzzle room designed for a Women’s Networking event.

NEW ULM — A visitor to Jennifer Deutz’s garage might mistake it for a mad scientist lair, a witch’s parlor or a murder scene in 1930s Las Vegas.

In reality, it is a storage place for Deutz’s new business — Escapist Designs.

Escapist Designs specializes in creating custom escape rooms and puzzle rooms.

Escape rooms are a new form of entertainment developed in the last decade. Groups of players are locked in a room and must work together to solve puzzles and riddles to unlock the door and escape. The goal of a puzzle room is not necessarily to escape, but to find a solution to a problem. Deutz is able to design either type of room.

Deutz said escape rooms are all the rage right now because it is a form of entertainment groups have to perform themselves.

“Escape rooms are fun,” Deutz said. “They allow you to think outside the box. It’s great for team building as it helps you work with people.”

Deutz officially started Escapist Designs this year, but she started designing escape rooms in 2018.

“It started out as an accident,” she said. “I created, designed and executed three escape rooms at State Street Theater this last October.”

Deutz moved to New Ulm with her husband Kenny two years ago. She began helping the State Street Theater (SST) with the haunted house events. She is a self-confessed fan of Halloween.

After assisting with SST’s 2017 haunted house she agreed to co-chair the 2018 haunted house and designed three escape rooms.

The first escape room was built around the theme of a witch’s parlor. Teams had a half hour to figure out how to escape the room before succumbing to the witch’s curse. This escape room was intended to be the easiest, but it ended up being the hardest.

Deutz said the reason this escape room was so hard is that participants did not look under chairs for clues.

“Number one rule of escape rooms is to look in everything to the back, look under things, crawl, reach, feel on top of things,” she said. “You never know where things are hidden.”

The second escape room was Dr. Frankenstein’s Library. The room was geared toward families. It was beneficial to have children on the team to crawl under objects. Deutz said to solve this puzzle room, the players needed to find a hole in the wall. Usually, the kids or the shortest team member found the hole.

The third room was the serial killer’s lockup and it was intended for older teams. Players began the escape room blindfolded and handcuffed to a wall. Starting the room blind and handcuffed was considered too intense for those under 16.

The SST escape rooms were a success, but Deutz did not consider starting a business until Lori Mathiowetz suggested creating an escape room for a women’s networking event in February.

Deutz decided to go all in with the escape room business. By the time the women’s networking event began, she had designed a new escape room and created business cards. Escapist Designs was born, and demand for her services has risen.

In April, Deutz was double-booked for prom night. She created custom puzzle rooms for the New Ulm Public High School and Minnesota Valley Lutheran. New Ulm Public had a Las Vegas prom theme. Deutz created a puzzle room set in 1938 Las Vegas, centered around a murder mystery. MVL’s theme was Starry Night. She created a puzzle room set in 1890. The participants had to find Vincent Van Gogh’s last painting.

Designing escape rooms and puzzle rooms requires time, creativity and innovation. The time it takes to design a custom escape room varies depending on duration. A 15-minute escape will take less time to design than a 30-minute room, but personalization can take extra time. For the women’s networking event, she incorporated the red high heel symbol into the room.

Deutz is a pioneer in the escape room field. Most escape room businesses have a permanent address for customers to visit, but she brings the escape room to the customers. Other companies have traveling escape rooms, but the rooms are static and based on a never-changing theme. Escapist Designs creates custom rooms for a specific event. No two events are exactly alike.

“The best part of what I do is, it gives me the most creative outlet ever,” Deutz said. “I get to create something completely from scratch, from my own mind, that no one has ever done before or will ever do exactly the same way.”

Escapist Designs started with escape and puzzle rooms but the business is evolving. Deutz said her services can involve anything creative that involves acting, props, and puzzles on the go.

“It is turning into something individual that I am having so much fun with,” Deutz said. “My goal is to take people out of their comfort zone and put them somewhere they have never been.”

Deutz is hoping to someday do a longer, elaborate private party event to stretch her skills.

Most of Escapist Design’s business has spread through word of mouth. People who participated in one her custom rooms tell friends and family and soon she receives more requests.

Deutz is working to launch an official website. To contact Escapist Designs for a possible event email jdescapistdesigns@gmail.com.

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