Creepy hands behind door

An illustration of “Trapped in a Room with a Zombie,” an interactive theater show put on by Room Escape Adventures.
Credit: Courtesy of Room Escape Adventures

Trapped in a locked room, given 60 minutes to escape, searching for the hidden key that will lead you and your teammates to freedom — all while a crazed zombie snaps hungrily at your ankles. Your heart is pounding as you desperately scour the room for clues, but the clock keeps ticking and the zombie edges closer with each passing minute.

The scenario sounds like something taken straight from a horror movie, yet a new, interactive theater experience, aptly titled “Trapped in a Room with a Zombie,” is bringing the action of movies and television shows to life on the stage, casting ticketholders as the protagonists.

“The show itself is interactive theater,” said Marty Parker, owner of Bucket List Productions and creator of the “Trapped in a Room with a Zombie” series. “It’s a room escape game … it’s a reality version of that combined with ‘Minute to Win It,’ combined with ‘The Walking Dead.’ That is what we brought to life with this show.”

Room Escape Adventures opened “Trapped in a Room with a Zombie” in Columbus Feb. 14. The production currently operates in five cities throughout the country, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and New York, according to its website.

For $28 a ticket, Parker said participants are cast as visitors to a scientist’s lab, where they make a gruesome discovery. A doctor, through an accidental prick of a needle, has been infected by a mutated virus and transformed into a flesh-eating zombie.

A series of clues, riddles and puzzles are hidden throughout the room and the group must work through them to find the code necessary to open the door and escape.

Across the room, an actor portraying a zombie, is chained to a wall, then every five minutes, a buzzer sounds and the chain gets a foot longer.

If a human is touched by the zombie while in the room before the hour is over, they are claimed as “zombie meat” and forced to sit at the back of the room for the remaining duration of the show. Players who are “eaten” can still verbally interact with their teammates, but are not allowed to physically participate.

Parker said the majority of groups fail to escape the room in time.

“You are (either) going to find the key, solve all of the riddles and escape the room, or you’re going to get eaten by the doctor,” he said. “Most of the people don’t get out. There’s a 70 percent fail rate (at the Columbus location). Only 30 percent are able to escape.”

Parker said the fastest group at the Columbus location escaped in 50 minutes and 23 seconds.

One of the key elements of a successful escape lies in active communication among group members, Parker said.

“A lot of it comes down to how good you are at figuring out puzzles and riddles and communicating,” he said. “It is a great effort of working as a team and pitting yourself against fate, that clock and that zombie.”

Visitors experience the show in groups of 12 people. Many group members do not know each other prior to spending an hour working to escape from the locked room, Parker explained.

“The scenario mandatorily puts you in a space that you’re not commonly comfortable in,” he said. “So when we set your team in that room, you are beyond a team … The unity that the room brings together is very powerful and very striking. It’s very hard to find that situation in (everyday) life.”

Parker said public reaction to the show has been positive.

Brian Grzybowski-Cuff, a fourth-year in electrical engineering, has participated in Humans versus Zombies, a week-long, biannual outdoor game organized by Ohio State’s Urban Gaming Club, since 2009.

Participants in Humans versus Zombies deemed “zombies” are required to wear headbands, whereas the “humans” wear armbands and carry Nerf guns and socks, Grzybowski-Cuff said.

“(The humans) are trying to defend themselves from being tagged, either by hitting a zombie with a sock or a shot from their Nerf blaster,” said Grzybowski-Cuff, who has served as a moderator and organizer of the event for the past two years. “And they’re just trying to survive as long as they possibly can.”

Grzybowski-Cuff said interactive activities, such as Humans versus Zombies and “Trapped in a Room with a Zombie,” provide students with alternative entertainment options and said he would consider attending one of the Room Escape Adventures shows.

“It seems kind of fun that it is interactive with the audience because the zombie is actually trying to get you and you have to solve puzzles ” he said.

Jesse Keckler, a first-year in biomedical engineering, said he would also be interested in attending a show if he went with friends.

“I would have to go with a certain group of people or friend group, but it seems like a lot of fun and it would be very entertaining to do,” Keckler said.

Parker said he hopes interactive theater shows like “Trapped in a Room with a Zombie” will eventually become more mainstream.

“We really feel like that is going to be a nice trend,” he said. “It leaves a sustaining memory … It’s unique and it’s fun, but it’s interactive. That’s the key word.”

According to the Room Escape Adventures website, the show is scheduled to run continuously throughout the year.

In Columbus, Room Escape Adventures is located at 1158 Corrugated Way, about two miles from OSU’s campus.

Tickets can be purchased through the Room Escape Adventures website.