Escape rooms have swept the nation as one of the more interesting and fun ways to spend a night out with friends. I mean, what could be better than getting locked in a small room and arguing over things that may not even be clues, right? Escape rooms are pretty fun when things go right, but it only takes one minute of confusion for things to get a little… chaotic.
Nobody knows this better than the employees of escape rooms. They took to Reddit to share their stories of funny and downright dumb ways that people tried to escape. Here are 42 of the craziest things escape room employees have witnessed.
1. Just Try em All
I’ve had two groups now that immediately try every code they find on the door they entered from. Would you really be happy if the first code you found let you escaped? Seems like a waste of money to me, but hey, you do you.
2. Listen to Kids
The most depressing thing I saw was a tired looking couple who brought in their bespectacled, NASA shirt-wearing, eight-year-old geek of a son in to have some fun. The parents couldn’t have been more discouraging. He was excitedly bouncing around the room pointing out things that he thought were clues while the parents dismissed every idea he had and told him to stop getting so excited.
The parents took charge and proceeded to ignore the obvious clues he was pointing out and spent most of the time pursuing dead ends. Sad part is his instincts were more often than not correct but his parents just didn’t listen and refused to let him explore and try stuff out. Hopefully his curiosity and enthusiasm survive them.
3. Drinking Buddy
We used to have a giant banana as a mascot. Once we had a group of intoxicated kids at the escape room. They were all in bad shape, but I’ll never forget this one guy. He was such a mess. He just started crying so we decided to let him hold the banana. So the guy cuddled with it on the ground until he fell asleep about 10 minutes into the game. Dude had the time of his life.
4. Street Smarts > Book Smarts
I run a tech camp thing for junior high kids and we always have them do an escape room puzzle. Basically, the box in the middle of the table has five locks, one for each puzzle, that has its own colored ring attached to it. Once you solve a combination, you bring the ring to the game master and you get the next puzzle. Simple enough, right?
Never have I seen anybody do this in the two years we have done this puzzle for both kids and teachers. But one kid this year managed to unsnap a ring from one of the locks. He picked every single one of them and got the box open without solving a single puzzle.
5. An Agitating Proposal
So we do a lot of proposals at our escape room. We put a ring in the final puzzle box, a bunch of balloons pop out, the whole deal, people love it. A dude calls up to set up a proposal, I ask what room he wants etc. So then I tell him the total price to book out the entire room for the proposal. He says he just wants to buy the two tickets for him and his girlfriend, I tell him he has to buy out all the tickets since it would be weird for strangers to have their escape game interrupted with a proposal. Reasonable enough, or so I thought. I was so, so wrong.
Dude refuses to buy out all of the tickets. Says he wants strangers to be there, he’s not going to buy the other four tickets. I hand the phone to my manager, they hash out details together. Over the next three weeks leading up to the proposal, this guy calls every. Single. Freaking. Day. There’s nothing else to figure out, we’ve got it all set up, but this guy is constantly badgering us.
The big day rolls around, he arrives early so he can hide out, and this dude is a kid. Like, pimple-faced, voice-cracking, hair-growing-in-weird-places kind of kid. Everybody in the control room is talking about him, because he’s been a thorn in our collective sides for weeks, and we’re speculating about telling him marriage at his age is a horrible idea, but whatever it’s too late.
So he hides, the girl and her friends show up, they get started and we stash the dude in the second hidden room that they’ll eventually end up in. Everybody crowds around the monitor to watch and this guy pulls out a bouquet of flowers and unfurls a sign that says: “NAME REDACTED, will you go with me to PROM?”
And the entire staff loses their collective minds. Weeks of constant pestering, endless phone calls, and the most stressful proposal deal we’ve ever put together for a freaking PROMposal. She said no.
6. No, That One!
One of our rooms has a bed in it with white sheets. There was this group who was in the room working on the last puzzle, a logic puzzle. There’s a sheet of paper in the room that’s full of facts about a murder that you’re trying to solve. The group wasn’t quite getting the puzzle so I typed up: “The white sheet of paper in room three will be a lot of help.”
So the group runs into the room and starts tearing all the white sheets off the bed and I type, “Not the bed sheets.” So they start pulling the pillows out of their sheets. I then reply: “The sheet you write on,” and lo and behold they grab the room’s marker and start drawing all over the bed sheets. They didn’t escape.
7. Maybe Just a Taste
The room had electronic components, so there were electric wires that were tied down but looped around the room. One Friday night, someone tried licking them. Just in case.
8. Remember, Kids: Read
There is a note in one of our rooms. It basically says that teams can’t put anything electrical on a hook. This group came in and rewired one of the RFID sensors (which was hidden underneath a painting which is SCREWED to the WALL) because “the note mentioned something about electrical stuff and it was hanging off.” Thankfully it wasn’t hard to fix but wow that was stupid.
9. The Easy Way Out
At our establishment, we have a room called “Jailbreak.” It has a fake door towards the very end (it’s covered with plywood). The idea is to figure out that the door isn’t real. But this girl takes one look at it and says: “Jail…break….” I couldn’t believe my eyes. She proceeds to charge the door full force and breaks through. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life.
10. Math is Hard
“Alright!! We found the number, its 3+4. That’s 11!!”” None of his three teammates questioned him, they kept trying the wrong number. I even teased them repeating it back to them. I love my job.
11. A For Effort
There was a VERY pregnant lady in the group. We asked her if she was at risk of going into labor at any time, but she said she was fine. We let her in. The entire group was getting upset because they weren’t doing well. They were in the hardest room we have, it’s always a big deal if you make it out. They kept asking me for the code they needed to escape, and I had to keep telling them I couldn’t say what it was. They had to discover it.
So the pregnant lady takes it to the next level. She took out the water bottle she had, turned around so she wasn’t facing the camera, and poured some on the floor. She screamed that her water broke, and I needed to tell her the code so they could get out and go to the hospital. I guess she forgot we have cameras in several places in the room, and we saw exactly what she did.
So I went into the room myself and explained that she was free to leave, I would just escort her out and the rest of the team could continue. She really thought that by having her water break, that was a free pass to get the escape code.
12. Key + Electrical Socket = Bad Idea
Just started working at escape the room. We have rules about not jumping out the windows and not sticking keys into wall sockets. Sadly, it has all happened before.
13. He’s Got a Gun!
In one of our rooms, we have an actor pose as a spy, and the people in the room have to solve a case to figure out who the traitor is. After they finish the puzzles, it turns out the traitor was actually the spy the actor was playing. The spy then pulls an obviously prop gun (orange tip and whatnot), and the group has to diffuse a fake bomb.
One of the groups that did this room was a police squad that was doing this to bond. When the actor pulled the fake gun and said some cheesy lines, the actor was promptly tackled and restrained until the cops realized it was all a game.
14. Hidden in Plain Sight
Once a group disassembled a portable AC unit hoping to find a key. There wasn’t any key. From that moment screwdrivers were forbidden. But the best team I remember was the first team that ever played. We made a big, enormous, GIGANTIC mistake: we forgot the entire detailed instructions inside the room, right at the entrance on a table.
They found it immediately, they started reading it, they clearly saw that every combination, every puzzle, every piece of history and every piece of furniture, but they didn’t realize it was the complete walkthrough, and in some unknown way they failed to escape.
15. Never Skip Leg Day
My wife likes to tell a story about how a previous male friend of hers was introduced to escape rooms. However, someone, either a friend or the employee, failed to explain that “not all things in the room are meant to be taken apart/broken to receive a clue/key.” As soon as the employee started the clock, the friend, thinking a wicker chair had a clue, walked over and stomped his foot right through the seat–like a foot falling through a thin sheet of ice.
Immediately, the employee on the intercom stutters: “Uh… umm… yo- you didn’t have to break the chair. Props shouldn’t need to be broken to get a clue.” My wife mentions this story every now and then and I still get a kick out of the thought of someone just shoving their foot through someone’s old wicker chair.
16. Just Destroy Things
People have tried to climb through the ceiling tiles on multiple occasions. We now have to mention in the pre-game spiel that it’s not necessary to climb through the ceiling tiles. People laugh at the things we mention, but they don’t understand. Guys, if it’s a rule it’s because some idiot has tried it. And people try everything.
One of my co-workers said that a group started getting really destructive in the room, to the point where they literally threw the computer on the floor to see if something was hidden inside (there wasn’t). We abruptly removed them from the room after that. They actually ended up coming back another day and were extremely well behaved. I guess they learned their lesson.
17. A Shocking Solution
Some dude tried to jam a small iron bar into an electrical socket. Not sure if he was trying to escape the room, or life in general. My colleague managed to get to the main electrical switch before the idiot could electrocute himself.
18. Looks Like a Toilet to me
The room was in English, but one of the guys was Italian. He was clearly trying to communicate with his teammates but they couldn’t understand him. We didn’t know what was up, we just watched on our camera. So they go into the room and the nightmare begins. There is a bucket there that is supposed to be used as a clue, but this absolute madman waits until the lights go off (horror based room) and PEES IN THE BUCKET! And because the bucket was in a camera dead-zone and there was a sponge in it, they found out after the room was over
19. Can’t Escape 9-1-1
In this one room, part of the goal was to identify the murderer. Also relevant is the story location was Tokyo. There was a Bluetooth lock on one of the doors, and so there was also a phone. Being a murder, the escapees thought to call 9-1-1. Fair enough. The staff was smart enough to remove the sim card but they made a pretty grave error: no one realized that you can always call 9-1-1.
So they connect to the real emergency services. The operator gets a call that they think is a legit emergency and the escapees assume that it connected to the game master. Everyone was very confused when they said there was a murder in Tokyo and the operator says, “That’s on another continent why are you calling me?”
20. A Very Stupid Rundown
I like my job, but have seen some of the stupidest people on earth come through. Here are some examples.
- People who find keys, exclaim, “It’s a key!” put it in their pockets, and forget about it. They don’t make it out.
- Had a woman who would insist on pulling her group members away from CORRECT solutions so that she could waste time with incorrect ones so that she could be “right,” to the point that I actually insisted that she shut up via the messaging system. She didn’t, they listened to her, and they lost.
- It’s amazing how many times a day I type, “If it’s unlocked, OPEN IT.”
- We have a key in a box in one of our rooms that you get out via a specific tool that you find in the course of the game. For some reason, instead of intuiting that there was a tool involved, two women tried to use tampon applicators from their bags (unused, thank Christ) for this purpose.
- Had a guy who sat in the middle of the room and counted the ceiling tiles, convinced that finding the number would help him. I told him it would not. He lost.
- There is a room that necessitates putting an actual puzzle together. It’s a 50 piece puzzle, it’s the first clue, a child could do it easily. Took one couple 40 minutes. They looked for nothing else (despite being urged), they did nothing else, they just worked on the puzzle. They lost.
Oh, there are so many.
21. Just Five Minutes
Someone cleared all the boxes and locks off of a table in the corner, laid down on it, and went to sleep until the group escaped.
22. That’s a Good Read
Everyone at our escape room is given blacklight flashlights at the beginning of the game. At one point, there was a case full of books that they eventually find a key for. The trick was that they all had secret messages within that lit up with the black lights.
They did not use the black lights. Instead… they thought they were supposed to READ THE BOOKS. Like… start to finish. There were at least 15 full books in the case. At this point they had about 35 minutes (out of an hour) to escape. They all just laid down and read the books for at least 20 minutes before they asked for a clue.
23. True Colors Shown
I own an escape room and I once guided couple into one of our moodier ambiance rooms. They told me something truly disturbing: “We would totally base a sex dungeon off this vibe. See, you even have a desk in here to get started!” Um. Okay. Also you see people’s true parenting skills. My favorite quote is from a lovely family that went into a room. Five minutes in the father gathered his overeager children and told them, “You’re being jerks.”
We’re in a huge tech area and we get a lot of corporate groups with some very important people. A week ago we had a Fortune 500 CEO and he walked up to my staff and started bragging about his 50,000 Instagram followers, basically trying to impress college kids. We definitely giggled about that one especially when we looked him up and he had like 300 followers. But hey, he killed it in the room!
24. Escape Ritual
There’s a haunted cabin themed room, and one of the decorations is a creepy baby doll (which serves no functional purpose in the room). There’s one part towards the end where you need to perform a ritual, and the employee said that people tie the doll to a hanging string in the room and swing it around to “sacrifice it.” Apparently they also chant and hold the fake plastic candle decorations as the doll swings around.
25. I Repeat: LISTEN TO KIDS
I have both hosted games and managed escape rooms. I have seen it ALL…
People who cheat and bring in tools. People who physically break objects and play dumb when confronted, yelling matches, people on drugs, but the worst are the bad parents. The dumbest people were always the dads or moms of large families who took over the games from their children and didn’t let them play or ignored them.
Sometimes kids were just left unsupervised while mom and dad played alone (guess they couldn’t get a babysitter) but most of the time some really smart kids could see things the adults did not and sure enough mom and dad ignored their input and got stuck overthinking everything. It was so satisfying to go in after they lost and tell the parents they should have listened to the kids. The smiles from the kids made it so worth it and the parents couldn’t do anything but pout!
26. Do Not Touch? It’s a Trick!
I worked in an escape game that ran out of a historic castle-esque landmark in Toronto. Because we were set up in a tourist attraction, there was some stuff in the room that we couldn’t get rid of that needed to be there (light switches, fire alarms, etc.) So what we did is we just put stickers on everything that wasn’t “part of the game.” The stickers were bright red, and depicted a hand with a cross through it (i.e. Do Not Touch)
We would always give players a short spiel in the lobby at the start where we would tell them the rules, and every time we would show them the sticker and say, “If you see this, it means the thing is not part of the game, but rather a real functioning thing, it will not do anything in the game, please do not touch.” We never had a problem with it until one day….
Bachelor party comes in all happy and a little tipsy (nothing too bad). We give them the spiel, they seem nice and eager, and we take them into the Tower where the game space is located. They enter the tower, the door shuts behind them, and the warning goes off that their time has begun. Literally as the first thing that happens, maybe two seconds after time starts, one of the dudes beelines towards the fire alarm plastered with a bright red “Do Not Touch” sticker and pulls it.
There was a function going on at the attraction that evening too, and the whole castle had to be evacuated. Five fire trucks came.
27. Okay, Grandpa, TMI
We have a game that has wooden floors. Guests regularly try to pull up the nailed down floorboards with a hammer that’s in the room, thinking they’ll find clues. Nope. Not there. Also one time I asked the group if they had ever played an escape game before, and an elderly gentleman’s response will always haunt me: “One time my wife tied me up and gagged me. Does that count?”
His friends thought it was hilarious, but the high school couple that was obviously on a first date they were paired up with did not find it as funny.
28. Shawshank-ing It
My friend runs a place with four escape rooms. One guy got frustrated in the last chamber and just started messing with wall panels, assuming they were all hidden doors. He ended up pushing one and finding that it seemed to have a little bit of give to it. It was definitely not a hidden door. He went straight through it and put a very large hole in the wall. My friend and I had plans that night and he flaked on me because he had to fix the wall.
29. Lockpick Skill: 100
The owner of our competitors came in and did our most difficult room. We warned him that it was a tough one but he just shrugged us off with: “I’m good with these.” Well when the time was up, we went into the room and noticed that every single padlock and combination lock was off. Weirdly, the easier puzzles were left unsolved.
When asked about it, he complained that this room was too difficult and that he had picked the locks. Which of course in our rooms, messes up the order of the puzzles. He then complained to management about the room. We just shook our heads and wondered how they handled things at his escape room…
30. Touchdown Dance
Worked a zombie themed escape room within a haunted house where you had to find the “cure” before your time ran out and you became a zombie. One part of the haunted house is a locker room type deal and you have to walk through the stalls to open up into the room itself. Girl finds the cure in a toilet tank, gets so excited she FOOTBALL SPIKES THE TANK LID. Lid of course shatters, and we get less than five minutes of reset to clean up her mess before the next group comes in and shreds themselves to ribbons. Good times.
31. Smh Climbers
I worked the room that was based on an old western bank heist. The room was separated into two sections like a normal bank is, the customer area (where you normally go when you enter the bank) and the banker area (where you go when you are a bank employee). Well… the two areas are separated by a wall-type fence thus resulting in about a foot of empty space between the end of the fence and the ceiling. You can probably tell where this is going.
This group was stumped on how to solve the code on the door leading into the banker area so one goes, “Can’t we just climb the wall?” I immediately sprung into action but it was too late. I frantically sent them messages to not climb the wall. In about a second a man climbed the wall and got into the second part. I ended up having to open the door, go in, and let him out. I think they all saw I was steaming because they apologized after. I told them I am just glad no one got hurt because that could have been really bad.
32. Don’t Touch the Flashlight
For some reason people like to put the flashlight that one of our rooms has in their mouth when they know they aren’t the only ones who have used them. Some people put them between their legs, in the crack of their butt as a joke, and not to mention just roll around the ground a majority of the time. Whenever someone puts it in their mouth, I want to puke.
Besides that I’ve seen relationships almost fall apart. One couple insisted on going into our most challenging room just the two of them. We told them this was not a good idea or enjoyable for them, but they didn’t really care. You could tell the guy wanted to impress the girl, but both of them were dumber than rocks. I had to sit for an entire hour watching them get literally nowhere through the first puzzle arguing with each other and then sitting in moments of awkward silence. I offered to give them help and said I would just tell them if they wanted at this point, but they refused. Awkward…
33. Escaping Sobriety
One group gave up after five minutes and decided to drink alcohol rest of the game. They paid 120€ for the game.
34. Brawn, Not Brains
In one of the rooms is a sink, and down the drain is a key (the drain comes approximately 6-7” below the sink). There is a magnet on a stick in the room you are supposed to find to retrieve the key. Instead one guy RIPPED THE SINK OFF THE WALL to get the key out instead. People are intelligent y’all.
35. A Little Tighter Next Time, Employees
The stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in an escape room: The final challenge/lock was a “locked” cabinet, consisting of a coiled up bicycle lock. The problem was that the bicycle lock was basically just a big three-foot loop, and they’d only run it through the handles of the cabinet once, so there was more than enough slack to simply open the cabinet.
Within the first five minutes of the game, somebody in our group just walked up, opened the cabinet, and we were out.
36. Never Judge a Book…
At my Escape Room it’s a fairly common occurrence for first generation kids to bring their parents (from various countries – Vietnam, Bangladesh, Italy, Spain) with them to the room, even though they don’t speak English. I always feel bad for this reason, because a lot of the puzzles directly depend on English wordplay and stuff like that. But they seem to have fun just being with their kids, so we all have fun together.
One time an Asian-American family came in. They spoke very sparingly in their original language, and the children spoke in accented English. They went through the room, the children solving most of the puzzles, and the father following them around silently with a notepad and pen, nodding and writing things as they found clues.
They got out, I took their picture, and they left, and everyone seemed to have had a good time. When we clean up the room, we have to rip several of the pages off from the notepad so people can’t see the clues or even the indents of the clues people had written down from previous games. I was looking forward to seeing what language the father had been writing in the whole time.
I reset the room, then get to the notepad, only to find the first page in perfect English. I couldn’t believe what it said: “What if we can’t get out? Do we die in here? I burst out laughing, realizing this man was hilarious and I wanted to chase him down and take his family to lunch, then I flipped to the next page: “Day 56 our rations are running low. We fear for our lives. We are thinking of cannibalism.”
It was my best experience working there and I’ll never forget it as long as I live. My racist butt got owned in the funniest, most heartwarming way possible.
37. Mmm, Mud-Water
We had a group that was evidently high. They weren’t disruptive or anything, so we just briefed them, and took them to their room. So far so good. We have cameras and microphones inside the rooms, that way we know what hints to give out, another important thing is that the room they were at had a small fountain, and since the particular aesthetic of this room was dusty, that water was filthy. I’m talking murky, brown-yellow, mud-water.
At one point one of the guys says he is thirsty, and proceeds to stick his mouth onto the fountain’s stream and take a hefty gulp of the poo-water. Our jaws hit the floor. We quickly tell them that drinking the freaking water isn’t part of the puzzle. The guy reads the hint and just says: “That’s all right.” He proceeded to do the same thing four times and drank the whole fountain (small fountain, but still like a gallon of mud-water).
We’ve had more inconvenient things happen, but that remains the worst thing I’ve ever seen.
Said clearly during the rules, that anything with a “DO NOT TOUCH” sticker was NOT to be touched. Said sticker was on an electrical outlet. “I’m so much smarter than the rest of you” person decides the best place to put the key was in… the electrical outlet.
39. The Three-Armed Lady
In our prison style escape room we have a laser maze that players need to crawl/climb through to deactivate and move forward. Two players are required to finish (or so I thought) the laser maze because there are three buttons to be pressed, where the third button is out of reach from the other two.
A family came in to play our game with a younger boy, a very fit (it’s relevant) girl in her early twenties, their parents, and their grandfather who had some disability that required him to use those crutches that wrap around your forearms. So they play through and get to the laser maze. The girl got through fairly easily, but they needed to move fast since the timer was running.
The young boy had a great idea, “Here! Use grandpa’s crutch!” At which point he takes the crutch straight from grandpa and slides it past all the lasers to his sister at the other end. I was fascinated at this point but even with the crutch it was a long stretch to hit them all. The girl took a second to find the right spot on the floor, planted her foot there, went into a perfect perpendicular stretch with one foot on the ground, one foot on the far button, on hand on the middle button, and finally reaching the last button with the crutch.
That family came out of the room so proud and she boasted to the family about her daily yoga, almost convincing me to sign up for yoga because it was so impressive. That was one of the most creative and weirdest successful solutions to a puzzle I’ve seen in my years working there.
40. Like the Movie
We created an escape room for our library, and one of the decorative props was a potted plant. One group thought there was something inside the pot, and proceeded to pull the entire plant out, roots and all. There was dirt all over the floor and the poor plant was in shambles. In their defense, the theme of the room was Harry Potter, so they probably were thinking it was a mandrake (in which case they should have used fuzzy pink earmuffs). Thankfully the plant was needing to be repotted anyway, so my coworkers and I split it up and took them home. My little piece is doing great!
41. A Series of Stupid Events
Oh boy do I have tales. A pair of drunken female twenty-somethings were dragged along to a group event, proceeded to demand DJ services and cartwheel in skirts before collapsing to the ground and splaying out. Odd time.
A customer opened a cryptex at the beginning of the game, figured out how the mechanism was set, then reset it to a secret word and closed it. I guessed PENIS. It was PENIS. Case closed.
42. Think, Don’t Destroy
I had an old Mac Plus that I programmed for a clue. They had to find the floppy disk, put it in, turn on the computer, and enter information on the screen. Teens just stared at it. They had no idea how to even turn it on. It was like watching Scotty in Star Trek IV trying to use the 1984 era computer. Also once they did get it powered on they were amazingly impatient on it booting. It took about a minute to load the program. Within five seconds they would flip the power switch back off and on again thinking it was hung. That would inevitably lead to them flipping the switch rapidly on and off (what is it with people not knowing how a power switch works)!
And then there were the regular cheaters that forced things open, often breaking them. One guy yanked a door hard enough to break the frame instead of unlocking it. Another bent the hinges on a gate so he could lift the gate off instead of removing the padlock (little kids used to crawl under the gate. That I allowed since it was at least reasonable for them to do it).
But the most obvious cheater was a kid that entered a room, beelined for a bookcase, and without having seen any clues, grabbed the one correct book out of several hundred that had a key inside and proudly exclaimed he found a key. That kid was clearly tipped off by a previous player.