Time to star in your own horror and work to save yourself from imminent danger
Credit: SmartyPantz

Time to star in your own horror and work to save yourself from imminent danger

Break out of your regular Halloween routine of horror movies and haunted houses this October by trying out an escape room with your friends. In this simulation of a life-threatening or semi-emergency situation, you won’t just be passive observers, but active participants in control of your destiny by using logic, imagination and teamwork.

If you’re not familiar with escape rooms yet, here is how they work: your group (usually made up of about four to eight players) is led into a themed room, provided a back story for context, and given a time limit (generally 45 minutes to an hour) to solve a series of puzzles and riddles related to the theme. As the name of the game suggests, your goal is to escape from the room. Although most places accept walk-ins, reservations are highly recommended to guarantee availability.

Here are eight places offering scary escape rooms in the Vancouver area.

SmartyPantz, 100–289 Abbott Street, Vancouver
Credit: SmartyPantz

SmartyPantz, 100–289 Abbott Street, Vancouver

Centrally located in Gastown, SmartyPantz offers a variety of escape rooms that cater to thrill-seekers, as well as the faint of heart. Arguably the most terrifying of their current rooms is Morning Never Comes, in which you must investigate paranormal activity and escape before you fall victim to the murderous ghost that haunts the house.

A more difficult challenge, which is allegedly—despite its bone-chilling name—slightly less scary, is Thirst for Murder. It will have you fleeing for your life from a psychotic and cannibalistic killer who has locked you in handcuffs and trapped you in a basement.

An honourable mention goes to Doomed Submarine, which takes place in a tight space with thin air that will terrify anyone with claustrophobic tendencies. One of the toughest tests, it challenges you to fix a mechanical failure that is decreasing the air supply on a Soviet submarine—succeed, or suffocate.

$25 per person

EXIT, 309 West Broadway, Vancouver (also locations in Richmond, Surrey and Kelowna)
Credit: EXIT

EXIT, 309 West Broadway, Vancouver (also locations in Richmond, Surrey and Kelowna)

The first to introduce escape gaming to Canada, EXIT brings virtual reality to the real world. Three of the four rooms at their Vancouver location offer guaranteed hair-raising chills. And the most difficult one, Butcher Shop, will literally give you chills. Escaping from this ominous, cold space filled with the smell of decaying raw carcasses may seem like an impossible feat. Afraid of clowns? Circus traps you in a dark, obscure maze with distorting mirrors, the distant roars of lions and—most terrifying of all—the looming fear that a psychotic clown could appear at any moment. Lastly, if recent pop-culture phenomena haven’t sold you on the harmlessness of vampires, Transylvania will make you shiver at the thought of being locked in a room with the haunting presence of a potential blood-sucking monster.

$24 per person

Krakit, 4035 North Road, Burnaby

Krakit, 4035 North Road, Burnaby

The staff at Krakit can make your escape room experience as tame or terrifying as you’d like—just talk to them about customizing your scare level before you start. The appearance of live actors in the scariest of their four room themes, The Asylum and Zombie Apocalypse, can truly elevate the fright factor. The Asylum—the more difficult of the two challenges—requires you to escape from an asylum for the criminally insane before a doctor administers a medication that will keep you in a sedated state for the rest of your life. Meanwhile, Zombie Apocalypse puts you on a mission to stop a widespread zombie infection before you become the next victim.

$26 per person, $14 on Tuesdays

Myst Escape, 140–6851 Elmbridge Way, Richmond

Myst Escape, 140–6851 Elmbridge Way, Richmond

A 7,000-square-foot gaming facility, Myst Escape is a place where there are no limits to your imagination and the horror feels real. In the Saw Room, restrained by rusty chains, you’re forced to look at gruesome bloodstains, smell the stench of decaying meat and listen to the dripping of liquid. Only adults can dare to free themselves from this nightmare.

However, anyone over the age of 14 can try to make it out of the Haunted School alive. Set at night in a locked deserted classroom, the lights flicker and you hear the bone-chilling singing of a young girl who has been haunting the school since she committed suicide. Beware: this is not child’s play.

$25 per person

Lockdown Escape, 170–12571 Bridgeport Road, Richmond

Lockdown Escape, 170–12571 Bridgeport Road, Richmond

Get the ultimate ultra-realistic, horror-movie experience at Lockdown Escape in Richmond. Their large-scale mechanical rooms are equipped with automated mechanisms, such as laser traps and hidden passages, which provide players with unprecedented interaction with the game’s environment.

The most thrilling and horrifying of their current room themes is Abandoned Dormitory, which challenges you to find your friend by looking for clues in an old, abandoned dorm haunted by the ghosts of the murdered dean and his alleged mistress.

Another one of their scary offerings is Death Trap. In this one, a mysterious man has locked you in a room, your life is on the line and you must free yourselves before it’s too late, but beware: this one is extremely hard to escape—less than 5 per cent of the victims have made it out alive.

$25 per adult, $15 per child aged 12 and under

During the month of October, anyone who plays in costume will receive 10 per cent off the entry fee and groups that successfully escape will get 10 per cent off their next challenge.

Trapped Vancouver, 160–8351 Alexandra Road, Richmond

Trapped Vancouver, 160–8351 Alexandra Road, Richmond

Lost Child is undoubtedly the scariest—but definitely not the easiest—theme at Trapped Vancouver. One of the rare escape rooms that only requires a minimum of two players, this theme involves acting as paranormal investigators hired to uncover the secrets of a little girl that haunts a foreclosed house recently purchased by a new family. Play on Tuesday and get 30 per cent off admission.

$20 per person

Freeing Canada Station, 173–11860 Hammersmith Way, Richmond

Freeing Canada Station, 173–11860 Hammersmith Way, Richmond

Bringing an Asian entertainment phenomenon over the Pacific, Freeing Canada Station invites players to step away from virtual reality games and try a real-life interactive adventure.

During the entire month of October, you can win a prize by successfully escaping from their top fear-factor-rated rooms: Secret of The Asylum and unMasked. In Secret of The Asylum, you start by freeing yourself from a straightjacket and then work to uncover the terrifying secret behind the disappearance of a missing patient.

Slightly easier and—believe it or not—less scary, unMasked challenges you to solve the mystery of a painter’s murder inside his abandoned art studio. You must use lanterns to navigate the dark space, which is haunted by the ghost of the painter’s wrongly accused wife. Fun fact: all games are offered in both English and Simplified Chinese.

$23 per person

Time Escape, 140–3471 No. 3 Road, Richmond
Credit: Time Escape

Time Escape, 140–3471 No. 3 Road, Richmond

A generally more family-oriented place, Time Escape is embracing the Halloween spirit by offering the option of requesting a scarier experience with live actors. The spookiest of their nine themes, Haunted Cabin, makes you wander the winding hallways of an abandoned building. Will you find your way out? Or disappear like the other lost souls?

$23 per person