Escape from Louisville: The Global Phenomenon of Escape Rooms Hits the Ville!

Louisville Escape Rooms

The Phantom of the Ville tries to break out of all four (soon to be five) Escape Rooms in the Louisville area and brings back all the details you need to know to plan your own escape!

Over the last two weeks I’ve been given a crash course on the phenomenon of Escape Rooms, and I can now testify to the reason why they have become so popular so quickly all across the globe. Whether you’re looking to channel your inner Sherlock Holmes, Harry Houdini or Snake Plissken, these interactive puzzle solving adventures offer a new adrenaline pumping form of social entertainment unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.

The first Escape Rooms weren’t the live theatrical experiences they’ve now become, but instead were simple and addictive freeware video games online where the player found himself trapped inside a room that he/she needed to explore in order to find clues and tools necessary to free himself.

According to my research, the first live and interactive Escape Room debuted in Silicon Valley, CA in 2006, produced by a group of system programmers and based on the mysteries of Agatha Christie, and this was followed up by an attraction called Real Escape Game in Japan in 2008. Afterwards, their popularity exploded in China, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada and pretty much all across the globe. By the end of 2015, there were over 3,000 Escape Rooms companies operating around the world.

In late 2015, Escape Rooms began their invasion of the Ville, and the local region now has four different Escape Room companies, each running multiple rooms with different backstories and themes, with a fifth company planning to open their own rooms in the very near future. I visited each of these attractions to learn about the Escape Room experience and provide our readers with a “one stop shop” of information about each of them.

Are you ready to attempt your own escape? Go!

WHAT ARE ESCAPE ROOMS? Escape Rooms are live, interactive theatrical experiences where a group of anywhere from two to twelve people are taken together to a designed set that’s full of secret chambers, locked boxes and hidden clues that contain keys, tools and information needed to ultimately escape. Working together, the group must solve all the mysteries and find all the hidden items needed to unlock the final door in 60 minutes.

When you find yourself locked in a room full strangers under pressure to work together to be successful, you’ll be surprised at how fast you get to know each other and each other’s skill sets. Escape Rooms have become popular team building exercises with corporate teams, Boy Scout troops and church groups alike. They also make good, getting-to-know-you first dates.

There are some things that all of the rooms I visited have in common. None of them require climbing or physical force to find the clues and solve the puzzles, and all are handicapped accessible. You’ll have to sign a waiver to participate and kids under 18 may require a legal guardian to sign for them. You aren’t really locked in without an option to leave the room. If you feel claustrophobic or just need to step out to use the restroom, a key is always available to do so. The game master can hear and see you at all times through a series of cameras placed in each room, and most Escape Rooms give you a number of free clues by shouting out to the game master (three clues seems to be the standard), after which you can earn additional clues by solving puzzles or at the cost of time taken off the clock. Use these clues wisely! However, if you’re all completely stuck, it’s better to ask for a clue to get you going again rather than burn precious minutes.

WHERE ARE THE ESCAPE ROOMS IN THE LOUISVILLE AREA? Below find the names, addresses, businesses hours and themes of each attraction. Please call in advance to book your group and schedule your time as they tend to fill up quickly on the weekends and evenings.

LOUISVILLE ESCAPE, 6504 N Preston Hwy, Ste 4, (502)277-1581,, $24 per person: The first Escape Room I visited was Louisville Escape on Preston Highway which opened for business officially on Feb. 11th. You can book a time for any weekday from 10:30 AM through 10:30 PM and until 11:45 PM on Friday and Saturday and from Noon until 11 PM on Sunday. This one is owned by a couple of haunted attraction owners, Jason Weber and Jeff Howlett, who run Nightmare Forrest in Brandenburg during the haunting season. I was one of the test subjects for “Live or Die.”

Live or Die: Using their experience in the haunted attraction business to construct an insidious Escape Room loosely based on the “Saw” movie series, guests are blindfolded, handcuffed and led into a dark room where they are chained to the wall amid a gruesome display of torture weapons and the remnants of former carnage and must find a way to escape before the killer returns to finish them off in one hour.

Our group escaped with only six minutes left on the clock.

Co-owner, Jason Weber says, “We’ve actually been planning this for quite a while. We worked on the puzzles for about a year.”

“The most fun of this for me,” continues Weber, “is that unlike at Nightmare Forest, where I can hear screams off in the distance and talk to customers as they’re leaving, here I get to watch them the whole time they’re in the room dealing with all the things they have to deal with to escape, and that has been an exhilarating experience!”

The Great Bank Caper: I got to see this Escape Room in the final stages of construction, and it includes the front office of the Bank of Louisville and a huge steel vault that you’ll need to open to get to the valuables inside. This is an opportunity to role play as a world class professional thief who needs to beat the world’s best security system, including laser grids and magnetic locks.

Louisville Escape plans to expand to two more escape rooms in the near future.

ESCAPE PLAN, 4102 Cadillac Ct. near the Louisville Mega Cavern, (502)690-8999,, $26 per person: My next caper took me to Escape Plan near the Louisville Mega Cavern which opened its doors on Jan. 1st. They’re open on Friday and Saturday from 10 AM until 1 AM and Sunday from 1 PM until 1 AM. Owned by Philip and Venus Cornette, Escape Plan currently has two rooms with plans to open a third very soon. I spoke to Venus Cornette about one of Escape Plans’ unique features, the racing unit!

“We built two identical rooms for ‘The Sleeper Cell’ so two teams can race against each other for bragging rights,” says Cornette. “This is the only racing unit in the Tri-State area.”

“We’ve had ages from 10 years old to 70 years old in the same groups,” says Cornette. “The appeal for these attractions crosses all ages and demographics.”

“We spend several months on the clues and elements for each room and we’re currently developing two new rooms. One is called ‘The Time Machine,’ which is a concept my son came up with. The other we’re calling ‘Escape the Nightmare,’ but it will be family friendly, not scary like the ‘Saw’ movies or anything like that.”

The Sleeper Cell: You play the part of a Homeland Security Agent responsible for finding terrorist cells in the US posing as Americans. Responding to a call about a suspicious home where a family has disappeared, you begin to search the house when you find yourself locked in the attic with a bomb counting down 60 minutes to your doom.

This is the room I was challenged to escape with my crackerjack team of two sharp as nails middle school students. Thank God for their puzzle solving skills because this one was tough! It was also surprisingly high tech. I can’t give away anything critical, but I can tell you that at one point we found ourselves searching the interior contents of a mysterious briefcase with mini-camera attached to a long cord and handheld video screen. This was some serious “Mission Impossible” stuff!

Unfortunately, we were just a little too slow and failed our mission four moves from success. So close!

The Locker Room: An Escape Room for sports fans! Your rival team has kidnapped your mascot in an attempt to squash your team spirit and during the game tonight, and you have one hour to sneak into their locker room and find Hawkeye before they catch you. They’re not going to make it easy on you, of course, as you’ll have to solve your rival’s cryptic puzzles and clues to find him.

C.R. ESCAPE ZONE, 4403 Hamburg Pike, Jeffersonville, IN, (812)786-1239,, $22 per person: My next mission took me over the river to Southern Indiana for the C.R. Escape Zone, which was opened in mid-September of 2015 by the mother-and-daughter team of Ronda Efaw and Audrey Clark. They currently offer three different themed scenarios and are the only Escape Room in the area to employ a live actor as a zombie in one of their rooms. Business hours are Tuesday through Thursday from 8 AM until 4:30 PM, Friday and Saturday from 8 AM until 9 PM and Sunday and Monday are available for private booking only.

“We have three rooms open with space to expand, and plan to eventually open seven rooms,” says Audrey Clark, “one of which I want to be specifically geared for little kids and parents. For our current rooms, we recommend ages 13 and up just because of the difficulty.”

The Lab: You’ll be blind folded and taken to a mad scientist’s lab, full of bubbling jars containing brains and flashing lab equipment. This was the room I was challenged with escaping. It’s also the one with an infected zombie chained to a table in the middle of the room who frees one of his limbs every ten minutes. After a tense fifty minutes, if you haven’t yet escaped, you’ll also have to distract the lumbering zombie while solving clues. If he touches you, you’re sent to quarantine for the remainder of the game.

While not scary in the traditional haunted house sense, there are some ghoulish elements to this room. At one point I was forced to roll up my sleeves and thrust my arm into a vat of goop filled with skeleton bones, rubber rats and eyeballs. This reminded me a bit of “Fear Factor,” and if that raises your interest then this might be the Escape Room for you.

You can walk with a zombie, but it’s no walk in the park. Our team of nearly 15 players strong still came up short and were victims of the zombie apocalypse.

Crime Scene: You’re a detective searching for a multiple murder suspect who may be a wealthy and powerful drug lord. You get a tip on where he may have hidden the murder weapon. The suspect is about to take a plane trip out of the country and you have one hour to search the premises and find the weapon before he escapes justice.

The Office: You’re an employee for a large toy company who was up for a promotion that instead went to your shady office rival. Your rival is away on a one hour lunch break and you decide to search his office in order to dig up enough dirt to get him fired. Unfortunately, he has rigged his office to lock anyone in who comes snooping and now you have one hour to find a way out or you will likely be the one who gets fired.

BREAKOUT LOUISVILLE, 1805 Cargo Ct., (502)822-4596,, $24 per person with $2 off discounts offered when booking online for Monday through Thursday. Operational hours are daily from 9AM until 11PM. This locally owned chain was started in Lexington in January 2015 and opened in Louisville in early June. I spoke to PR representative, Teddy Hall, about the origin of the concept.

“The owner’s original inspiration was the ‘Dexter’ TV series,” says Hall, “but he wanted to create something that would be appropriate for all ages. That scenario eventually became our ‘The Kidnapping’ room.”

Casino Royale: This was the mission I was selected for, an Escape Room for James Bond fans, where you must search for a missing MI6 agent at a casino run by an evil syndicate. Once inside you are trapped by the syndicate and have only one hour to follow your missing agent’s clues to freedom. First you must discover the secret alias your agent was using and then work out a plan of escape. There are roulette wheels, blackjack tables and slot machines to investigate and you’ll be using high tech lasers and hidden gadgets to aid you in your escape.

Finally my years of playing “The Legend of Zelda” games paid off in helping me recognize an ingenious device that helped us reveal a secret room and we beat the odds to escape with only a couple of minutes left on the clock.

The Kidnapping: The room originally inspired by “Dexter,” this one involves blindfolds and handcuffs to start out and requires you to escape before the kidnapper comes back to finish you off.

The Museum Heist: On the eve of the opening of a new museum art gallery, you realize that the owner has stolen the prize pieces of the show and you have one hour to track down the missing, priceless works of art before the gallery opens to the public.

Hostage: Hijackers take over your airline flight and you lose consciousness before awakening, handcuffed in their headquarters. You have one hour to get out of your handcuffs and uncover the hijackers’ plans before it’s too late.

Island Escape: Breakout’s brand new Escape Room is something of a deviation from the themes used in other rooms. You’re vacationing on a tropical island and you awake to the sounds of an ancient volcano rumbling. Realizing you’ve slept through the evacuation and you’re the only ones left on the island, you’ve only got an hour to search the island for the keys to the only boat in which you can make your escape from a hot lava doom.


LOCKED IN, 521 South 4th Street right down from the Hard Rock Café, (502)526-5311, Representative, Bill Kervasi, says this 4,400 square foot facility is currently under construction and nearing completion. “We are a family friendly venue,” clarifies Kervasi, “and we do not use any scare tactics, harsh or negative themes in our games.” Locked In plans to open with four different Escape Rooms: The Warehouse, The Laboratory, The Classroom and The Museum.

Stay tuned for further details as we have been invited to preview Locked In’s new Escape Rooms as soon as their doors are—-well, locked.

The Phantom of The Ville

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