Trapped! opens on Coventry
Real-life escape rooms are booming all over the world. The rooms are based on video games, where the player is locked inside a room and must explore his or her surroundings in order to escape. Players must be observant and use critical-thinking skills to escape the room. The first real-life escape room opened in Japan in 2008. The rooms quickly spread across Asia, and then, a couple of years later, one opened in Budapest, Hungary, followed by many more in Europe. In 2012, the first North American escape room opened in San Francisco, and more soon opened, first in New York, then Toronto. Now, Greater Cleveland has its first real-life escape room.
Called Trapped!, the escape room opened on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights on July 17. Its owners are Cleveland Heights resident Alan Applegate and his brother, Scott Applegate. Alan first discovered the concept in Toronto in March, when he and his two sons—12-year-old Robbie and 14-year-old Tyler—were attending a film festival. “We wanted to do something besides watch movies,” Applegate said. “So I went to TripAdvisor, the online travel website, to see what else was in Toronto. Three of the top 10 things listed were escape rooms.”
Applegate and his sons went to one of the Toronto escape rooms. “We had the best time ever,” he said. “I talked to the owner and found out more about it. Then I went to one in Pittsburgh, which opened in November of last year, and checked that one out. There’s also one in Cincinnati, which opened this past April.”
Applegate, 46, and his brother, 54, decided to open one in Cleveland. They both grew up in Shaker Heights and graduated from Shaker High. Alan then went to DePauw University in Indiana, where he majored in economics. He and his brother both moved to Cleveland Heights in 1992. Alan still lives in Cleveland Heights, on Essex Road, while Scott recently moved to Larchmere Boulevard in Cleveland.
The two brothers own Applegate Construction, and they have worked on many real-estate projects. When they found out that the space at 1796 Coventry Road, where the Next clothing store used to be located, was available, they immediately went for it. “Coventry is so unique and such a great walking neighborhood,” Applegate said. “And it’s close to Case, John Carroll and the Clinic, so we thought it was close to a lot of people who would like to come to our escape room.”
Trapped will eventually feature five different themed rooms. One is open now—called the Cell, it is essentially a prison from which people need to escape. Two other rooms —Apocalypse, which Applegate described as “a zombie lab," and Pirate Tavern, based on “Pirates of the Caribbean”—are slated for opening sometime in August. Chainsaw, which is “geared more toward horror fans,” according to Applegate, and a still-to-be-determined final room, are also planned, and the owners hope to open them by Halloween.
Up to eight people can play each game. They are given a backstory and a set of rules, then have 60 minutes to solve the mystery of the room. Each of the game rooms also features cameras and audio to give clues to the players.
“It’s something different to do with your family,” Applegate said. “And it’s also great for corporations who want to build relationships among their employees. And it’s not scary, it’s family-friendly, pure fun and very entertaining.”
Trapped is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 1–10 p.m., and Thursday through Sunday, 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. It is closed on Mondays. The cost of taking part in one of the games is $28 for adults, $25 for students and $22 for children ages 12–15. For information, visit www.facebook.com/trappedcle.
James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley.