Lived Through This

What I Overheard as an Escape Room Actor

Lock a group of people in a room and you’ll witness some surprising confessions

Paul A. DeStefano
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readJan 18, 2020
Photo: Dean Hochman/Flickr

AA few years ago, I was tasked with creating several escape rooms in a historic county park. As the only park employee who happened to be a professional writer and game designer, I became the project’s manager. We wanted to make use of a few beautiful old buildings on the park grounds, so the “scary” room I chose was half the second story of a 150-year-old house. The place was frightening enough before we brought in the flickering lamps, skeletons, and strange potions.

And what could be scarier, of course, than stumbling across a live human prisoner in the half-shadows? For a majority of the attempted escapes over those first two years, that human was me.

During Halloween season, several hundred patrons would play the escape rooms each week. As they progressed through the house, they would eventually discover that the owner of the place had chained someone to a wall (hi). Supposedly, the owner had imprisoned me for some nefarious reason.

My first responsibility was to scare the group. Once they were scared, my job was to make them generally uncomfortable while offering hints, usually in a cryptic and insane manner.

Was it fun to scare the shrieks out of people when they found me, and then creep them out by staring over their shoulders and babbling nonsense? Of course.


For some reason, though I was clearly standing not a few feet from them, players often treated me like just another prop. It didn’t occur to them that I was, you know, alive.

DDue to the nature of the game, I waited in the third room players discovered so they wouldn’t notice me at the start. I waited in the dark. Alone. Usually browsing Facebook and chatting with friends online in the gloom, wearing a half-torn shirt and chained to a wall. It would be about 10 or 12 minutes before my big reveal.

My favorite reaction to my reveal was “there’s a whole-ass human in here!” I’m not sure what implied I wasn’t half-assed.



Paul A. DeStefano
Human Parts

Author, Board Gamer/Designer. Paul D’s Tainted Dragon Inn on FB for geeky stuff. Represented by B Swanson The Purcell Agency. Riftsiders.