PORTSMOUTH — When Ryan Tully, Jerod and Stacy Walker opened Deadbolt Escape Rooms, they never imagined they would be helping residents of Portsmouth escape from a global pandemic.
Opening in 2018, Deadbolt Escape Rooms and Mysteries has been busting out the fun for families and the community. Starting with just one room, the business has grown throughout the years and is tackling the COVID-19 pandemic the best they can.
“We opened in December 2018 and we originally opened with one escape room, but now we have three,” Walker said. “We got to be pretty busy right before COVID, and then our business had to close. We were shut down for 12 weeks total and then we decided we were going to open back up the middle of June after the governor lifted his restrictions and we basically made a plan on how we were going to open up safely.”
Walker explained that escape rooms are a lot of hands-on, touching of items, placing items in certain places, so they had to develop a plan to offer their rooms and be safe.
“We decide that we’re going to sanitize each room, which we are doing now and we are providing hand sanitizer for the participants and the employees, plus cleaning bathrooms every two hours to try to keep that area safe as well,” Walker said. “Another part of our business that people may not know about is our Murder Mysteries, but currently, we have not found a way to operate those safely.”
Walker shared that part of the business is not operating right now. When they did have the murder mysteries, they would have larger groups of people, sometimes up to 35 people and a lot of times, it would be people that did not know each other.
“Currently in the escape rooms, they are all private and the only people in the room are the people you came with,” Walker said. “Your party would be four or five or so, and there would be no strangers in your room.”
Before COVID-19, Walker said players could be in there with people they didn’t know acting as a team. The murder mysteries are a little different and have had multiple people book those and wouldn’t even know each other.
“We were pleasantly surprised about how things went when we opened back up,” Walker’s wife Stacey said. “They were still coming in. It was something that you can do that is still entertaining. I truly hope that we get back to where we were before COVID.”
Stacy also spoke about COVID and people not necessarily having the money to come.
“It is $25 a person to play and if you are a family of four or five, that is a significant amount of money, so I would say the economic effect since COVID has also played a role in the numbers we see,” Stacey said. “Now that most people are back to work, it starting to pick back up slowly.”
Tulley said that the Walkers come up with the ideas and then he comes up with a way to make them work. However, Jerod Walker said, “We wouldn’t have nearly the puzzles we have if it weren’t for Ryan’s brains. He is our IT /tech guru/ electrician; pretty much anything that has to move or escape room magic that has to happen, he is the one that gets us there, he does it. Stacey Walker added, “He does come up with puzzles and things too.”
Due to COVID-19, Stacey said procedures have changed to play the rooms and enter the building.
“Now when you come, all will be wearing masks, the employees will be wearing masks, and the patrons will wear masks when they enter the building, but we do allow them to take them off in the rooms if they want, they can play with them on or off in the private rooms. When they come back into the common area, they do have to put them back on,” Stacey said. “People can expect us to be as chipper as we can be, and even though they cannot see behind the masks, we will be smiling.”
They all said that each room is so individual and so different they try to take you to the rooms they say they are taking you to. They have a precinct room and they said they want you to feel like you are a member of the precinct and you are in this reality for 60 minutes. They have a room that is a cabin, the precinct 740 room, and the other room is called Taken and it is actually a handcuffing room and people are a little afraid of that room at first, but people like a thrill.
Jerod Walker said that the precinct room 740 is Portsmouth themed and it is a kidnapping scenario. He said, “This fall sometimes, I don’t know when yet, we will open Castle Dracula. It will be more of a scary theme, not like horror as it will still be family-friendly, but it will be a little scary.” He added that during Halloween, they have live actors as an option.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740)353-3101 ext. 1928
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