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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

First escape room event drums up interest at Heritage Village

by Greg Layson

Organizers of a recent escape room hosted at the Canadian Transportation Museum & Heritage Village (CTMHV) hope the event did enough to inspire guests to make a return visit.

“It gives people a reason to come out here, who may have not been out here before,” Historic Interpreter and Tour Guide for the CTMHV, Carter Hodgins, said of the event that took place on Sunday, August 20. He was the man behind the idea of hosting an escape room. “It gets them seeing just a little bit of what we have out here.”

Depending on whether some of the lesser-used outbuildings are included, the Heritage Village is home to 16-20 buildings. And the Transportation Museum is housed in the main building.

Escapes are popular forms of entertainment right now. Groups of friends or families are typically “locked” in a room and required to solve a series of puzzles and riddles within a certain amount of time to accomplish the goal of unlocking the room and “escaping.” They’re also seen as a good team-building exercise in the corporate world.

Hodgins said he’s participated in several over the years, but noted one at Fort Malden during Canada 150 celebrations in 2017 was “a big inspiration” to hold one at the CTMHV.

His plot and clues were loosely based on local historical events and took place in the 1840 Olinda General Store, which was moved to the Village from Olinda, which is now considered part of Ruthven.

In the escape room’s plot, the young James Fox, who was the delivery boy in town who also ran the post office out of the general store, suddenly went missing while delivering mail.

History shows a Fox family did run the store in the 1840s and 19850s. The store also housed the post office until about 1914. Hodgins’ story had Fox’s father, George, also go missing while looking for his son, leaving the eldest son, Albert – and all the escape room participants – searching for them both.

CTMHV Curator, Karolina Brozy, Education Coordinator, Alisha Lesperance, and Alisha’s partner, Dillan Duhaime, helped Hodgins with the plot, clues, and acting.

Clues and puzzles included the use of an antique phone, an historic map of Essex County, a cipher, and a block puzzle, which was a hit amongst the kids taking part.

“We have a lot of interactive stuff here, which, I think, is just really smart and really fun because they can actually see and feel and touch some of the history that we have in this place,” Duhaime said, who played Albert and shepherded sleuths through the store. “It’s really fun because they can actually see where the general store actually was and kind of where we are in relation to it now.”

Hodgins chose the General Store to house the escape room because it’s “a top-notch building out here in the village” and “one of our best decorated.

“It’s the one that people always love when they come here,” he said.

The event was nearly a sellout over August 19 and 20. The CTMHV offered ten 90-minute sessions over the two-days, with a maximum capacity of five each time. Eight sessions sold, however, organizers bent the rules to allow one nine-person contingent, meaning they sold nearly all the tickets at $15 each. The money will be spent bolstering the education program and artifacts at the site.

Hodgins said the response left him “enthusiastic for some potential future ideas and continuing this.

“We always say, ‘we’re one of the best kept secrets in the county.”

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