Lock Museum of America – Lock Museum Adventure [Review]

They have real treasure chests… and they are so much cooler than in the movies.

Location: Terryville, Connecticut

Date played: July 8, 2017

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $23 per ticket (adults), $15 per ticket (teens)

The museum

Located at the site of the long-closed Eagle Lock Company, Lock Museum of America is a small non-profit museum dedicated to the history of locking devices.

Eagle Lock King Bee padlock.
Each of those little divots on the lock’s face was added by hand. Think about that.

The Lock Museum of America is a no-frills museum with a pretty amazing collection and a knowledgeable staff. They have well over a thousand padlocks, mortise locks, and safes. They have brilliant demonstrations of the inner workings of some of history’s most important lock designs, a gorgeous collection of bank time locks (which have an incredible and dark history), and a pair of over-500-year-old functioning Spanish Armada treasure chests with some of the most amazing closure mechanisms that I’ve ever seen.

The locking mechanism in the lid of a Spanish Armada treasure chest. It is incredibly complex.
That’s the exposed locking mechanism of a treasure chest lid. Seeing it function in real life and knowing that its mechanisms were made by hand was seriously humbling.

My love of locks and lockpicking is well documented; I loved this little museum.

Within the museum they had an escape room style game… Should you play it?

Story & setting

The initial concept of the pin tumbler lock dates back to Egypt circa 4000 BC and the Lock Museum of America’s ancient Egyptian lock had been cursed. We had to break that curse or the bad things that happen when you don’t break an ancient Egyptian curse within an hour would set in.

The set was the second floor of the Lock Museum. They had set up a table in the middle of the main room which held many game components. The escape room included a series of lock boxes, puzzles, and hidden items within the museum displays.

A century old bank time lock. It's beautifully designed with gold and chrome trim.
The precision and detail in these bank time locks is pretty crazy when you realize that almost no one ever saw them.

Puzzles

Part museum scavenger hunt, part puzzle hunt, Lock Museum Adventure was less an escape room and more a puzzle-driven way to explore the Lock Museum. This was not a fancy room escape by any stretch of the imagination. However, it was fair and reasonably challenging.

Standouts

Lock Museum Adventure included some items that no other escape room in the world could even dream of incorporating. Lock Museum Adventure was at its best when it physically involved items that were part of the museum itself. This came in two different forms:

  • Incorporating locking devices that were part of the museum
  • Creating puzzles from the existing museum displays

The Lock Museum did a good job calling out what was and was not part of the escape room, which was important because there was a lot to look at.

A complex warded key within a cutaway lock. It shows the key passing through the wards.
This is an old warded key set within a warded lock. All of that was handmade.

The setting within the Lock Museum was a ton of fun. I found myself shifting between room escape player and museum observer. The escape room was a great way to help visitors take in the many magnificent items on display.

Shortcomings

While Egypt was significant in lock history, it wasn’t really the point of this Lock Museum. The “curse” story felt forced and disconnected from the space we were actually occupying. I would have loved a story that felt more connected to what we were seeing… or even no story at all. The Lock Museum was nifty on its own.

Most of the lockboxes that made up the core of the room escape were sealed with junky, uninspiring modern locks. It would have been more fun if these had been secured with less valuable older locks or even unusual modern ones.

Lock Museum Adventure gang locked boxes shut with a Master Lock Lockout Hasp. Gang locking kills any sense of forward momentum because solutions don’t reward players with new information.

I left the room escape wishing that more of the history and the space within the Lock Museum had been integrated into Lock Museum Adventure. This escape room could be an incredible way to learn experientially within an unusual museum. It does a little of this, but there is potential for so much more.

Should I play Lock Museum of America’s Lock Museum Adventure?

There are two pieces to parse here: Lock Museum of America and the museum’s escape room, Lock Museum Adventure.

If you’re even remotely intrigued by the design and history of locking mechanisms, Lock Museum of America is pretty damn cool. It isn’t fancy, but they display amazing things. I’ve been to museums that have more photos than genuine artifacts, where an hour or two on Wikipedia is more fulfilling… This isn’t one of those museums. The displays are tangible and the staff knows their stuff. I know this because I geeked out with them and asked all sorts of esoteric questions that probably bored my patient teammates to death.

I thought Lock Museum Adventure was a fun way to interact with the exhibits. It felt more like a scavenger hunt mixed with a light puzzle hunt, but it all worked. It could, however, do more to shine a light on what makes this museum special. I hope that it gets there because it has so much potential.

Between exploring the museum and playing the escape room, we spent about 2 hours in total at the Lock Museum of America and it was well worth the visit. It’s a convenient stop between New York and Boston. We learned a lot, saw some interesting and unusual things, and puzzled. If this sounds like a good time then I recommend a visit. I plan to return.

Book your hour with Lock Museum of America’s Lock Museum Adventure, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Lock Museum of America comped our tickets for this game.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)

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