… and we spoke with Sidequests Adventures about the experience:
Room Escape Artist: Tell me about Sidequests Adventures. Where are you located? How long have you been in business?
Jonathan Liaw: We’re a tiny local team in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. We make adventures for people! We opened in September of 2016. We’re big on theme consistency, well-tested puzzle design, and inclusive games open to everyone.
You recently lived a real life Onion-worthy experience when two escaped convicts came to visit your escape room establishment. Walk us through how everything unfolded.
At about 8:30pm local time on Tuesday evening, October 3, two ladies walked into our business. They asked the typical escape room newbie questions and asked if they could peek into an escape room.
This is pretty standard for us and I imagine for a lot of markets where escape room awareness isn’t super high. My wife led them around the corner to show them one of our rooms that wouldn’t have anything massively spoiled by peeking in and I went back to minding the front desk.
About a half a minute later, a police officer came down the stairs and asked if we had seen two ladies recently.
“Did they have a prior appointment with you?”
“Not at all. They were walk-ins.”
“Where are they now?”
I motioned around the corner and the officer promptly called for backup and proceeded around the corner. Four more officers quickly rushed down the stairs and around the corner. Shortly after, they emerged with the two ladies in cuffs and walked them out.
It’s actually much less exciting than it sounds, but it was definitely surreal. Once the initial shock wore off, we realized how ridiculously ironic the whole situation was.
How did all of this resolve?
We’ve been on every single news channel locally and a little bit nationally. Radio stations have asked to do interviews and a ton of video crews came to do short stories. It was a little bit nutty. The story has been picked up internationally as a fluffy and funny filler for a lot of morning breakfast shows, radio talk shows, escape room blogs, and who knows what else. We’ve had phone calls from Australia, the UK, California, and New York asking us questions to clarify the facts.
It has been just a bit of a crazy ride.
These women were the first to escape the prison that they were incarcerated within. Do you know how they accomplished that?
Not surprisingly, the police are being rather short on details about their escape. We do know it involved jumping a fairly high fence.
How are you and your team holding up?
Everyone is okay! My wife and I (as owners of the business) got very little sleep in the 48 hours following the incident, but it seems to have mostly calmed down for now.
They were wanted for violent crimes and weapons and drug related charges. In hindsight, it could have gone far worse. Happily it didn’t and we’re just left with an incredibly ironic headline.
Wanted or not, you’ve received a lot of publicity from this crazy experience. Has that impacted your business?
Everyone wants to know the story when they come in. We had a fairly large traffic spike on our website for a few days following the event and the next weekend was quite busy. As a newer business with a little less visibility than a lot of places, it has helped a lot that we’re now “that place” in everyone’s minds. Since the story resolved peacefully and somewhat hilariously, it has been a good publicity bump for us. It put us in front of a lot of eyeballs that we normally wouldn’t have been able to get access to.
It has been an odd thing. We have attention, but it has been a delicate dance to utilize that surge in traffic without being insensitive or crass about it. We’re going with the good-natured chuckle approach without talking directly about the people involved. We’re just having a good laugh about the absurdity of the situation.