Light Bleed, Seams, & Trap Doors [Escape Room Design]

Trap doors are one of the great joys of escape rooms.

The more unique, unusual, and unexpected a trap door is, the better the unveiling is.

Sadly, too many otherwise brilliant trap doors are betrayed by obvious seams or light bleed.

Surprise Matters

This should go without saying: the point of a trap door is that it’s hidden and surprising. If it’s neither hidden nor surprising… then it’s just a door.

Dana opening her refrigerator, a warm otherworldly light glows from within.

This Ghostbusters scene with Dana opening her refrigerator and finding another world within wouldn’t have worked anywhere near as well if the fridge had been glowing before she approached.

Unfortunately, it is pretty normal to see a glowing perimeters around trap doors in escape rooms.

Light Bleed & Seam Consequences

Aside from betraying a great reveal, trap doors with obvious seams and light bleed also take an extra beating from well-meaning players.

I’ve absolutely noticed unopened trap doors and given them a push or a tug. I am certain from seeing some of the wear and tear on these doors that other less knowledgeable or less considerate players have been much rougher on them.

If as players we don’t see the door, we won’t be as hard on it.

Using Light Bleed For Effect

While I’ve seen a lot of unintentional light bleed, I haven’t seen anyone deliberately use light bleed as an in-game event or effect.

Dana slowly turning and noticing a strange light emanating from around a closed door.

When done deliberately, I am certain that light bleed around a previously hidden passageway, or even a recently unlocked door, could be badass.

As with all design decisions, being deliberate matters.

Some Potential Fixes

Because every trap door is unique, the engineering needs will vary. With that in mind there are a few methods that consistently work well:

  • Build the facade of the door large than the frame.
  • Build an oversized frame that covers the edge of the door.
  • Tack up some weather stripping around the door.
  • Turn off the lights behind the trap door until after it has been opened.

Whatever you choose to do, protect your big reveal.


    1. Funny enough, we’ve played some games in total darkness where light bleed through the exit door was an issue.

  1. I just put “use light bleed to show location of hidden panel” in my notes for our escape room plan. Thanks for the idea.

    As simple as it is to control lighting, keeping the room dark until the door is opened is an easy fix. Magnetic contacts and relays are an almost bullet proof way to accomplish this, no Arduino or programming required. Note: Latching relays are a good idea if you don’t want the lights to go out when the door is shut. 🙂

    1. That sounds great! I hope we can see a game from you one day.

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