The door closed. We were locked in. Looking around, I could immediately see that all of us- my wife, five friends and I- had clearly passed into another world. The murals, the foliage- and, of course, the wigwam– that adorned the interior of the “Wigwam Escape Room” stunned all of us with their authenticity.
But it was time to get to work.
“You’ll have sixty minutes to complete your task,” our guide, Lauren had said before we entered. “And you’ll need to work together. No cell phones are allowed inside. You’ll only be able to gauge time by the light and the birdsongs you hear.”
Once inside, and at first without speaking, my team fanned out. Suddenly to our left, an animal appeared. “A deer!” someone announced. Lauren, chief designer of this “Wigwam Challenge” at the Institute for Native American Studies Museum and Research Center, had told us we would need to “hunt” animals. “But be careful,” she’d warned, “they ‘scare’ easily.” Spotting the deer, all of us quickly crouched to the ground, not wanting to “frighten” the fake deer now illuminated in LED light from above. A quick and unanimous vote established that my friend Patrick would be our hunter. (Personally, I have never had the stomach for this activity in real life. Even if the deer was make-believe, I knew I needed a different job in this challenge).
As Patrick grabbed a faux spear and began to creep toward the pretend deer, my eyes scanned the room. At this point, everyone seemed to be doing the same– exploring, taking it all in. Finally, over my right shoulder, I promptly noticed something significant. The Native American backpack! “Your main job,” our guide had instructed, “is to find and fill the Native backpack with the four items you’ll need for the journey your tribe is about to embark on.” So this must be that pack, I thought, as a smile crossed my face.
Quickly, while recorded Warblers sang in the background, I motioned for my friend Jamie to join me. I showed her what I’d found, and together we removed the replica of a Native canteen from the backpack and began searching for a way to fill it. To my left, I noticed that in short order, my wife and Patrick’s wife were engaged in a different puzzle of some sort. Something to do with cooking meat. And our other two friends seemed to working on “harvesting” some type of crop.
In the end, our team completed the challenge in 57 minutes. Success! Afterwards, we were asked by the staff (who had been watching us through hidden cameras) what we learned through this experience. Someone said, “Collaborating and working together made the difference.” Another said, “We played to our strengths to accomplish the overall mission.” Still another person answered, “When something became hard for one person, another would suggest a different approach.”
Great life lessons from the Wigwam Escape Challenge.