Tim Carrillo is a big fan of the escape rooms he's experienced around the country, but he's been looking for something more.
“A lot of them are very similar,” he says. “You have about an hour to play the room, and they usually have a pirate theme or a Mayan temple. Egyptians are really popular.”
While he enjoys the games — most escape rooms involve puzzles that teams of people must solve in order to “escape” from the room or accomplish some type of mission — many seemed geared toward families with kids and weren’t all that high-tech. Carrillo has a background in the electronics industry and wanted to bring something new to the Denver area.
He also wanted something a little more freaky and tailored to adults.
“In the Denver market, there isn’t anything scary,” he adds. “I know it’s more of a niche, but I wanted something more horror. That’s what I’m into.”
From that desire sprang 303 Escape Presents the Homicide Hotel Escape Room. Carrillo hired a person with fourteen years of experience in haunted houses and spent six months turning a space into a run-down hotel inspired by serial killer H.H. Holmes, The Shining, a season of American Horror Story, 1408 and Bates Motel.
“When you walk into the lobby, it actually looks like an old hotel,” he says. “When you go through the room, it’s like every piece has been touched, every wall. A lot of these, you walk in and it just looks like an office building, drop ceilings, not a lot of depth to them.”
Carrillo says the basic story involves a hotel owner turned serial killer à la H.H. Holmes who is eventually caught and committed to an insane asylum. A fictional Denver couple buys the hotel and, in a sort of meta twist, converts it to an escape room. Visitors will be debriefed on the backstory before they start playing.
“Once they're in the room, they find out that he's escaped and changed the game and is toying with the players,” he says. “It kind of twists once they're in the room.”
The current escape room is called “Room 303” and is the first chapter in what Carrillo wants to be a three-part story. It’s geared toward adults, but people have brought kids as young as five. With the exception of one kid who started crying, the younger crowd seemed to handle it well.
“I say if you let your kids watch R-rated movies, you're probably okay,” he says. “But there is some gore and adult language. I give the warning up front.”
He adds that the room is private, so you'll never be paired up with strangers. That’s something he didn’t care for at other escape rooms.
“Sometimes you get people who are a little tipsy and vulgar or they have body odor issues or they are stingy with the puzzles and don’t want to play as a team,” he says. “When I started this one, one of the things I wanted is, it’s private and just you and your team. People get more comfortable and more immersed.”
His spot has been open since November, and the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, he says.
“People were ranting and raving,” he says. “They said it’s one of the best in Denver and in Colorado. I’ve had people say it’s the best in the world. It’s a blessing to have people speak so highly of it.”
303 Escape is located at 8805 Fox Drive No. 100 in Thornton. The room is open Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 9:30 p.m., Friday from 4 to 11 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. A minimum of two people can play, and reservations are recommended. Tickets are $40 per person, and go down with bigger groups. For more information, visit 303escape.com or call 303-568-9861.
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