WALDWICK, N.J. – Anyone from teens to corporate teams are using the three escape rooms at Cipher Seeker in Waldwick for a variety of reasons.
The most popular one is to blow off steam after a big project, or just have fun, said Owner Chris Bartlett of Waldwick.
“You’ve got a themed room. You go into it. You have 60 minutes to solve all the puzzles, open up all the locks, and try to escape back out,” Bartlett said.
Customers are teenagers and older, with the bulk being in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.
“This came from computer games where it’s the same idea,” he added. “You’re locked in a hotel or tower and you have to keep escaping each level.”
In 2010, a Japanese computer game developer had the idea to move the games from the virtual to the real world, Bartlett explained. It caught on. Escape rooms became all the rage across Asian and Europe before hitting the U.S. in 2012.
From there, the phenomenon exploded. It’s still exploding, especially in New Jersey. When Bartlett, a former software support director, incorporated Cipher Seeker last September, there were three other places in New Jersey.
“Now there are a dozen,” he said. “So just in the last several months, New Jersey alone has exploded.”
Other nearby escape room places include Escape Room NJ on Main Street in Hackensack and Last Minute Escape on Galesi Drive in Wayne.
When Bartlett was laid off, he and his wife had been using and enjoying escape rooms. They were so intrigued that they decided to open their own place.
“So now, rather than fixing puzzles, I’m making puzzles,” he said.
Currently, there are three themed rooms, at varying levels of difficulty, at Cipher Seeker. The easiest is the DEFCON Room.
“It’s traditional, with a lot of locks to open up,” Bartlett said. “Our Graveyard Inlet Room is our hardest room. You have to pay attention to the clues and read between the lines as to what the clue is telling you.”
In between is the Framed Room in which a murder mystery unfolds.
The theme rooms at Cipher Seeker will change every six months.