Inside the new Ossett escape room with a Titanic-themed puzzle, which is already causing a splash with customers

As soon as the timer starts, you have just one hour to get out.

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 4:45 pm
Tom designed the Titanic-themed escape room himself.

That, for the unitiated, is the simple concept behind escape rooms, where participants have to solve a logical labyrinth of puzzles and riddles to find the key you need to break free.

These venues have sprung up across the world over the past decade and are now one of the most popular leisure activities for twenty and thirty-somethings.

But despite Covid hitting the entertainment industry hard, one recently opened escape room in Ossett is growing fast.

Tom says his background in magic has helped with his latest venture.

Conjured up by local magician Tom Hodgson, Escapable, with its Titanic-themed game he designed himself, is thriving after taking its first bookings at the end of the summer.

"We'd been working for months to open in March and then obviously lockdown came," Tom explains from the venue, on Warneford Avenue in the town.

"We took the plunge and opened on August 1 and we were just inundated with enquiries and people wanting to book straight away. The first week was crazy.

"It has been hard for a lot of escape room owners. A number of them I've spoken to say business has dropped off, but I don't know anything different to this.

The escape room is based on Warneford Avenue in Ossett.

"Hopefully when things begin to normalise in the world it will pick up even more."

With the Titanic challenge having already proven a hit with gamers, 35 year-old Tom and his handyman helper Anthony are developing a second room on the premises with a Back to the Future storyline.

Fittingly, they've a race against time to get it ready for October 21, which the film's fans will tell you is the date Marty McFly travelled 30 years in the future to in the 1985 classic.

Beyond that, there are exciting plans to build a third room with a Houdini theme in keeping with Tom's background in magic.

Have you completed the challenge?

So how did these mystery games become a way of life?

"I did my first escape room about three years ago and really enjoyed it," Tom, says.

"I didn't think too much about it afterwards but then I went through a phase last year where I did 51 in the space of about three months.

"That's when I think it became a bit of an obsession!

"But I found myself thinking, "Why have they put it together like that? I'd have done it like this".

"Being a magician does help with putting puzzles together. You have to be creative because you're trying to fool people for a living."

Tom first took up magic at the age of 15 after he was inspired by a show he saw on holiday.

He was soon performing his own gigs by the end of his teenage years and got good so quickly his passion soon became his profession.

But after a career that's taken him to places far and wide, Tom set up this venture to keep himself closer to home and allow him to spend plenty of time with his four year-old son.

Far from being just a social activity for young adults, Escapable's also had a number of corporate bookings from businesses who recognise its team-bonding qualities.

Tom's also applied for an alcohol licence from Wakefield Council, in a move he believes could help other local businesses in the hospitality sector at a time of great need.

He explains: "The idea is if people have a game booked for 6pm say, they can come here and have a drink while they're getting the briefing beforehand.

"Then when they're finished they can go across the road to the pub or go into Ossett and have a meal.

"The community round here in Ossett and Horbury really look after each other and their local businesses and I think that's really been shown during the pandemic."

At a time when doom and gloom seems to be everywhere for businesses, the story of Escapable is a refreshingly encouraging one.

But if you dare take on the Titanic challenge, best bring your life jacket just in case!

Members of the public can send comments to Wakefield Council on the alcohol licence application anytime before October 16.

Local Democracy Reporting Service