Screw virtual reality — I want more experiences like Fort Edmonton Park's new escape room
By Liam Newbigging | July 5, 2023
It was a sickly hour of twilight — daylight was shrinking fast as our group approached the old Belrose Schoolhouse on 1885 Street in an almost empty Fort Edmonton Park. The door was closed, and we had no idea what awaited us inside. We creaked it open to an almost pitch-black room and attempted to dowse the darkness with a bit of light from our single lantern. The wooden floorboards creaked and echoed as we saw a puzzle laid out for us amongst the old desks.
But then, I heard an odd noise, and before I realized it, a creature in a mask rapidly approached the schoolhouse door. It snarled at us, and when I shone the lantern in its direction, it fled from the light. But moments later, while we were working over the puzzle, the creature returned to taunt us from the schoolhouse window.
This is no horror story. This is the new outdoor escape experience at Fort Edmonton Park called Where Dark Things Dwell. For those who don’t know, an escape room is an entertainment attraction where a small group is locked inside a room and must solve puzzles in order to escape. Often, they are built around immersive settings themed around pop culture properties like SAW or The Matrix. But Fort Edmonton Park has cranked that idea up by turning all of the iconic 1885 Street into a puzzle-solving playground set to a story about a village being plagued by an ancient occult curse.
The beauty of an experience like this is that Fort Edmonton Park is already built with a heavy degree of immersive historical accuracy. There is no need to build an elaborate set or confine it to just one room because the entire park feels like it could be out of a horror movie (especially when empty at night). Add a few occult symbols here and there, some costumed spooks, and some great theatrical performers — and you’re practically in your own video game.