Josiah and Tori Hegwood, shown with their son, Theo, 1 1/2, have opened two escape rooms and an immersive virtual reality room in downtown McCook. Located between what will be an ax throwing bar and the “Mint” clothing store, “Pandora’s Puzzle” at 219 Norris Avenue is open Thursday through Sunday each week.
Lorri Sughroue/McCook Gazette
McCOOK, Neb. – If you enjoy solving puzzles, searching for clues, or exploring virtual reality, Pandora’s Puzzle will keep you busy.
Located upstairs at 219 Norris Avenue, Pandora’s Puzzle features two themed escape rooms, “Public School of Magic” and “Trapped in a Nightmare.” If that’s not enough for entertainment, there are also two immersive virtual reality stations, where participants wear special shoes with sensors, headphones, and hand controls as they “walk” and interact with a simulated environment.
The response has been great since it opened a few weeks ago, said Josiah Hegwood, who along with his wife, Tori, is behind the effort. “We wanted a way to invest in the community and provide entertainment options for people here,” Josiah said.
Both are graduates of McCook High School, Josiah in 2017 and Tori, 2016. Based on feedback he received from the community, Josiah said the top three things he heard people wanted included different types of restaurants, a great venue for hosting events and entertainment choices. .
He and Tori have chosen the entertainment option and over the past six months have been revamping the upstairs apartment they rent at 219 Norris as escape rooms. The building was built in 1919, so reconfiguring the two-bedroom apartment was difficult at times, Hegwood said, such as removing cast-iron radiators.
Renovating what’s already there was better than building new ones, he said, and the downtown location was perfect. With an ax throwing bar soon to open downstairs and three restaurants on Norris Avenue, Hegwood said he hopes it will revitalize downtown, to attract and keep people “on the bricks.” “You can go out to eat and then come here and do an escape room,” he said.
As in other escape rooms, participants in Pandora’s Puzzle are challenged to observe details, explore hidden spaces and decipher clues to “escape” the room. “Public School of Magic” is loosely based on Harry Potter, where participants “gather the relics and reverse the spell” of a school of magic and “Trapped in Nightmare” has a spookier theme.
The two rooms take about an hour to go through and the themes will change every three months. Players will have walkie-talkies, so in case they get stuck figuring something out, a few clues will be given.
Hegwood said that based on the feedback he has received so far, a “leader board” is in the works, where the teams with the fastest times will be listed and notebooks for participants have recently been added. , so that the indices can be written.
“We’re always evolving and listening to what people are telling us,” Hegwood said. “A reviewer said on the website that after being here they talked about it for hours and hours. And that’s what we want, to create memories that families and friends will remember.
Pandora’s Puzzle is open Thursday through Sunday, 4:30 p.m. until last appointment at 9:30 p.m. Saturday hours are 1:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Appointments must be made on its website, www.pandoraspuzzle.com, with same-day booking available.
Costs are $25 per person for one hour, with a minimum of two people and a maximum of six. Escape rooms are open to people aged eight and over, anyone under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian over the age of 21. Group discounts are available on the website for businesses and parties.
Virtual reality stations cost $8 for a 15-minute session. Players must be 12 or older and there is a height requirement of 54 inches. In the near future there will be a membership program so that it will be more profitable for regular customers.
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