Byline: Ilona Hanne
The circus is in town, but not quite as you know it.
As part of the Stratford District Council summer holiday programme, the team at the Stratford Library have created a circus themed escape room to challenge any over-12s brave enough to give it a go.
Amanda Trigg, the library staff member who has designed and created the escape room, says while most circuses involve plenty of laughs, this one has a few scares hidden in with the fun.
"When we did our last escape room in the library, a lot of people asked if it had zombies, so this time we have given the escape room a zombie twist, while still keeping with the circus theme of our other library activities running over the summer holiday."
Those brave enough to enter the escape room have exactly one hour to solve a myriad of clues and puzzles leading them to a vial of antidote - the only way to save Stratford, and the world, from a zombie apocalypse.
The escape room opens on Monday next week, January 18, but a few brave youngsters took on the challenge of giving it a test run in advance.
The team of six 12 to 14-year-olds weren't too nervous before they entered the circus tent, and were confident they would manage it in time. Three of them had completed escape rooms in the past, while the other three had never tried one out before.
Once they entered the tent the team's first challenge was working out what they needed to do.
As they started picking items up and trying to work out what they needed to do, the mood in the tent quickly changed after a few quick scares had them jumping and nervously stepping away from some of the creepier images and items in the room.
Jordyn Buckland, 12, was the first to solve a clue, quickly working out the connection between two items in the room.
"It was from watching Enola Holmes, there was a similar clue in that."
With the first puzzle unlocked, the team then began to work in earnest to break through the rest of the two connected rooms to try to find the antidote. As well as trying to avoid getting frights, the team also had to try to avoid getting themselves locked out of one of the safes - too many wrong attempts at guessing the unlock code and it would lock them out for 20 valuable minutes of their time.
Amanda says the puzzles have been carefully designed to be solved when teams manage to work out the connections between various items in the room.
"They have to look carefully at all the things around them, but there are also some red herrings placed in there too to make things harder."
As the minutes ticked away in the tent, the girls were hard at work trying to unpick all the clues, and unlock padlocks, lock boxes and more to get to the vial.
"It's really hard knowing what we should try to do and what we should ignore, or might have wrong."
Lilly Cowan, 13, said sifting through all the clues to work out which ones were relevant was just as challenging as actually solving the puzzles.
Lara Ippel, 14, is a fan of escape rooms and said she enjoyed the challenge of this one, as well as the slightly scary theme.
"It makes it a bit harder, as you are always unsure if there is going to be something to make you jump coming up. So you are thinking about that at the same time you are trying to solve something."
As evidenced by the lack of zombies currently roaming Stratford, the team were successful in solving the puzzles in time to get to the vial, but only just.
"I wasn't sure we would get it done in time as some bits seemed to take ages."
Jordyn said she enjoyed the escape room, especially as they managed to solve it and get out in time.
Her teammates agreed, with all saying they would recommend it their friends.
Circus Zombie Escape - January 18-23 at the Centennial restrooms Stratford. Suitable for 12 years and over. Under-14s must be accompanied by an adult. $15 per group, 3-6 people per group. Tickets are available through www.eventbrite.co.nz.