Do you have what it takes to start your own escape room company?

I interview the incredible legend Paul Chapman about how and why he started Lockhouse games, an escape room company in Cambridge.

When I was doing research for Race for Science way back in December 2017, I came across an escape room company in Cambridge called Lockhouse. It even had a science-themed room! We rang Lockhouse and got in touch with Paul Chapman, a physicist-turned-escape room owner (how perfect is that?!), who has been so generous with his time, resources, and infectious energy.

Lockhouse is going to be a venue on the Race for Science route. We filmed the amazing teaser trailer in his Armageddon room, and Lockhouse will feature heavily during Race for Science. Here’s my interview with the legendary Paul:

What inspired you to get involved with escape rooms?
I played my first Escape Game in Amsterdam in September 2015 and got hooked instantly. We spent the rest of the trip talking about how to open one in Cambridge.

How did Lockhouse get started? When was it founded?
We took the 70 Regent St premises on 20th March 2017 and just knocked down all the walls and built them up again! We managed to get everything built and ready for opening on the 25th May 2017. Well, almost ready – we still had to do bits of painting after we opened because we ran out of time!

Why do you think escape rooms are so popular? What do you love about them?
We think it might be all about having a shared task. You get so involved in the game that you forget about the whole rest of the world, and as the time pressure increases you get completely lost in your adventure. Most entertainment is fairly passive, and we reckon that the active nature of an escape game gives a very different experience. What we do see is that players tend to talk about their game for at least an hour after finishing – sometimes with recriminations!

Which is your favourite Lockhouse room and why is it great?
Everyone here has a different favourite. My own preference would be for the Egyptian Tomb though because it’s so thematic and immersive. You’re in partial darkness and there are lots of challenges that are a bit more physical than normal – we’re talking tunnels, heavy blocks and sliding doors. Plus, that one is my favourite to act in – I play Annubis, Egyptian Lord of the dead.

Do you have any funny stories or quotes from people playing the room?
What happens in LockHouse stays in LockHouse!

Our funniest story from our own Games Master side was when we thought we’d forgotten to lock one of the doors inside the Secret Agent(!). Several of us watched horrified as the players accessed parts of the game that shouldn’t have been available to them yet. We called up the person who’d reset the room to ask how this could have happened and to give them a stern telling-off. Only after the game finished did we find out that the players were in a lock-picking society! Phew.

Why are you choosing to help the  Prostate Cancer Research Centre with this brand new fundraising event?
Several of our team have been affected by cancer and we’re glad of the chance to help.

Why do you think Cambridge is the perfect city to hold Race for Science?
Because it’s the Science Capital of the UK! I’m a former scientist and I can’t think of a more scientifically aware city. I’ve been asked scientifically challenging questions by people in pubs here – that doesn’t really happen anywhere else.

Check out Lockhouse and sign yourself up for one of their incredible escape rooms today!

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