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 from Thursday to Sunday each week.
Lorri Sughroue/McCook Gazette
McCOOK, Neb. — If you’re into figuring out puzzles, looking for clues or exploring virtual reality, Pandora’s Puzzle will keep you more than busy.
Located upstairs at 219 Norris Avenue, Pandora’s Puzzle offers two themed escape rooms, “Public School of Magic” and “Trapped in a Nightmare.” If that’s not enough for entertainment, there’s also two immersive virtual reality stations, where participants wear special shoes with sensors, a head set and hand controllers as they “walk” through and engage with a simulated environment.
The response has been great since opening a few weeks ago, said Josiah Hegwood, who with his wife, Tori, are behind the endeavor. “We wanted a way to invest in the community and bring some entertainment options for people here,” Josiah said.
Both are graduates of McCook High School, Josiah in 2017 and Tori, 2016. Relying on feedback he’s gotten from the community, Josiah said the top three things he heard people wanted included different types of restaurants, a large venue to host events and entertainment choices .
He and Tori chose the entertainment option and for the past six months, they’ve been revamping the upstairs apartment they rent at 219 Norris as escape rooms. The building was built in 1919, so re-configuring the two-bedroom apartment was challenging at times, Hegwood said, such as removing the cast iron radiators.
Re-furbishing what is already here was preferable to building new, he said, and the downtown location was perfect. With an ax-throwing bar soon to be opened downstairs and three eateries on Norris Avenue, Hegwood said he hopes this will revitalize downtown, to get and keep people “on the bricks.” “You can go out to eat and then come up here and do an escape room,” he said.
Like other escape rooms, participants at Pandora’s Puzzle are asked to observe details, explore hidden spaces and decipher clues to “escape” the room. “Public School of Magic” is based loosely on Harry Potter, where participants “gather the relics and reverse the spell” of a magic school and “Trapped in Nightmare” has a more spooky theme.
Both rooms take about an hour to get through and themes will change every three months. Players will have walkie talkies so in case they get stuck in figuring something out, a few hints will be given.
Hegwood said based on feedback he’s gotten so far, a “Leader Board” is in the works, where teams with the fastest times will be listed and notebooks for participants were recently added, so clues can be written down.
“We’re always evolving and listening to what people tell us,” Hegwood said. “One reviewer said on the website that after being here, they talked about it for hours and hours. And that’s what we want, creating memories for families and friends to remember.”
Pandora’s Puzzle is open Thursday through Sunday, from 4:30 pm to the last appointment taken at 9:30 pm On Saturday, hours are 1:30 to 9:30 pm Appointments must be made on its website, www.pandoraspuzzle.com, with same-day booking available.
Costs are $25 per person for an hour, with a minimum of two people and a maximum of six. The escape rooms are open to those age eight and up, anyone under 16 must be accompanied by parent or guardian over 21. Group discounts are available on the website for businesses and parties.
Virtual reality stations are $8 for a 15 minute session. Players must be 12 years old or older and there is a 54-inch height requirement. In the near future, there will be membership program so it will be more cost-effective for repeat customers.