George Buckman sat in the control room of HHI Escape, a new adventure experience on Hilton Head Island, and watched video footage of his guests scrambling to solve his latest challenge, Wall Street Revenge, on a computer monitor.
The Bowling family, the subjects on the computer monitor, are in the room next door, searching for clues to beat the game, in under an hour, Buckman and his family have concocted: find illegal diamonds and an alarm code using clues around the office of a crooked Wall Street mogul.
Buckman’s son, Caleb, sat with him, sending in clues to the Bowling family from his laptop to a TV screen in the room as they rattled through drawers and announced their findings aloud. The father and son had to pay attention to know what clues to send in at the right moment.
“We want everyone to succeed so we give unlimited hints and clues to help them get there,” George Buckman said.
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Of course, this wasn’t the real office of a man named Shae Daniels and the family of seven wasn’t searching for real diamonds. The Bowlings were in an “escape room” full of orchestrated puzzles used to have an adventure — the first of its kind on the island at 140 Beach City Road — to celebrate the patriarch’s 60th birthday.
“These folks are doing really well,” Buckman said.
What originally started as a home school project for their two sons, Caleb and Joshua, in June quickly became a place of business and fun for George and Andreah Buckman.
George Buckman said escape rooms are exciting and unique opportunities becoming available around the world for people to explore. When asked why he thought so many people were interested in solving mysteries and trying out escape rooms, Buckman said it’s because it challenges their brain.
“It’s an adrenaline rush,” he said.
“Some feel like Sherlock Holmes or something,” Caleb Buckman said.
Most people take about an hour to solve the puzzle and it costs $29 per person, Buckman said. A few escape room designers do lock players in the room as part of the adventure, some even going as far as to handcuff their participants before starting, but the door to this escape room is always unlocked, he said, so the players feel more at ease.
HHI Escape is open every day of the week except Sundays. At least two people are needed to participate in the adventure and groups as big as 10 can be accommodated.
“I think six is the perfect group size,” he said.
But shady Wall Street tycoons aren’t the only themes Buckman plans on creating; he said he hopes to build a second room where visitors have to snoop through their creepy neighbor’s basement. A kids version of escape room — with the mission of finding a lost teddy bear — that could be brought to resorts around the island to entertain visiting children is possibly in the works, he said.
Overall, Buckman said his favorite part about HHI Escape was how the adventures brought the entire family together for some amusement.
“We get families of four generations doing this,” he said.