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An escape in Gold City
Dahlonega Gold Museum trying its hand at escape rooms
02082018 ESCAPE 1
The Dahlonega Gold Museum is now offering a new weekend feature: escape rooms. Two different escape scenarios are available on Fridays and Saturdays at $15 per person. - photo by Nick Bowman

Hung Jury: Fridays at 2:00, 3:30, 5:00, and 6:30 p.m.

Mystery at the Mint: Saturdays at 5:00 and 6:30 p.m.

Groups can also arrange to participate in the escape rooms throughout the week by calling the museum at 706-864-2257 to make reservations. Tickets are $15 per person must be paid for in advance.

If you build it, they will escape.

Entering into the escape room craze is an unlikely source: the Dahlonega Gold Museum State Historic Site.

“We were thinking of programs that we could offer that were outside the box and would be fitting to our particular site, and we decided that this would be a good way to intertwine fun and history,” site manager Sam McDuffie said.

McDuffie said about 60 people have been locked up and released by their ingenuity since October — though who actually wants to break out of a gold museum?

None of the museum’s team had experience in escape rooms before they started organizing.

“Now, I’m an escape room advocate. I’ve done three of them,” McDuffie said.

Their rules follow the genre: 60 minutes to get out, puzzles scattered around the room, things often not as they appear.

But the quaint draw of the escape room in them thar hills is the attention to historical accuracy.

Three Times employees and a spouse attempted the Hung Jury room, one of two rooms based on the town’s history.

The setting is an 1855 Lumpkin County trial. Potential escapees are the jury, and they’re locked into a high-ceilinged room with creaking floors to decide who dun it.

“Everything is factual except that it never was actually a hung jury,” McDuffie said.

The case centers on a man who was found dying at the bottom of a staircase. He was seen moments earlier walking with the accused. Was he murdered? You have to gather hidden evidence and decide before you can leave the room.

A bailiff in period garb gently reminded us of the time gone, gave clues when paid the in-game currency and asked us not to break the scenery.

“I’ve played the bailiff a couple of times, and there’s nothing like sitting in that room and you hear people debating a trial that’s over 100 years old if it’s a guilty or not guilty verdict … We’re getting what we wanted to get across. We want people to have fun learning history,” McDuffie said.

It took The Times team roughly 30 minutes of the allotted hour to solve the puzzles and resolve the main task: rendering a verdict.

The team at the museum has made alterations to the rooms and plan to offer rooms of varying difficulty.

Mystery of the Mint is the more challenging room, described as an “adventure to find lost Civil War-era bullion” in the 1862 Dahlonega mint.

As McDuffie will say himself, the Hung Jury room is more of a starter escape room: enough to whet the appetite for someone exploring the craze but not too overwhelming — a good starting point for parents with kids who are getting old enough for escape rooms.

It is also cheaper than the average escape room at $15, whereas many rooms start above the $20 range.

“We’re actually helping other parks plan escape rooms because we’ve had some pretty good success with ours. There’s going to be a couple other escape rooms popping up throughout the state in the next six months to a year,” McDuffie said.

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