By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Harry Potter fans, this one’s for you.
On March 3, the Oshawa Escape Rooms posted an announcement on its Facebook page. Two short days later, that message would be shared thousands of times and viewed nearly 400,000 times as it spread across the Internet like wildfire. The announcement? The Oshawa-based business was opening a new Harry Potter themed escape room game, entitled “Escape from Hogwarts.”
It’s safe to say fans of the JK Rowling novel series based around a fantasy wizarding world were pretty excited.
“It was ridiculous, I was not expecting anything like this,” says James Wilkinson, owner of Oshawa Escape Rooms.
The room, set to open on April 15, will include a series of six rooms based on settings from the novels and movies that players will need to puzzle their way out of. Wilkinson admits he’s not the biggest fan of the fictional series, and gives all the credit to Escape Rooms staffer Jessyca Beek who came up with the idea.
“She’s definitely put us on the map,” Wilkinson says.
One could certainly use a map to plot out the reservations Wilkinson has been receiving for those already itching to get inside the Harry Potter world, with reservations coming in from as far away as Florida, Ohio and Thunder Bay. Those looking to get into the room on a weekend will have months to wait as the prime hours are fully booked into July. Wilkinson has decided to open the doors earlier on weekdays, going four hours earlier to a noon opening in order to accommodate those looking to try their hand at escaping from Hogwarts.
The overwhelming response couldn’t have come at a better time and is an anniversary gift of sorts as Wilkinson celebrates the one-year anniversary of opening his business the very night Escape from Hogwarts will open its doors.
A former restaurant owner, Wilkinson says he was hooked on the escape room idea after travelling to Niagara Falls and playing the games himself and how they seemed to bring people together. He knew the idea would be a hit in Oshawa and set about making it a reality, and he wasn’t wrong.
“We’re sitting here and watching these places just filled with people having fun, coming together, having great times,” he says.
The Escape from Hogwarts project has not only received support from the Harry Potter fans, but from the business community as well, with the other two Oshawa escape rooms joining in on the act with Oshawa Escape Rooms receiving tech support from the Panic Factory and S. Capers Breakout Zone.
“You have three escape rooms here that are actually team building themselves,” Wilkinson says. “Normally, people will look at each other as competitors, but we’re working together.”
Wizardry fans can also prepare themselves for more escape rooms coming in the future with another Harry Potter themed room set to open in June. This time around, Wilkinson says he hopes they can receive permission to use the Harry Potter name and other characters from the series in order to make the rooms more authentic. A request sent prior to the announcement did not receive a reply. Currently, the rights to the series in novel form are held by the author while Warner Bros. has the film rights.
For more information or to book your spot, visit www.oshawaescapes.com.