Brookings Fear Asylum adds escape room, fun to Halloween attraction


The Fear Asylum, a haunted house entertaining the Brookings community for seven years, has another trick up its sleeve.

In September, the attraction opened an escape room, Escape the Fear Asylum: The East Wing. 

The company behind the haunted house, Station 5 Productions, is getting in on this nationwide trend.

Escape rooms can feature any theme and are composed of one or more rooms. Groups of two to 10 people are locked inside and have a set amount of time to solve puzzles, clues or props to escape. Some escape rooms give players hints while others don’t.

The escape room trend began in 2012, said Scott Nicholson, a professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada. Nicholson wrote about the phenomenon in his report, Peeking Behind the Locked Door: A Survey of Escape Room Facilities.

Stage 5 Productions has spent $50,000 on the first-ever escape room in Brookings and company leaders are confident it will bring in many people from across the region. CEO Buck Burdick said they are expecting around 7,000 visitors this year.

Individuals would normally have driven several hours to see an attraction of this caliber, according to Burdick.

Burdick spent a year traveling across the country visiting escape rooms to see what works and what doesn’t. He said it costs thousands of dollars in equipment and props to offer a product that will entice people to return.

“If I am going to bring something to the country, I am going to do it over the top and do it right,” Burdick said.

According to Burdick’s research, escape rooms are designed for 70 percent of groups to escape.

Although Burdick is leaving the details on his escape room a surprise, he did share some information about the attraction.

Burdick’s escape room is PG-13, meaning it’s too intense for young children. Up to eight people are allowed in the room at a time. To participate in the escape room, people must book time slots ahead of time on the Fear Asylum website.

Players have up to an hour to escape before evil Professor Sid gets back. They will be trying to escape the spooky environment by solving 12 to 15 puzzles or props.

Burdick’s escape room is made up of four or five rooms, unlike the majority of escape rooms discussed in Nicholson’s paper, which have one or two rooms. Additionally, each of Burdick’s rooms have a different theme.

Burdick and his staff advise SDSU students and locals to book their time slots as soon as possible, because they expect to be booked out around Halloween time.

Burdick’s haunted house is a staple in the area. It is the number one haunted attraction in the state, according to the Brookings Chamber of Commerce.

“The attention Buck gives his haunt is unlike anything you’ve seen. You truly get sucked into the world of the Fear Asylum,” said Katy Brynn, and worked at the Fear Asylum.

If this goes well, Burdick said he is considering adding up to three escape rooms with different themes to be open year-round in Brookings.

So far, Burdick said the buzz he is getting seems to be positive.

“It was fun and challenging,” said Kristi League, a local who has been through the escape room. “You really had to think and you really had to work together.”

League’s group escaped in just under an hour. One member emphasized her surprise at just how challenging it was.

The attraction will be open through Nov. 6 at 216 West Sixth St.