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Rock musician bringing an escape room to Whiting

Downtown Whiting is compactly located along 119th Street. An escape room is coming to 1238 119th St. downtown.

You're locked in a room, possibly with strangers, and must figure out who murdered a police detective, or how to prevent humanity from being forever enslaved in a computer simulation.

You're armed with only your wits.

And you only have an hour.

Those are just two of the scenarios planned at the Region Escape Room, which will open later this spring in downtown Whiting.

Jessica Schmidt, her husband Justin Schmidt and Rachel Boland are launching Northwest Indiana's latest escape room, which will be located at 1238 119th St. in Whiting.

They hope the family-friendly attraction will draw in out-of-towners and benefit from the tourism generated by Whihala Beach, the WhoaZone floating water park, and the newly opened Mascot Hall of Fame.

"We believe in what Whiting has been doing, and the Mascot Hall of Fame is drawing a lot of traffic and attention," said Schmidt, a backup singer with the Pink Floyd tribute band Echoes of Pompeii and the variety band Mr. Funnyman. "We want to be added to the itinerary, that people who come to the museum visit the escape room and local restaurants or bars, stay in town for a while."

A number of escape rooms have popped up in Northwest Indiana in recent years, including Escape Room NWI in Schererville, Lock In: NWI Escape Room in Crown Point, Mission: Escape in Chesterton, Xscape Quest in Michigan City, and Espionage Escape Rooms, Paradox Escape Rooms and Survival Escape Rooms in Valparaiso.

Escape rooms are immersive adventure games where participants team up to hunt for clues, decipher codes, and solve puzzles together as they seek to escape the room before time runs out, usually within an hour. Unlike with the horror movie Escape Room that's now in theaters nationwide, no one is in actual peril.

"It's something different instead of going to the movies," Jessica Schmidt said. "It's social interaction where you're off your phone and interacting with each other. There's team-building which makes it big for companies and corporate culture."

Region Escape Room secured a grant from the city of Whiting for $25,000 to move into a former tax preparation and insurance office that has sat empty for a decade. They plan to fill the 2,400-square-foot building near the Whiting arch with a detective murder mystery-style noir game called "Who Murdered O'Malley" and a science fiction scenario called "The Simulation."

Another room will be dedicated to seasonal scenarios such as horror-themed zombie games around Halloween and a shipwreck adventure when Whiting celebrates Party Like a Pirate Day, giving people fresh games and a reason to come back as repeat customers.

A fourth room will hold two to four people instead of the six to eight in the larger rooms. Rooms must be reserved at least 24 hours in advance and can be reserved for private dates, birthday parties, or corporate events.

"It's definitely going to be an experience that will make memories," she said.

Schmidt got the idea of opening an escape room after going to about a dozen in Northwest Indiana and Chicago.

"I've always been interested in video games and board games," she said. "I'm a young professional with a degree in music and wasn't finding anything long-term in the corporate world. So we brainstormed about what skills we could apply to opening a business that would interest us and be fun."

Dependable Services in Whiting is currently building out the space, including putting up the walls that separate the four different escape rooms.

For more information, visit www.regionescaperoom.com, call 219-501-0198, email hello@regionescaperoom.com, or find Region Escape Room on Facebook.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.