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These Terrifying Escape Rooms Will Mess With Your Head In Ways No Haunted House Can

Updated September 23, 2021 2.5k votes 853 voters 82.9k views10 items

List RulesVote up the rooms from which you'd be most desperate to escape.

They have suddenly become all the rage, but what are escape rooms, exactly? These trendy new attractions are interactive mind-and-body games set in a room or space where participants must solve a series of puzzles and complete various challenges in order to escape the room within a limited amount of time. Often the rooms are themed, creating a haunted house-style effect of full immersion and mystery, and can include elements of genres like horror, sci-fi, and thrillers. Extreme escape rooms often have actors chasing after participants in intricately designed costumes.

By adding those extra elements of games and challenges to an immersive setting, escape rooms are on track to actually surpass haunted houses in popularity. In fact, some of the best escape rooms in the United States are designed to be terrifying, although most escape rooms make it clear that they offer a different experience from a traditional haunted house, and some escape rooms are themed around a historical element or challenge rather than a scary story. Everyone wants to know how to beat an escape room, but there's no better incentive to escape a haunted cell than knowing it's about to be under siege by an institutionalized zombie. 

Although escape rooms were originally created in Japan in 2005, there are now numerous escape room companies with franchise locations all over the United States. If you need birthday party ideas, team-building exercises, or just something to do on a Friday night besides stream a movie, check out these rad escape rooms in the US and vote up the rooms from which you'd be most desperate to escape.

  • 1

    In LA's 'The Basement' Escape Room, You're Pursued By A Cannibal

    In the notorious Los Angeles escape room The Basement, participants are hooded and then led into a chain link cage to start the game where the hoods are removed. The premise of the game is that participants are being held captive by a cannibal. 

    Once the game begins, captives have to solve various puzzles to out-maneuver the cannibal. You have 45 minutes to escape and if you fail - according to room creators - you're “captured, caged, and consumed.” 

    Is this too scary?
  • 2

    The 13th Escape In Louisiana Makes Your Wildest Fears About Being Trapped Come True

    As if the nearby natural swamps and bayous weren't spooky enough, The 13th Gate Escape Room in Baton Rouge, LA, has six different escape rooms for guests to choose from, all of which have spooky or scary themes. Many of these rooms play on the fear of being trapped or held against one’s will, using classically fearful, claustrophobic settings to induce terror in participants.

    Choices here include being trapped in a dark room behind a closed door, searching for a long lost prisoner on Death Row, and trying to escape an insane asylum before enduring a frontal lobotomy, among others. For each room, you have 60 minutes to solve the puzzles and escape.

    Is this too scary?
  • 3

    North Carolina Had A Black Plague-Themed Escape Room

    North Carolina’s vaguely titled The Escape Room is a specifically themed thriller based on the legendary bubonic plague. There are two rooms: the Plague Room and the Cure Room. Both involve running from the haunting figure of the Plague Doctor as you're chased by plague zombies. 

    In this escape experience, actors try to touch participants throughout the experience, and although the game promises that actors won't hurt them, participants sign a waiver before they play, saying that they agree to the terms. However, there is a penalty for participants who touch the actor-zombies. Touch an actor playing a plague zombie or doctor and the game ends for you. Now they have new themes to their escape rooms. 

    Is this too scary?
  • 4

    An Oregon Escape Room Combines A Rural Setting With A Sci-Fi Theme

    This Oregon escape room crafts a chilling experience based around the state’s natural landscape that has a sci-fi/fantasy backstory. The setup is that a geneticist accidentally released wolf-like monsters into the rural Oregon landscape. A reclusive man known as the Caretaker lives in the woods and needs the help of escape room guests to flee the monsters before it's too late.

    What’s unique about this room is the bonus addition of the caretaker character. Rather than just fighting for your own life in the room, you’re trying to assist a helpless old man. This adds an extra element of urgency to the experience.

    Is this too scary?