Union Gap escape rooms open in time for Halloween

UNION GAP, Wash. — Escape the Maddness Escape Rooms in Union Gap is inviting people to come spend their Halloween trying to find buried treasure on a pirate ship, identify a pharaoh unearthed from a pyramid tomb or escape a cabin in the woods before the serial killer who lives there returns.

“You go in with your closest friends and family and you have 60 minutes to figure out the end results,” owner Barb Petrea said. “There’s a variety of locks that are inside the room that you have to figure out how to open through observation and communication.”

After seven months of being closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the escape rooms were able to open Friday, as Yakima County moved into Phase 2 of the governor’s Safe Start plan.

“March 16th: That was the last time that we saw human beings in here,” Petrea said. “[I’m] learning how to talk to people again. There’s, like, real people I get to converse with, which is absolutely wonderful.”

Petrea said the closure has been financially difficult; she was relying on her personal funds to sustain the business and held a yard sale earlier this month to help pay property taxes and other business expenses.

In addition to the financial strain, she said not having the business open has been disheartening.

“I mean, we’re a service industry; we love to be of service to people,” Petrea said. “And not to have had that interaction and time with people has been lonely.”

While Petrea said the business was sanitizing rooms after each use prior to the pandemic, that practice now includes a combination of disinfectant wipes and aerosol sanitizing spray to help prevent COVID-19 transmission.

“We are blessed to be back at work,” Petrea said. “We are so happy.”

Participants are required to wear a face mask into the building, which is provided to them if they don’t come wearing one. However, Petrea said participants are allowed to take their masks off once inside the escape room.

“For us, it was really just dusting away the cobwebs from being closed for so long and then just making sure that we offered protective gear for people if they came in and didn’t have it,” Petrea said.

While the rooms can each fit up to eight people, only groups of four to six are being allowed at this time. However, Petrea said the people within the groups can be from different households under Phase 2 guidelines.

Escape the Maddness features three different escape rooms: Pirates Cove Plunder, Pharaoh’s Tomb and Slaycation. Sessions start at 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and at 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

Tickets are $20 per person for a 1-hour escape room session. Participants must pick their own group of four to six people, register online together at least 12 hours in advance. As of Wednesday evening, there were empty slots left for all three rooms on Halloween.