By Kaylee Lindenmuth
SHEPPTON - Each Friday and Saturday since mid-March, groups of roughly five have tried their hand at a relatively new type of recreational attraction, the first of its kind in our area -- an escape room.
"Basically, it's an interactive puzzle," said Village Quest owner Bernie Carter Jr. "Each owner designs the room to what they want."
From a desk in the kitchen of an ex-general store at 921 Center Street, Carter and employees observe each game through three monitors and four cameras. From there, Carter can provide hints when he sees a group is having difficulty, or members are becoming bored.
Though termed as an escape room, the puzzle, which follows a "Cold War Espionage" theme, involves three rooms.
"The whole idea is, it's set up like a post office, they're intercepting a document that's scheduled to be delivered tomorrow," said Carter. The activity takes them through three rooms of the post office, searching for various keys and other items before finally receiving the key to the exit.
Each group, which can range from a single individual to six people, has one hour to complete every task and exit to win, and there are two levels -- easy and intermediate. A third, expert, level is planned, Carter said.
Carter, who lives in Catawissa, Columbia County and grew up in Sheppton, brought Village Quest to his hometown to fill a void, he said.
"There's no activities here for people, that was the big thing," said Carter. "We've owned this building for years, it's been vacant for the last four, and I was trying to find something to put in it, and I'm like, 'Let's try to do a community activity,' and I'm hoping this is the start of it." He hopes to be able to expand to a second room, plus other activities, to fill out the building.
Carter's project is the first of its kind in northern Schuylkill County, and one of a handful in east-central Pennsylvania, the nearest others being in Pine Grove, Bloomsburg, Lehighton, and Kutztown.
Since the mid-March opening, Carter said the attraction has been visited by about one group per weekend. It is open Friday and and Saturday afternoons. During his interview with the Sentinel, a group of five -- two adults and three children -- attempted the easy level. The self-titled "Crystal Bella Snowflakes" completed the level with four seconds to spare.
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