Homegrown entertainment: Elizabethton Escape to open new Jurassic scenario

Published 8:22 am Friday, October 19, 2018

When Scott Bowers told the electrician what he was planning to do with his new building on East Elk Ave., the electrician froze for several seconds and gave him a look. For months, people told Bowers Elizabethton was the wrong place to put something like this here. However, Bowers’ passion and dedication to the craft could not be silenced.

Bowers, the owner of Elizabethton Escape, has been operating for almost a year and a half, and he said every second of it has been a challenge and a joy.

“My wife and I came up with the idea about two years ago,” Bowers said. He said the idea was to get people away from their phones and their technology for a while, even if it is only for an hour.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“It is just you and the room,” he said.

The Elizabethton Escape has two scenarios patrons can enter at a time, each one a two-room format that encourages patrons to search every nook and cranny in order to beat the puzzles and escape before time runs out.

Bowers’ newest scenario, “Jurassic Island Escape,” is almost finished with construction, with the development slated to finish some time next week.

“After that’s it is up to when we can get the safety inspector down here,” Bowers said.

Bowers scours numerous Facebook groups, both from enthusiasts and other Escape Room designers, for ideas on a regular basis.

“You have got to research,” Bowers said. “You need to learn from their experience and their mistakes.”

After researching and eventually deciding on a theme, Bowers said he has three main points of focus for each scenario.

“Story, setting and puzzle flow,” he said.

Bowers will spend numerous attempts writing the story and setting for each scenario, and he is constantly rewriting them when his wife or his son points out a potential improvement.

As for the puzzles, Bowers said he shops for all his supplies locally, preferring to spend his money at the thrift store or the antique shop rather than chains like Wal-mart.

“I want my money to stay in Elizabethton,” he said.

Furthering this idea, Bowers said his philosophy for the puzzles is to never rely on one fancy gadget for a scenario.

“Technology is great when it works and disastrous when it does not,” he said. “My biggest fear is having to enter the room with a key [to help the party move forward]. It ruins the immersion.”

The result of his local

focused, reserved technology approach, according to Bowers, is an Escape Games that rivals national brands of Escape Games with raw creativity and passion.

“The chains only want 30 percent of people to escape,” Bowers said. “I want everyone to escape, but it is going to be close.”

Bowers said many of his participants escape with 15 seconds left on the clock, and many of them make it out with even less time to spare.

Bowers said his passion for the craft comes form his desire to give something back to Elizabethton, a town he says does not have a lot to do anymore, pointing to several abandoned buildings in downtown.

“We had more to do here when I was younger,” Bowers said.

Bowers said people told him to do the Escape Room in Johnson City instead, or somewhere else. Now he has groups of teachers from North Carolina booking sessions with him.

As the Escape Room continues, Bowers said he hopes to renovate the back room, which currently holds a ping pong table and an old TV. He said he wants to turn it into a retro arcade right from the 80s.

“We are talking an Atari 2600, a Nintendo and a Sega Genesis,” he said.

To promote his upcoming “Jurassic Island Escape,” Bowers ordered a large raptor costume, complete with a swinging tail and a functioning jaw.

“We are going to have this walking around during Halloween for the kids to see, and even during the Christmas parade,” he said with a grin on his face.

As for how successful Bowers has been, he says not to ask him.

“You do not have to ask me,” he said. “Just ask my customers. They love places like this, the ‘Mom and Pop’ places.”