Islanders Race Against the Clock in Riddlesome Trial to Escape Bell Library

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – You’re trapped in a jail cell in a pitch-black room with only a lantern as a light source. Nearby, a seemingly innocent bookshelf hides clues. You find another flashlight, but the batteries are missing. You feel the pressure of the ticking clock.

This was the first puzzle of many faced by adventurous Islanders as they traversed the trials and tribulations of the Mary and Jeff Bell Library’s escape room. Set up in celebration of International Games Week, the escape room challenged the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi community – students, faculty, and staff – to team up and test their minds in a competition to see who can most quickly navigate the puzzle-filled room. 

“There’s been a lot of smack talk on social media,” commented Patricia Hernandez, student success librarian at the Bell Library. “It’s been exciting to see the response we’ve gotten from the campus.”

The winning team, titled “Awesome Bay Hall Faculty,” received the ultimate prize: a trophy, catered food, and, most importantly, bragging rights. The team finished in just over 30 minutes and comprised of Dr. Amy Houlihan, associate professor of psychology; Dr. Daniel Maitland, assistant professor of psychology, Dr. Collin Scarince; adjunct instructor in the Department of Psychology and Sociology; Dr. David Smith, assistant professor of political science; Dr. Yuliana Zaikman, assistant professor of psychology; and Dr. Anthony Zoccolillo, professional assistant professor of psychology. They credit their victory to complimentary personalities along with leadership from Zaikman and Scarince.

“My husband, Dr. Scarince, and I have participated in escape rooms across the country and internationally,” said Zaikman. “There’s a certain technique level that you acquire, and you start to see more patterns in the puzzles, so that was helpful in this escape room as well.”

One of the many puzzles involved correlating pictures on a wall to the verses of a nursery rhyme. Another puzzle tasked participants with analyzing images of gummy bears to reveal a secret code. A third called for the use of order of operations to complete complex math problems.

When each riddle or challenge was solved, teams received a puzzle piece. As the last piece was collected, the final mystery was revealed, which was used to successfully escape the small room.

“In a sneaky way, escape rooms are very much a team-building exercise. The puzzles require communication with your teammates and forces everyone to work together,” said Hernandez. “It’s subtle, which is what makes it fun.”

With the huge popularity they’ve seen from this year’s escape room, Bell Library faculty and staff already have plans to host another.