Y’ALL. We did a Harry Potter escape room at my library and it was SO.MUCH.FUN! It all started this summer when I did an escape room with my husband and (then) 9 year old daughter. We had a great time and I decided that I had to find a way to bring it to my library. Understandably, there isn’t a ton of specific information about escape rooms online, which meant that I had the daunting (but ultimately really fun) task of just making it up as I went along. (I must say that in my planning stages, I found this post by libraryladynicole to be extremely helpful.) This post will be pretty rambly, but because there isn’t much information about library escape rooms out there, I want to be as specific as possible.
While my own escape room experience was a useful reference point, I knew I’d have to make some significant changes to the format to adapt it for my library. First, I used a 20 minute time limit for each group (plus 5 minutes at the beginning to show a brief orientation video and 5 minutes after for resetting the room) instead of 1 hour. I also wanted to make our event family-friendly, so we required that each group must have at least one adult but could include kids ages 6 and up. Finally, instead of “escaping” or “not escaping”, I decided to do a horcrux hunt, sort of like this birthday party featured on Sophie’s World. The backstory was that Harry, Ron, and Hermione found out that Voldemort hid bits of his soul in six objects (horcruxes) and they must be destroyed so that he can be defeated. They found them and hid them in the room of hidden things, where our players were supposed to find them and put them in a trunk to be destroyed. Each horcrux was worth a certain number of points, and the house with the most points would win the (totally imaginary) house cup. As it turned out, all of the groups got all the way through the game (I’m not very good at keeping quiet, apparently HAHAHA).
The wall behind where I sat with the laptop had pictures of each of the horcruxes, along with the point values assigned to them. Having participants put the horcruxes in the trunk as they found them made it easy to put them back during the brief reset time we had between sessions.
We set up the escape room in our small meeting room, which is equipped with a projector, drop-down screen, and podium. We hooked up the library’s laptop and played the rules/story video from there. I was able to do the whole thing (voiceover, timer, and all!) in Powerpoint, which made things a LOT easier. We turned out the overhead lights and used 5 lamps around the room, making sure that all areas containing a puzzle were sufficiently lit. We also hung floating candles like this from the ceiling–they looked SO good! (They were on a remote control, so we were able to turn them on and off).
The “owl post” (pictured above) contained clues for finding each of the horcruxes. The room was divided into stations, each of which had a locked horcrux.
The potions station held the locket. I didn’t take a picture of it, but the whole thing was set up on top of a cabinet, which was locked with this lock. The clue read
Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble. The ingredient you seek is lockedt within; follow the recipe to win.
The recipe had certain ingredients marked, and those ingredients were on the counter near the cauldron with numbers on the bottom of the jar. Those numbers were to be entered into the lock in the order that they appeared on the recipe. I used a ball jar with water, brown paint, and plastic bugs for the pond water. I squeezed out the inside of a cold pack into a baby food jar for bug slime. Glitter in a baby food jar was pixie dust, and plastic spiders in a baby food jar for the spiders. The locket was made using two large rhinestones and materials from a necklace making program we had a year or so ago. We have an amazing artist on staff who added the details on it, as well as the ring and cup.
The quidditch station held the ring, which was protected by a small lock box. The clue read
Quidditch is hard when the players are looking Gaunt. Give me a ring if you can find tickets.
I found images for quidditch tickets online, and I colored in the letter H on one and N on the other. The awesome old rotary telephone was meant to be a distraction–and boy, was it ever! The box and key were hidden in different drawers of the card catalog, labeled G-I and L-N. I made the ring by gluing a black rhinestone onto a ring base and painting it with gold metallic paint. The quidditch game was on loan from a staff member. Our staff is amazing. I know.
In the center of the room on two columns we had a stuffed owl with four copies of the owl post and a cage containing another stuffed owl wearing the diadem. It’s hard to see in the picture, but there is also a clock next to the cage. The clue read
Whoo is fit to wear the crown? It’s time to find out.
The cage was “locked” with a bicycle lock, which was originally meant to lock the potions cabinet above. It didn’t really lock the cage, but I was in there the whole time so I just told people that yes, they had to solve the lock before opening the cage. To make the diadem, I used a tiara we already had and put aluminum foil on it. Then I made a color copy of the diadem and glued it onto the form and glued a rhinestone in the center. The other two rhinestones are glued onto a bit of wire, which is attached to the crown.
The 9 3/4 station held the cup inside a suitcase with a 9 3/4 tag on it. The clue read
Pack your bags and you’re Hogwarts-bound. Mind your suitcase; the trip is between 9 and 10 hours.
Here, we just covered the door with brick background that we got from Oriental Trading awhile ago and made a little 9 3/4 sign. I set up the chairs train-style and put the suitcases beside and underneath them. On the chairs I put magazines and newspapers with Quibbler and Daily Prophet covers on them. To make the cup, I got a clear plastic wine glass from Dollar General and glued paper handles on it, then painted over the whole thing with gold metallic paint. The detail work was done by the aforementioned awesome artist we have on staff.
The desk area had the diary, which was inside a dictionary diversion safe. The key was hidden in the hood of the robe hanging on the chair. Across the room was a dictionary with the word “robe” circled and a magnifying glass over it. The clue read:
To “write right”, T. Riddle must consult this. P.S. Light will be ssshed on the final one.
Once the dictionary was unlocked, they found the diary and a UV light pen.
The last horcrux was hidden behind the locked closet door, which had a realtor-type lockbox on it. To get the combination for the lockbox, though, they had to solve the lock on the diary, which was found in a letter found on the desk. Once the diary was opened, they used the UV light pen to find the combination to the lockbox and found Nagini!
Logistics: we originally planned for one day where we would play the first two Harry Potter movies (they are covered by our movie license) back to back while the escape room ran in thirty minute increments. Registration filled up so quickly that we added an identical session on Sunday, which also filled up with a waiting list. We ended up with a total of about 200 people in all. It was great! We served popcorn and butterbeer punch (vanilla ice cream, cream soda, whipped topping, and butterscotch syrup) and people wore their best HP garb. We also printed out templates for house ties that they colored in and a pen-and-paper sorting hat quiz.
Long story short (too late!) this program was a lot of work but so, so, so much fun! My wheels are already turning about what our next escape room could be…