Secret of the Cursed Chapel is a live-action Halloween-themed puzzle event (like SCRAP’s stadium games but better!).
Story and Background
The plot centers around the disappearance of Dr. Carver Coleman at the Fort Mason Chapel exactly 50 years ago. Here is the official plot blurb from the website:
In 1966, renowned occultist and paranormal expert Dr. Carver Coleman disappeared with a trace while investigating the existence of an alleged curse at the Fort Mason Chapel in San Francisco, CA. This Halloween, you are invited to enter the chapel and solve the mystery once and for all. Enigmatic puzzles, mysterious inhabitants, and a theatrical experience await. Can you uncover the secret? And hopefully… avoid the curse?
Secret of the Cursed Chapel is the first game by Cursed Rooms, made as a pop-up event for San Francisco’s 2016 Come Out & Play festival.
This is not an escape room. The most similar thing that puzzle enthusiasts in the Bay Area might be familiar with is one of SCRAP’s stadium games. The format is mildly similar – you will have multiple teams of varying sizes in the same area, solving puzzles independently. The whole time, you will be moving around the chapel, solving puzzles with a combination of the papers in your folder and the clues around the room.
You will buy tickets for a certain entry time into the chapel, where you will have as much time as you want to solve puzzles before initiating the final puzzle. Teams will usually finish in around 90 minutes.
As of the time of writing, the game will only run for three more days (November 4th – 6th, 2016), so if you want to do it, get your tickets soon!
- Location: Fort Mason Chapel
- Players: 1-10 (we recommend 2-4)
- Price: $26 after discount code CURSE5 for $5 off.
- Duration: Approximately 90 minutes (but you may finish earlier or take longer, this thing is self-paced and untimed.)
- Overall Rating: ★★★★★
- Dates Open: October 27th-31st, November 4th-6th
- Booking: http://www.cursedroom.com/tickets (Use promo code CURSE5 for $5 off.)
There were quite a few things that we liked and want to point out:
- More intimate space – The owners let 16 people in every half hour. At an expected completion time of 90 minutes, there should theoretically be a max of 48 puzzlers in the Chapel at any one time. It didn’t feel crowded within the Chapel (although there was definitely congestion in the aisles).
- Atmosphere – To be clear, this is not really a “haunted” or “scary” experience. It is a bit “spooky” though if you play during the nighttime. The game masters helped really set the atmosphere with appropriate music and staff as “monks” dressed in red robes. There isn’t really much decor, but that was actually fine as the setting itself was the decor. The atmosphere is likely better at night.
- Puzzles – Secret of the Cursed Chapel was created specifically for Fort Mason Chapel, and the puzzles tightly integrate the neat features of the Chapel. This is a puzzle event that would absolutely lose its magic if reproduced elsewhere. The puzzles are in general fair, are well-clued, and don’t require any logical jumps.
- Untimed and self-paced – We really liked this aspect. We were very used to the rush of SCRAP puzzle events, which generally causes a lot of stress, frantic communication, and puzzle shortcuts. You get as much time as you need to do all of the puzzles before the final one, which let us do things at a much more relaxed and careful pace. This helped us enjoy the puzzles and the chapel more.
- Final Puzzle – Wow. We really liked this. While it was short (and timed), it was extremely memorable for us and concluded both the plot and the series of puzzles nicely. It will be accessible after you finish up all of the puzzles in the main chapel, and will determine whether or not you “escape”. Good luck!
There were some shortcomings that we wanted to point out as well:
- Congestion – The Chapel comes with rows of pews that create a bunch of narrow aisles. While the Chapel itself wasn’t crowded, the areas around the puzzles could definitely get crowded. You would occasionally have to ask people to move aside so you could walk through, or wait for people to finish looking at a puzzle before you get a chance. This problem is probably better in the daylight hours and worse in the nighttime hours (see Tips).
- Provided puzzle materials – The puzzle materials are all printed on card stock paper of the same size and color. This makes it hard sometimes to quickly pull out the sheet of paper that you need (especially the answer sheet). We would have appreciated in general more diversity in the puzzle materials given other than identically sized and colored card stock.
- Gap in the theme – The “cursed” theme and mystery that is present in the marketing materials, the introduction, and the final puzzle is notably mostly missing from the main part of the puzzle event, which mainly explores other themes with its chapel-themed puzzles.
The game experience will actually vary depending on what time of day you play.
- Play during daylight hours if you want a smoother puzzle experience. You’ll have to walk around less in the daylight hours, deal with less congestion, and save puzzle time.
- Play during nighttime hours if you want a good “spooky” atmosphere. You’ll get a flashlight and the atmosphere will be a lot more fitting to the “cursed” theme.
We played at 8:30pm on Halloween, so our experience was the spooky one. We don’t regret playing during nighttime since it was a great Halloween activity, but people doing it for the puzzles and not the atmosphere should try to grab a daytime spot.
It’s a bit unfortunate that you may have to compromise between puzzle experience and atmosphere, but the game is great either way and this gets our 5/5 rating.
Overall Recommendation ★★★★★
The atmosphere, puzzles, and chapel came together in such a cohesive way that this definitely exceeded our expectations. We enthusiastically recommend this for escape room enthusiasts in the Bay Area, and especially people who enjoy SCRAP’s large-scale puzzle events.
There aren’t really any other companies in the Bay Area making these live-action puzzle events (other than SCRAP, of course). There are plenty of puzzle hunts of course, but this style of interactive puzzle event is a rare breed across the whole United States.
There’s also a shortage of “Halloween” themed puzzle games in the Bay Area, which makes this addition welcome as well.
Cursed Rooms is hoping to make more puzzle games, and we definitely welcome more companies coming into this space.
Make a Booking
Book your tickets to the Cursed Chapel at www.cursedroom.com/tickets (Use promo code CURSE5 for $5 off) and let your hosts know that EscapeRoomTips.com sent you!
Full disclosure: Cursed Rooms comped our tickets for this event.