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Suffolk Escape Room challenge had us hunting aliens in Saxmundham

We made it out of the Suffolk Escape Room... just. Picture: JENNI ARMSTRONG

We made it out of the Suffolk Escape Room... just. Picture: JENNI ARMSTRONG

Jenni Armstrong

Is Suffolk at the heart of an alien conspiracy? We infiltrated a secret Saxmundham military base to find out.

The Suffolk Escape Room in Saxmundham Picture: JENNI ARMSTRONGThe Suffolk Escape Room in Saxmundham Picture: JENNI ARMSTRONG

We’ve less than five minutes to find proof of an alien cover-up at Suffolk’s very own Area 51 before the security system reboots - and panic’s set in.

There’d been whispers of strange lights hovering silently over the wheat fields, like those seen in nearby Rendlesham in the 1980s. Late night travellers told tales of armed soldiers standing post at a supposedly abandoned farm building just off Saxmundham’s Leiston Road.

There was an uneasiness growing in the hushed corners of pubs as locals swapped sightings of more military convoys and eery experiments at Sizewell. The truth was out there, although as I and my team of UFO hunters pulled up outside the war-time Nissen hut earlier that night, nothing looked out of place.

We were wrong.

The Suffolk Escape Room in Saxmundham Picture: JENNI ARMSTRONGThe Suffolk Escape Room in Saxmundham Picture: JENNI ARMSTRONG

With just an hour before we would be discovered, the four of us started slowly searching for clues. And I mean slowly, it seemed ages before we broke the easy log-in access to the base commander’s computer.

“Don’t overthink it” said our woman on the inside over the walkie talkie, sensing the mounting tension as things were picked up, shaken, peered into, put down, picked back up. Every line of every newspaper cutting and official notice on the walls - except the one we should’ve spotted - pored over again and again.

We’d heard tales of others who’d tried and failed to find out what had been happening here. Rumour has it a woman, her children, friends and some campers from the nearby Happy Days Retro Vacations site at Wardspring Farm had made it out in 51 minutes. One man, caught after one hour and 20 minutes had never been heard from again.

Piece by piece, a startling picture formed. Suddenly, with more help from our unseen guide, the full scale of the challenge hit us and we didn’t know if we’d make it out the other side.

The Suffolk Escape Room in Saxmundham Picture: JENNI ARMSTRONGThe Suffolk Escape Room in Saxmundham Picture: JENNI ARMSTRONG

The adrenaline rose as the clock ticked down, every task taking on more urgency. With two minutes and three seconds left, we steadied our nerves, put our heads together, found what we were looking for and disappeared into the night.

If you want to know exactly what happened you’ll have to call Jenni (our phone a friend) and Kevin Armstrong, who launched Suffolk Escape Room last October.

Looking for something to tide the campsite over during the winter months, inspiration struck while trying the puzzle room at Suffolk Food Hall.

The Area 51 theme was their son’s idea. The American style trailer park cum retro campsite’s collection of airstreams, its closeness to Rendlesham - it just fit. The couple then called Steve Blake, the brain behind escape rooms like those at Suffolk Food Hall and Cromwell’s House in Ely to design the challenges. They then renovated and dressed the hut.

The Suffolk Escape Room in Saxmundham Picture: JENNI ARMSTRONGThe Suffolk Escape Room in Saxmundham Picture: JENNI ARMSTRONG

“We weren’t expecting it to be busy over the summer, we set it up thinking it’s an indoor activity that’ll be busier over the winter but we’ve been surprised,” said Jenni.

Escape rooms are all the rage right now. My wife’s friend tried one where participants were actually locked in cages and many go down the horror route. Thankfully this was a gentler, though no less challenging, introduction.

Honestly? The four of us were pretty pleased with ourselves, especially when Kevin told me most people crack it in the last five minutes or not at all. The quickest escape was 20 minutes and 41 seconds - but they were puzzle room pros. How about you?

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