FEB 2024

Addressing common doubts & fears about the experience.

Wondering whether you’ll be frightened in an escape room?

You’re not alone!

Many people - from first-timers to those looking to make a family escape room booking - ask us whether escape rooms are scary, dangerous, family-friendly, and so on.

That’s why we decided to publish this blog post.

Are escape rooms scary?

Should you be frightened of escape rooms? No!

Strapped to the table in one of our escape games. And yes, it’s just a prop.

Here’s the short answer - No.

Escape rooms are NOT meant to be scary.

As we shall see, escape rooms are designed to engage and immerse you in an exciting experience.

Unlike haunted houses, the main aim of an escape room is not to frighten but to stimulate.

Some people feel nervous about certain aspects of the escape room, such as being in an unfamiliar situation and being “locked in” - all of which we’ll discuss and dispel.

We’ll even give you some tips and tricks to deal with common escape room anxieties.

Finally, while horror-themed escape room games DO exist, they’re just one of many possible themes and are as easy to avoid as horror movies on Netflix.

What happens in an escape room?

Understanding an escape room game.

Here’s the deal - You step inside a specially designed room.

You and your group must work as a team to solve puzzles, crack codes, and spot clues revealing how to proceed.

The goal is to accomplish the mission before time (usually 60 minutes) runs out.

Are you locked or trapped inside an escape room?


You’re never truly locked or trapped inside an escape room.

We aren’t like Squid Game lol.

In most cases, the main door of the game space is left open, and you can simply walk out if you need to.

In some games, the main entrance/exit may be locked for immersion, but there will always be a panic button or a way to ask for help.

For example, our prison escape room places players in a locked prison cell, but there is a prominently placed panic button that you can press to be released instantly.

You might have to forfeit the game, but you’re never truly trapped or locked without any means of escape.

Can you ask for help during an escape game?

Remember, there will always be a game master monitoring you - it’s one of the many roles played by escape room game masters.

And you can just ask them for any help you need.

You can even ask for hints if you can’t crack a puzzle!

Escape rooms vs. Haunted houses

Explaining why escape rooms are not like haunted houses.

Haunted houses have been around longer than escape rooms. They are a more established entertainment option, and are somewhat similar to escape rooms.

Probably that’s why some people think escape rooms are the same as haunted houses.

Let’s unpack why that isn’t true. 

Haunted houses 101 - A recap

A haunted house is an immersive attraction that aims to spook and scare participants with its spooky atmosphere, chilling sound effects, jump scares, and creepy characters.

The scare factor is the main USP of a haunted house.

How escape rooms are different from haunted houses

An escape room challenges you to achieve a certain objective by overcoming obstacles and challenges (solving puzzles, finding clues, racing against time, and so on).

Many more of your senses and skills - observation, quick thinking, creative reasoning, teamwork - come into play.

The experience engages you a whole lot more than a haunted house does.

Plus - as we mentioned earlier, most escape rooms have non-horror themes. 

Other common sources of fear and anxiety in escape rooms


Having gone through what happens in escape rooms and how escape rooms differ from haunted houses, let’s now take up some other common sources of fear and anxiety in escape rooms.

Such as the “ticking clock” scenario, facing an unfamiliar situation, physical safety and the fear of failure.

The “ticking clock” scenario

Some folks feel a bit nervous about facing the “ticking clock” scenario - i.e., you have to accomplish your mission before time runs out.

However, once you set foot inside, you’ll realize that the experience is pleasantly challenging rather than scary or terrifying.

Physical safety

Escape rooms are designed and built to offer a fun and safe experience, and they have a pretty good track record.

You might have read about an accident that happened in a Polish escape room - but that was way back in 2019, and safety regulations have been beefed up since.

Claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces)


Generally speaking, escape rooms are large and spacious and shouldn’t seem like confined spaces.

And if you feel uneasy, you can immediately press the panic button and/or ask the game master for help.

And this has never been an issue at our Chicago escape room.

That being said, if you have been diagnosed with claustrophobia, consult with your doctor if you should take part in an escape room or not.

Cleithrophobia (fear of being trapped)

You’re never truly trapped in an escape room. Either the door remains open, or there will be a mechanism  (like a panic button) for you to open it immediately.

And you can always ask the game master for help.

However, if you have been diagnosed with cleithrophobia, consult with your doctor if you should take part in an escape room or not.

Fear of failure

As we saw before, escape rooms test your abilities like observation, thinking on your feet, and so on.

The fear of failing - of not proving up to the task - in front of your teammates may be intimidating.

Just remember that this isn’t a test; it’s a fun experience and that you’re with your closest friends who’ll encourage you to overcome your anxieties and push your limits.

Tips and tricks to deal with fear and anxiety in escape room games


Here are a few ways to overcome stress and calm your nerves. These will be especially helpful for first-time players:

  • Deep breathing: Taking deep breaths relieves anxiety. You can even try five finger breathing (outstretch your fingers and inhale and exhale while tracing each finger).

  • Tell the game master beforehand: Before your game begins, tell the game master that you’re nervous, and they’ll keep an extra eye on you.

  • Confide in your teammates: Have at least one person you’re close with in your group, and confide in them (escape rooms are great for family bonding).

  • Practice puzzle-solving: Escape rooms aren’t meant to be an exam, but if it helps you gain confidence, practice basic puzzle-solving before your game day.

  • Just play: As we mentioned earlier, most fears melt away once you start playing.

What about horror-themed escape rooms?

Yes, horror-themed escape rooms do exist.

They’ll include scare-inducing elements, including terror themes like a zombie apocalypse, creepy atmospherics, and unsettling props and puzzles.

However, they’re still distinct from haunted houses as solving puzzles and accomplishing the mission remains the objective rather than just walking or getting through the game.

Finally, scary escape games will clearly be described as such on the escape room website. You can easily avoid booking them.

Do we have any frightening escape rooms here at Fox in a Box Chicago?


Our rooms aim to build up dramatic tension through surprising sound effects and ominous music - however, that’s more thrilling than frightening.

Barring particularly sensitive players (like nine-year-old children), players don’t report feeling scared for most of our adventures.

Our serial killer-themed game Zodiac does include fake blood, periods of darkness and the group getting separated, but that’s clearly marked as “sensitive” and is only playable by people aged 18 and above.

Questions people often ask about being scared in escape rooms

From the basics, like should one be scared of escape rooms, to more specific queries, like whether escape rooms have jump scares - here are the FAQs from people worried about escape rooms being scary. 

Should you be scared of an escape room?

Absolutely not!

Escape rooms are a secure experience and have a pretty good safety record.

The experience itself is designed to be thrilling and exciting but not frightening.

You’re never truly locked or trapped inside the room and can ask for help from the game master any time you need.

Finally, you can easily avoid booking horror-themed escape games if you prefer non-scary adventures.

Are escape rooms dangerous?


Escape rooms are completely safe to play!

They’re built following local safety regulations and are designed to deliver a secure experience. 

Do escape rooms have jump scares?

Barring horror-themed games, escape rooms should not have jump scares.

And some horror-themed games try to avoid jump scares, going for a slow-burn atmospheric experience instead.

Are escape rooms good for people with anxiety?

Puzzle-solving in an escape room can benefit brain health. And trying out escape rooms may actually help overcome anxiety.

That being said, if you’re unsure, contact the escape room before booking.

Are you actually locked in an escape room?

No, you’re NEVER actually locked or trapped inside an escape room.

  • In most games, the main door or exit of the room will be left open, and you can just walk out if you want to.

  • In some cases, the exit may be locked (for example, to simulate a prison environment), but there is bound to be a way (like a panic button) to let yourself out easily.

If it’s your first time, make sure you ask the game master beforehand whether the door will be locked - and if it is, how to open it for an emergency.

How can you ask for help in an escape room?

Just tell the game master what you need!

Some escape rooms hand players walkie-talkies to communicate with the game master. Others may do it via props, for example through a television set in a hotel room-themed game.

Do things jump out at you in escape rooms?

In most escape rooms there’s no need to fear things jumping out at you.

Some horror escape rooms may feature such jump scares, but you can easily avoid booking them.

Are escape rooms like haunted houses?


Both escape rooms and haunted houses offer immersive and interactive experiences, but that’s where the similarity ends.

An escape room engages you at a deeper level, testing various skills like teamwork, observation, time management, and so on.

Whereas a haunted house’s USP is the scare quotient.

What happens if you don't finish an escape room?

The game ends.

The game master meets up with you and walks you through the rest of the adventure. You can also discuss where you went wrong - did you miss any clues, should you improve your team collaboration, and so on.

Here at Fox in a Box, game masters also give players hand-drawn postcards of the team.

Which is the scariest escape room in the world?

There’s no official ranking of escape rooms by scare quotient, but The Basement LA, the Amsterdam Catacombs, and The Asylum in New Orleans, LA, are widely regarded as some of the spookiest escape adventures out there.

They all draw on iconic horror themes while challenging you to keep your wits and accomplish the game before time runs out.

Is the movie “Escape Room” scary?

Just like our own escape games in Chicago, we’d say that the movie Escape Room and its sequel, Tournament of Champions, are more thrilling than scary.

As the action unfolds, you’ll find yourself raring for the heroes to spot the clues and win before the clock hits 0…and you may also find yourself engaging with the movie, trying to figure out the mastermind.

Are escape rooms family-friendly? Can young kids - say 10-11-year-old children - play escape rooms?

Many escape rooms are family-friendly and even child and teen-friendly.

In fact, we ourselves have hosted multiple family teams ranging from get-togethers to birthday parties.

Summing up - Why you shouldn’t be worried that escape rooms are scary