Kayleigh O’Donnell, 10, tries to unlock a secret compartment while searching for keys and clues at Keycodes Escape Rooms in Turner. (Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover)

TURNER — You wake up in the captain’s quarters of the ghost ship the Mermaid’s Curse, shackled to the wall, surrounded by skeletons and you have an hour to make your way out.

Jeff and Kristie Cooper opened Keycodes Escape Rooms in Turner. Their first room has a pirate theme. (Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slov

A TV screen in the corner ticks down the seconds and 25 feet away in another room, Jeff Cooper is watching via four split screens, ready to toss a clue.

He wants Keycodes Escape Rooms to be hard but not too hard.

Since opening in November, 75 groups have entered. Only 33 have opened the double-locked door.

“Probably five made it out without any clues,” said Cooper, who opened Keycodes with his wife, Kristie.

The fastest time — 38 minutes, 35 seconds — belongs to a family in the Rumford area with 50 escape rooms under their belts.


“The teenager told us this was in his top three of exciting rooms,” Cooper said, “so we were very excited about that.”

Cadence O’Donnell, 11, tries a combination to unlock a treasure chest at Keycodes Escape Rooms in Turner. (Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slov

The Livermore couple have five children, ages 11 to 20, and credit them with inspiring the new business. The children love checking out escape rooms popping up all over Maine, but it’s always a drive and expensive.

“We understand what it’s like for a family to go out,” said Kristie Cooper. “When we went, it was $175 for an hour — it’s a lot of money.”

She loves to decorate. They were looking for a business to run together. An idea was born.

“I’m a big theme person,” Kristie said. “I dream big, I love building (parade) floats, I’ve been doing it for a long time. To me, to see the smiles on people’s faces, that makes me feel good. He’s like, ‘You dream it, I’ll build it.'”

Now, that has him constructing a three-part alien contamination scene, the next room they plan to open in April. Kristie is at work on the puzzles.


“She wants more electronic stuff,” Jeff said. “She wanted the doors to open and smoke roll out, and I’m like, ‘You married the wrong guy! I’m good, but I’m not that good, darling.'”

Cadence O’Donnell, 11, tries a key to unlock a door to get out of the escape room at Keycodes Escape Rooms in Turner. The key worked for one lock, but not the other. (Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slov

They have turned one end of a large log cabin at 1748 Auburn Road on Route 4 convincingly into the Mermaid’s Curse with exposed beams, chains and ropes hanging from the ceiling. Lanterns, skeletons and chests dot the room.

Is designed for ages 12 and older, though they can try to accommodate younger, and for parties of two to eight.

Some people, Kristie said, have been a little leery of starting off in the semi dark, shackled to the wall, but it is really theater in good fun: The shackles are attached to the wall by carabiners and an entry door between Jeff and the scalawags is never locked, just shut behind them.

After freeing their party from the wall by finding a series of keys, “basically you go on a big scavenger hunt trying to find the different clues to get you to the next puzzle,” Jeff said. “Each puzzle leads you to the next puzzle, which gives you stuff to get you out of the room.”

He will listen and watch as people try to work it out and watch the aha moment as he types something helpful on the screen ticking down the time.


“We had a group of teenagers in here where we gave them a clue about doing something they had to spin and they all spun in a circle in the room versus spinning the object,” he said. “We have a telescope in there, people are always looking through the telescope trying to find clues.”

Kayleigh O’Donnell, 10, writes in chalk “we escaped fast enough” after she, her sister and mother successfully made their way out of the escape room at Keycodes Escape Rooms in Turner. (Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover) (Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slov

Instead of being shackled, participants in the new alien room will start in seven locked sleep chambers, silver, shiny and almost chest-high. They are scientists who have just discovered there has been a contamination breach, aliens are loose on the ship and they have an hour to flee.

“It’s exciting when something comes together,” Kristie said. “I want the ‘wow,’ I want somebody to walk into the room, ‘Oh my god, it’s so awesome.'”

They are hoping this summer to add mini golf next door.

Keycodes Escape Rooms is open Monday and Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday from 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 1 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 8 p.m. The cost is $20 a person. Reservations are recommended.

[email protected]

Ashley Brewer, right, and her daughters Cadence, left, and Kayleigh work to solve clues in the escape room at Keycodes Escape Rooms in Turner. (Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover)


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: