Anthony ‘Tone’ Purzycki plans to create an immersive, puzzle-driven entertainment facility in the former Dunlap Locksmith building, at right above. Below, the front door. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Where might you base a live entertainment called Trap Door Escape Room, in which participants are locked in a series of rooms and have to solve mind-bending puzzles to escape within a set time?
How about a building that already has a giant keyhole cut into the front door?
Fortunately for Anthony ‘Tone’ Purzycki and a partner, one happened to be available in Red Bank.
A sample of an “immersive experience,” complete with actors and paying participants, created in a Chester Township hotel by Purzycki’s company, Mikrotone Entertainment.
The 32-year-old Morris County man – a mall merchant selling wristwatches by day, producer of elaborate, spooky, “immersive” entertainments by night – last week leased the former Dunlap Locksmith building at 60 White Street, with plans to open Trap Door in October.
Dunlap went out of business in December after 86 years of operation under various names. The building, with parking out front, was sold to an arm of Philip J. Bowers & Company, which has extensive holdings on that block, for $380,000 in January.
Part haunted house, part Agatha Christie mystery with digital technology and live actors, Trap Door is part of a new live-gaming phenomenon in which Purzycki and partner Frank Giglia have some experience. They produced a real-time game called “Find Me,” in which a man woke up on a boat in the middle of an unfamiliar body of water; to make his way back to shore, he had to solve a series of puzzles, aided by an audience watching this unfold on their computer screens, thanks to numerous cameras set up on and around the vessel and livestreamed.
“It was like like watching a horror film, but being able to say, ‘don’t go in there’ to the actor,” said Purzycki. “And he’s able to look into the camera and say, ‘why not?'”
In another, staged repeatedly over several weeks in the newly-renovated but then-not-yet-open Publick House Hotel in Chester Township, participants paid $150 a pop to help a “newlywed couple” played by actors solve a mystery: why was the ghost of a dead girl haunting the place?
In Red Bank, the experiences will use live actors more sparingly, and the game themes will change every six months, Purzycki said. But as in the prior stagings, those at Trap Door will be “story-centric, so you’re uncovering elements of the story as you progress through the house.”
First up: “Escape the Architect,” in which participants are kidnap victims of a dastardly engineer whose voice taunts them as they progress from room to room. After that comes “Cure Z,” in which players are locked in the lab of a scientist working on a cure for “zombie disease” to end a siege of zombies just beyond the walls – though one of the insiders “may have turned,” Purzycki said.
Purzycki’s and Giglia’s company, Mikrotone Enterprises, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $3,500 to get things going with “more elaborate puzzles” than it might otherwise set up, he said.
Trap Door will admit eight people per 75-minute “experience,” charging each $45, Purzycki said. Specials for singles’ nights, ladies’ nights, corporate team-building exercises and other groups are planned.
Why set up Trap Door in Red Bank? Purzycki said he and his wife, Jessica, are regular visitors to the town for its festivals and nightlife, and believe there’s a good fit. It was either Red Bank or Morristown, he said, and while his business skews toward a younger set, “Morristown has become more college-frattish” of late, whereas “we felt Red Bank was a little more grown up. We’re confident the clientele will be more respectful and won’t trash the place.”
At no time will there be any real danger of them being locked inside during an actual emergency, he said, and Trap Door employees will monitor the action via live video.
Another perk: the building is free-standing, “so people can scream without the neighbors complaining,” he said.