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Escape Macaulay proves popular in first year

People who escaped, or attempted to escape a new attraction at Macaulay Heritage Park in Picton helped the museum draw record revenue and bolstered visitor numbers in its first year.

“We had hoped to break even in the first year, but Escape Macaulay House exceeded all expectations,” said Jessica Chase, assistant curator. “This new way of experiencing County history clearly resonated with visitors,” she said, noting it also attracted a younger demographic.

The escape room generated $14,650 in ticket revenue, including $11,125 in $25 individual tickets and $3,525 in $75 family tickets (covering two adults and up to four children). After covering costs related to marketing and wages, the attraction generated approximately $11,000 in profit for the County museums.

In late 2018, the municipality’s Community and Economic Development Commission (CEDC) made an initial investment of $5,000 to help establish the Escape Room in support of the CEDC’s priority to maintain the County’s historical character, and to facilitate adaptive reuse of heritage assets.

“The museums deserve congratulations for thinking ‘outside the box’ when it comes to finding new ways to attract audiences and share the County’s history,” said CEDC Chair Rick Conroy.

Visitors to the Escape Room are challenged to solve clues leading them to a treasure. A costumed character/guide helps explain that servants working for Rev. William Macaulay have not been paid, and the treasure may help make up their back wages.

The game is based on a true story, supported by letters and other documents showing that, for a period of about two years, Macaulay’s staff went unpaid.

Over the course of nine months, more than 600 people visited the attraction. A majority of ticket holders hailed from across the region, with 57 per cent coming from Prince Edward County, Bay of Quinte or Kingston. Another 22 per cent came from the Greater Toronto Area.

Museum staff suggested the escape room experience, based on information shared at an Ontario Museum Association meeting in Kingston. There, representatives of the Murney Tower National Historic Site shared their positive experience of establishing an escape room.

Escape Rooms have also been successfully incorporated at other historic sites, including Kingston’s Military Communications and Electronics Museum, Windsor’s Fort Malden National Historic Site, Woodstock Museum National Historic Site, and Toronto’s Casa Loma.

Escape Macaulay House is closed for the season and is expected to reopen in spring 2020 with some tweaks to the game.

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