Up to 15 people at a time can navigate the puzzles at Ralph Ahn’s new business, choosing one of three different paths in the 4,000-square-foot facility.
Puzzle rooms or escape rooms are — usually — small rooms filled with a sequence of logic, word or number puzzles which a group needs to solve in order to escape the locked room. The average size of one, according to Ahn, is about 400-square-feet. His is 10 times that size.
Ahn said the variety of courses could ensure repeat customers for Serial Mysteries.
“Most of the time you’ll do a puzzle room and they will tell you that you can’t do it again,” he said. “I’m hoping to creates new paths and puzzles every two months.”
Serial Mysteries — located at 1225 120th Ave. NE, adjacent to the under-construction Spring District — charges $25 per person for 75 minutes trying to solve a path of the puzzles. It’s Bellevue’s first such escape room, and utilizes physical challenges that tie into the logic puzzles.
Ahn hopes to get a core group of “serialists” to come together and interact socially with the company.
“Everyone knows about the ‘Seattle Freeze’ and it’s been a real thing for me,” he said. “I would love to get a community of people with similar interests. There’s no easier way to really get to know people than to solve puzzles with them.”
Ahn, a founding partner of Azimuth Advisors in Bellevue, started Serial Mysteries to help people connect.
The company opened just over a month ago, but Ahn admits the construction — which has shut down 120th Avenue Northeast — has made the locations somewhat difficult to get to.
“We’re tucked back in the corner here, like a hidden gem,” he said. “But people are finding us and telling their friends.”
Serial Mysteries is relying on word-of-mouth to review the company on Yelp or Google, and has been using the corporate team-building market to get off the ground. Ahn said watching people figure out puzzles reveals much about a team dynamic.
“Our employees tag along with the groups and you can ask them yes or no questions,” Ahn said. “In doing this, they see some of the stereotypes we have begun to identify. There’s usually a “disruptor,” as we call them. They’re the loudest and the wrongest. And almost always there is a quiet person, usually a woman, who the group doesn’t listen to until our staff tells them to try her idea.”
Unlike other escape rooms, Serial Mysteries doesn’t pride itself on making customers lose, Ahn said. He designed all the puzzles himself, and he said he wants people to feel smart solving them.
As such, most of the puzzles can be solved by going slow, reading the directions and thinking logically. No silly technicalities or minutiae to artificially hang people up for 30 minutes, he said.
Ahn and his four employees are so dedicated to making “serialists” a community, they have started a Youtube channel giving out weekly puzzles and has planned social nights. He’s even considering doing a singles night.
He is also planning an advanced path for when the basic three paths are too easy for some serialists.
The last thing a group will do, after choosing a path, following it and making their way through the puzzles will come to a large Rubik’s Cube-type puzzle in which players will assemble Tetris block-shaped pieces into a large cube. It takes teamwork to lift and maneuver the blocks, but when they all fit together, it makes it all worth it, Ahn said.
“I designed the puzzles to be fun,” he said. “I needed an outlet from my real job and this is that outlet.”