I had the opportunity to go to the Diefenbunker escape room recently. It’s a really interesting museum, and the escape room portion of it was quite a bit different from the usual escape rooms that I’ve been to in the past. Unsurprisingly, it’s the worlds largest escape room!
Diefenbunker Escape Room
What: An escape room at the Diefenbunker musem – a retired cold war bunker
More Info: diefenbunker.ca
A Cold War Bunker
The Diefenbunker is an interesting piece of Canadian history. Commissioned in 1959, and completed in 1962, this was Canada’s largest bunker, created during the height of the cold war. It was designed to withstand a 5 megaton nuclear bomb from 1.8km away, and to house 535 key members of the parliament and military for at least 30 days.
The bunker was actually active and fully staffed from 1962 all the way until 1994, when it was given historical status, and then eventually turned into a museum by the town of Carp in 1998.
Built with over 32,000 cubic yards of concrete, and 5,000 tons of steel, the Diefenbunker contains 100,000 square feet of space spread over 4 levels, going 75 feet underground.
This place is like no other museum I’ve been to recently because, well, it’s a bunker first, and a museum second! The small, quiet entrance, the long concrete blast tunnel, and the blast doors that are as thick as my arm is long, all give it a very distinct atmosphere.
Inside, I’m guessing there wasn’t much flexibility with regards to re-arranging walls, and electrical conduits – the layout of the bunker hasn’t changed since being turned into a museum. The small rooms are each carefully stocked with artifacts from the cold war – kitchen appliances, radiation detecting devices, and communications equipment were some of the highlights for me.
I only had a brief opportunity to check out the museum while the previous escape room group was finishing up. I would definitely visit again to spend more time reading all of the various posters, plaques and bits and bobs.
The Diefenbunker Escape Room
This escape room is designed for 12 people, and the way it works is that the group is taken through a small tour of the lower level (300 level), and while a video is playing, it gets interrupted by a mysterious agent who speaks of a plot in the Diefenbunker that your team must stop at all costs.
At this point, the team is given 3 distinct missions, taking them all over the 300 level of the Diefenbunker escape room.
In our particular case, we booked the escape room for 10, with 2 strangers, but due to unfortunate circumstances, only 7 of us made it, and the 2 strangers cancelled at the last moment. The organizer explained that since there are 3 missions, she would automatically complete one of them, giving us a group of 3, and a group of 4 to complete the remaining two.
I took part on the team of three, team Bravo, and the mission sheet and map took us all over the 300 level, solving puzzles, and decrypting mysterious messages. Once our mission was complete, we ended up with a third of the last cypher, and a key to disarm the device.
Unfortunately, team Charlie was not able to complete their mission on time, and we did not escape.
Not Your Typical Escape Room
There were a number of things that made this escape room different, and in a way, more fun for me than a typical escape room.
First was the size – because of the layout of the bunker, we had to dash down hallways, read maps, and collect clues from many different locations.
The mission sheets are a great idea – they provided an excellent way to keep everyone on your team on track – if you were stuck, your best bet was to read the mission guide, and get re-aligned with the current objective. This also negated the randomness that is found in typical escape rooms – with the mission sheets, you couldn’t solve the third puzzle before solving the first and second, for example.
The ability to replay this escape room is good too, since there are 3 missions, you just have to go with a group and select a different team if you want to play this escape room again.
Most of my escape room experiences revolve around being stuck in a small room, surrounded by clues and puzzles. The puzzles are completed in a random fashion, and every artifact in the room is a relevant clue. It’s a bit frantic and disorganized, but lots of fun.
The Diefenbunker escape room was a bit of a different experience. It was ordered, it involved lots of exploration and moving around, and there were many false clues, designed to lead you astray.
All in all, it was a really fun time, and strongly recommended. My only hint would be to read the mission sheet if you get stuck!