BREAKING NEWS! Christmas has been canceled this year! Due to alarming supernatural occurrences believed to be connected to the legend of the Krampus Beast, authorities urge all residents to remain in their homes, lock your doors, block your chimneys, tuck your children in tight and beware the sound of sleighbells.
IT IS NOT SANTA CLAUS. IT’S A TRAP! I REPEAT, SANTA CLAUS IS NOT COMING THIS YEAR!
Though posted within our Reviews section, this entry will not include a Key Rating. As a team, we at Escape Authority feel the correct thing to do is disclose that I was the Creative Director of this attraction, and while I am excited to share its final results with you, our readers, I cannot officially endorse it in order to remain neutral to other games we have and will continue to review.
Each Halloween, I build an elaborate haunted attraction at my home for the neighborhood kids to enjoy while Trick-or-Treating. I call it “Peachstone Scream!”. For me, there’s only one rule: Each year must be bigger than the last.
For 2016, that mantra was blown out of the water, with detailed full scale facades and, for the first time, a bonafide escape game hidden within an 8′ x 8′ room literally erected on my front lawn.
Trick-or-Treating became a scheduled event over multiple different nights, where each neighbor reserved a time slot to visit for their own 20-25 minute long theatrical experience. Christmas is Canceled mixed a traditional haunted house with an escape game with scripted, intimate, immersive theater, complete with a cast of 8-10 talented actors to truly transport you into this warped holiday world.
The unthinkable has happened. Christmas is Canceled! Parkview Pointe has issued a state of emergency, as authorities urge the good people of Peachstone Lane to lock your doors, board up your windows and stay away from your fireplaces. That jingle’s not Kris Kringle! It’s the cold bell of death!
Yes! It’s true! Christmas has been canceled! Screams pierce the black of night as the Krampus Beast stalks the streets, snatching good little girls and boys straight from their beds to the horror of their helpless mothers and fathers.
Fire from the sky, raining down on this snowy night in a normally quiet little neighborhood. It’s the sleigh.
Ladies and gentlemen, we can now confirm the sleigh of Santa Claus himself has crashed to the ground.
May god save us all.
What should be a holy night turns unholy hell – yet despite all warnings, a mysterious new neighbor has invited the entire town to Christmas party at his home. You know, the one at the end of the street which everyone assumed was abandoned? Is this innocent holiday cheer, or a treacherous trap?
Now, the only way to survive is to enter the lair of the legendary Krampus Beast himself, out think him, and prove we each deserve our spot on the “Nice” list.
It’s not easy to turn the exterior of your house into a literal neighborhood within your actual neighborhood, but that’s exactly what I did.
The front face of the garage is blocked by the facades of three different houses, #663, #665 and #667 – each built at a scale to seamlessly blend into the garage’s actual roof line.
Oh, and that roof line? It’s capped with snow.
Off to the side, semi-hidden in the shadows of a towering magnolia tree is a fourth house – #669 – but this one is completely different from the others. Seemingly abandoned, this house is clearly in a state of disrepair. The boards across its windows block more than just the mildew covering the glass. What secrets does this old house hide?
A clearly posted KEEP OUT sign hangs crooked on the door – and that’s not all that’s fallen out of place; far more unwelcoming, the “9” of its #669 address has clearly lost its top nail, as it now hangs upside-down, in a foreboding bit of foreshadowing for the horrors within.
Despite the state of emergency, Christmas decorations line each house of the neighborhood, with colorful lights tracing the rooftops, garland draped from the windows and festive curtains glowing from within.
Except for #669. Decorations hang crudely around the abandoned house. Toy soldiers glow red while swinging from nooses in the tree. A snowman lurks in the bushes. Santa’s sleigh is seen crashing off the roof, with Rudolph flying… upside-down.
Festive Christmas music can be heard from within, abruptly cutting out every five or six minutes to the startling sound of the Emergency Broadcast System giving the latest updates on the whereabouts of The Krampus Beast. Outside, an entirely separate custom-mixed score is accented by a nearby storm, and the threatening roars of a monster lurking in the shadows all around you.
Physical effects bring the show to another level, with fog, snowfall and several different scents at key moments to enhance their environments.
Everything within the old abandoned home was designed to make cohesive story-sense, allowing the puzzles to exist organically in the storyworld. The spirit of Christmas exists all around – but this spirit is a bit more sinister than its traditional incarnation.
Hidden objects hang in stockings adoring the mantle of a cozy fireplace. Presents – each sealed tightly by different padlocks – circle a glowing Christmas tree. Mysteriously marked candy canes are everywhere – but how do they connect, and what secret do they hide?
And then there’s the elf in the room with you. Perhaps on any other day, that would be noteworthy enough, but not today.
Because he’s hanging upside-down, chained to the wall, begging for your help.
The story unfolded in the early morning hours leading up to opening night, as each house around the neighborhood awoke to find a personalized Christmas card hanging from garland on their mailbox. Inside, a letter inviting them to the forbidden Christmas party that evening, signed with a “PS” by the a neighbor no one has ever seen before… “Mark U.”
“Mark U. PS..”
On every lamppost up and down the street hung signs with ominous warnings such as “CHRISTMAS IS CANCELED,” “MISSING: SANTA CLAUS” and “THE KRAMPUS BEAST EATS KIDS” alerting the community that something was not quite right this holiday season.
But hey, it’s a Christmas party. What could possibly go wrong?
You arrive at your designated time to check in. Outside the home, you meet the party’s apparent door host, The Bitch. Hesitantly, you tell her you are here to check in, but she’s far more interested in her current text message conversation than you.
“Yeah, whatever. You check in when I’m ready.”
Eventually she finds time for you, and shrilly screams for your name from her check-in list, regardless of the fact that you’re standing right next to her. She welcomes you with a sinister “Gruß vom Krampus” – Greetings…. from Krampus.
She starts with the rules for your visit, stopping short to ask you to unscrew the lid on her jar. She treats herself to a pickle, awkwardly making you watch her chew with an open mouth before continuing with the rules.
Snow begins to fall as it’s finally time to enter the party. She hands you a gift, crudely wishes you a Merry Christmas in a tone far more aggressive than necessary and sends you inside. Just as you reach for the doorknob, she screams back, “Wait! Were you raised in a barn?! You don’t just walk into someone’s home. Ring the doorbell like a civilized person.”
You reach out, ring the bell and immediately regret it – as screams for help can now be heard from behind the closed door.
“Well, I’m not helping him. You’re on your own. GET IN THERE.” Gah! What a bitch.
Against every shred of common sense left in your mind, you enter the abandoned home and are all-too-briefly calmed by the smell of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies – that is until you quickly discover the cause of all the commotion – a festive captive, hanging upside-down, chained to the wall by his legs. Was he on his way to the party as well? How long has he been in here?
Before there’s time for a second thought, the door slams shut behind you and locks. You’re trapped.
With the door sealed, the claws of an monstrous beast scratch at the windows. Your only hope now is to somehow free the captive and work together to find another way out of this holiday hell.
With each gift you unlock, another piece of the puzzle becomes clear, ultimately leading you to a mysterious message that suddenly appears before you:
“The Jolly Fat Man found a way in…
now his name is your only hope to get out!”
Much the same way he entered before us, Santa’s name magically opens a portal through the fireplace, but this time it’s definitely not leading to the North Pole. As you bravely crawl into the darkness, you become surrounded by smoke and the unmistakable smell of burning. Dozens of stockings hit your head as you crawl – but these aren’t for meant for good little girls or boys. Each one is clearly marked: KRAMPUS. As the smoke clears you realize his name is also scratched all over the walls, floor and ceiling. As you near the end of the tunnel, one last stocking blocks your path – again marked KRAMPUS, this one continues “WILL EAT YOU.”
As you shine your flashlight into the abyss ahead, you realize you weren’t alone in that tunnel. The horrifying visage of Miss Bunny appears aglow in your face, her pointed and blood-stained teeth a stark contrast from her festive apron and Christmas dress.
She greets you with “The Bunny says. ‘quack, quack.'” and begins to giggle. Her playful attitude is off-putting. Clearly she’s hiding her true intent. She invites you to enter her world, as more fog surrounds you in the blackness. Thick garland hangs far too low, hitting you in the face as you try to pass. The distinct smell of candy canes becomes unsettling in this place more twisted than the stripes that surround them.
As the fog clears, you find yourself in a supernatural void – some sort of hub that grants the Krampus Beast access to every child’s home around the globe. A full-sized Christmas tree provides the space’s only light, cast by its flickering purple glow. Uncomfortable in its own right, but much more so hanging before you upside-down. As its lights twinkle to break the darkness that surrounds you, you notice the room is full of dozens upon dozens of stockings, each bearing a different child’s name, and from each of which hangs a unique key. That must be how he gets into their homes!
Slowly from the fog appears a disturbing sight – the Elf, whose over-sized face is so innocent and happy that he’s just downright threatening. He stares at you silently, before clapping his hands and dancing around shouting just one message over and over in a far-too-high-pitched voice: “Find the key!”
There’s just one problem. Those dozens upon dozens of stockings hold dozens upon dozens of different keys – but only one unlocks the door before you, into the lair of the legendary Krampus Beast himself.
Well, perhaps there’s more than one problem, because the Elf brought in a few of his friends to terrorize you while you hunt for your salvation: Miss Bunny and her dear friend Teddy now mechanically chant along with the Elf.
Finally, in a moment of desperation, you find a key different from the rest. You place it in lair’s door and it turns. But is entering the lair of the beast really your safest course of action? Before you can give thought to finding another way, the Elf, Teddy and Miss Bunny all start shouting
Inside the door is another space blacker than night itself, and again lit only by Christmas lights – some sparking on a much larger tree – one so tall in fact that it’s bent to fit within the space – and a second more colorful set of lights that’s –
“Santa, what can I do to help” you frantically ask.
“It’s too late for old Santa Claus. You need to save yourselves, but before you leave, you may take one present from under this tree. You’ve been very nice this year.”
You stare in disbelief. Surely you can’t just leave Santa behind. Suddenly, much louder than before, the Elf, Teddy and Miss Bunny begin chanting.
You grab your gift and run for it, wondering if you’ll ever see Santa Claus again.
Back through the fog and into the darkness, it’s almost as though the path has changed behind you. The tunnel is gone, and you now find yourself outdoors. You’re back to the real world! You survived! But suddenly, the bushes begin to rustle and from the black of night comes the legendary Krampus Beast himself who chases you out of his world.
You manage to escape – or so you thought. Teddy is somehow already there waiting for you. Before you can leave, there’s one thing he’d like from you. Your soul. Captured forever in the form of a themed souvenir photograph to add to his collection. In return, he trades you something he cherishes, that you now get to keep: a custom made ornament – solid black, sparkling with red and green glitter that reads “I ESCAPED KRAMPUS” on one side and “CANCELED 2016” on the other.
Safely back to Peachstone Lane, you unwrap your gift to find the mother-load of Trick-or-Treat candy, plus one more smaller wrapped present within simply labeled “NAUGHTY.”
Under its tacky printed paper hides your final gift: a single piece of coal.
Christmas is Canceled was a work of love and passion, and I thought there’d be nothing more fulfilling than seeing the smiling, screaming faces of the kids and adults alike who experienced it over several days during the Halloween season.
I thought there’d be nothing more fulfilling than that. Until now.
I’m thrilled to officially announce that Christmas is Canceled is currently under construction, slated to open next spring as a permanent, year round, sixty minute escape game attraction at a major tourist destination.
And if you think you already know the answers just because you played it on my front lawn, I promise you’ll be in for a whole new experience, with new puzzles and lot of new surprises, including even more elaborate sets, an entirely new ending and some incredibly cool technology.
Christmas may be canceled for now, but soon it will live on forever, welcoming new families from around the globe into its warped holiday world every single day.
Venue: Peachstone Scream!
Location: Orlando, Florida
Number of Games: 1
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 20 minutes
Capacity: 4 people
Group Type: Private / You will not be paired with strangers.
Cost: Free / This attraction’s limited run has ended.