When Halloween creeps up on the calendar, documentaries on otherworldly mysteries and the paranormal world are given a much larger chunk of airtime than usual. I loved watching these shows as a kid. Sure, for the most part I covered my face with my hands and tried to catch glimpses of the telly between the gaps in my fingers, but I did love them! I even had a fleeting desire to experience being a psychic—to be a “serious” ghost-busting expert that talk show hosts interview about lost spirits.
Years and years later, who would have thought that the dream-I-didn’t-really-want-to-come-true would, you know, sort of come true? And I signed up for it! Together with my friends Kit, Joanna, and our ‘office dad’ Sir Vic, we formed the group “Fat@Team” and booked an adventure at Mystery Manila, the first live escape room game in the country.
Messages of the ex-“spirit questors” and ex-“kidnap victims” for Rebecca’s Room
and Sinister Sensorium, respectively
and Sinister Sensorium, respectively
We chose the horror-inspired Rebecca’s Room. For sixty minutes, we took on the roles of spirit questors that will investigate the mysterious disappearance of the tenant Rebecca Rubio and the hauntings in her room.
Since our office is just a few buildings away from the venue, we arrived a handful of minutes shy of an hour before our booked schedule. I think the Mystery Manila team chose the right place to put up their Makati branch—G. A. Yupangco building looms like a semi-abandoned establishment from a distance. You’d half-expect someone (or something) who doesn’t belong to your group to poke you during your short ride in the old-school elevator, and you’d get the feeling that there are eyes watching you while you walk down the corridors, what with all of Yamaha School of Music’s sketched portraits of classical artists hanging on the walls.
Rain, one of Mystery Manila’s staff, briefed us about what to do in Rebecca’s Room. I had zero idea about the whole thing when we arrived there; I stayed away from reviews on the ‘Net because I wanted a very memorable firsthand experience. Rain gave us a news clipping of Rebecca’s disappearance and let us watch the trailer/preview for the game, and then we were all set. Before we took on the challenge, though, we were asked who among us love kids (all fingers pointed to me) and Rain gave us meaningful smiles, mentioning something about encountering a little child in there that would remind us of the Japanese horror flick The Grudge.
(I pointed out that I kind of liked Toshio, the little boy-spirit who screams like a cat in the film, but it turned out Rain is referring to the other ghost. Yes, the one with the blood-drenched face who creeps up on you under the blanket. So. NOPE. One BIG NOPE for me.)
As much as I wanted to relay our story in detail, I'm allowed no game spoilers here. For clues you would be communicating with Rebecca and the entity haunting the room through their own brand of ESP, which in our time translates to using a cellphone with a sensor to read near-field communication (NFC) stickers on the walls. The painted Stars of David and other symbols all over the place gave me the feeling I’m in a Supernatural episode…not as one of the Winchesters though, but as a member of the amateur Ghostfacers. Sam and Dean would probably scoff at us while we do our thing, haha!
What happened in the room to us was akin to something out of horror-comedy movie...or its blooper reel, rather. Our bloodcurdling screams would automatically be followed by laughter and break-the-fourth-wall comments (i.e. when a scary audio file plays on the phone and Sir Vic tells us about it, he’ll read out the the file name and how it’s ‘performed’ by an ‘Unknown Artist’).
Oh, and we tinkered with the locks in a way that would make a rookie thief look like he’s the best burglar in the world. When we found out there’s a secret passageway after successfully opening the last lock, we made every possible reason to not enter it. We assumed we’ll encounter the Grudge-esque kid in there so Sir Vic blurted out a funny “Takot ako sa bata! (“I’m scared of kids!)”, even if he has four kids of his own. Me? I have my “Claustrophobic ako! (I’m claustrophobic!)” even though I’m not, right after I saw that the passageway looked like a tiny, cobweb-shrouded tunnel. Seriously, don’t underestimate the power of imagination. It’s all that halted us from entering right away.
After minutes of stalling, I crept inside and realized it wasn’t as small as I thought. When I reached the end of the first way and it dawned on me that I have to turn to another corner, I got crept out and shrieked that there’s an “eskinita” or alleyway where the kid (which I have unwittingly nicknamed “baby girl”) would probably come from to spring on us. I stood in place, not willing to see “baby girl” yet unless the whole group is with me already.
But alas, time ran out and we weren’t able to solve the mystery. Rain told us we were so close to solving it—but not after chuckling and commenting on how I looked like after crawling out of the passageway. It was only when they turned on the lights that I realized I was brandishing an empty bottle of Vaseline lotion in my right hand and a coverless Danish cookie tin can in the other, making me look like I’ve prepped myself with a makeshift sword-and-shield combo before meeting the ghost girl.
I swear, it’s not like I planned on hurting her or something.
All in all it was an amazing, exciting hour! We failed to solve the mystery but we succeeded in making this a very fun experience. We all agreed on coming back to Rebecca’s Room just to see the end of the game and—you know, despite being the bunch of scaredy cats that we are—to see “baby girl”. But of course, we’ll need to try out Sinister Sensorium first. ;)
I was told all rooms in their Makati branch were fully booked for the Halloween. But hey, fun and adventure knows no season, right? Go and try it! Visit Mystery Manila’s Facebook page for more info.