For many of us, the pandemic lockdown has been a nightmare, with no hope of escape. Keith Katsikas decided if you can’t beat it, join it.
Katsikas opened Nightmare Escapes at 100 Main Street, in the heart of Downtown Nashua, right around Halloween 2020 – an apt choice, given that his business is in the business of scaring you into a good time.
Entering the building from the Main Street sidewalk, you will pass the street-facing boutique of Glorious Possibilities, and make your way down the hallway, also passing antiques dealer Pickers’ Paradise. In the far end of the historic building, you will find the door that leads you to Nightmare Escapes.
Along with his wife Becky and their four children, Katsikas, of Manchester, has created a haunted-house style escape room experience. Guests make their way through eight rooms – already an impressive step up from standard 1-2 room experiences – of a haunted house. Along the way, they must solve puzzles and find keys and lock combinations (numbers and letters), to progress from room to room. There are all types of problems to solve; you’ll be using many different ways of thinking. And remember: You’ve only got so much time to navigate the 2,000 square foot entirety of the maze of rooms, so be focused and creative!
Great American Downtown’s Jennifer Annand sits on an antique couch in the room that scared her the most, at Nightmare Escape’s haunted escape room experience in Downtown Nashua.
A scene of clues and puzzles that await your solving in one of the eight rooms in Nightmare Escapes.
Keith and Becky Katsikas are shown with two of their four children, all of whom help scare you at the family-owned Nightmare Escapes.
To ratchet up the intensity, guests are also trying to avoid the mysterious creatures that stalk them from behind, or claw and bang at the walls. It’s alternatingly dark, silent, loud, nerve-wracking and intense. Many of your most-feared tropes are in attendance – we won’t give them away, but you’ll find them. Or they’ll find you…
Guests may book their slots for teams of up to eight people, or a pair of two can try their hand at solving. Katsikas adjusts the levels of difficulty based on how many participants will be involved.
Katsikas is well aware of the current health concerns, and strives to ensure that “the only dangers you confront at Nightmare Escapes are fantasy and not a life-threatening illness.” Your private group is assembled by you; you won’t be collaborating with strangers. And between events, while the games are reset, safety measures are taken.
“We are extremely safe. We sanitize after every group,” he said. “We check temperatures at the door, require mask wearing, and we always social distance. We like to say that we’re safer than your average household.”
As a lover of escape rooms, I was very excited to check this out. As mentioned earlier, having eight rooms to explore during one experience was truly thrilling. From the very moment you step through the entrance portal, you have to work. The darkness adds to the tension and difficulty in determining where the clues are, and what needs to be solved to proceed. Katsikas watches the maze from a catwalk above, though, and is available to give hints if absolutely needed.
I was impressed with the sheer amount of clues, puzzles and scenes throughout the experience. The rooms each have their own unique decor and piece of the overall story, and there is much to explore and gather. Hearing the occasional mysterious noise and the shuffling of unknown feet getting closer heightens the user experience with an added layer of urgency. And let me tell you: The creepy voices taunting you, and the sing-song voice of a little girl, really get the heart pumping!
My co-worker Jenn was reticent to come with me; she’d only done one before, and did not particularly enjoy it. Nightmare Escapes won her over. We both delighted in each new discovery and solution achieved, and laughed and screamed our way through all eight scenes.
The overall quality of “the haunt” is terrific. It hits you on all five senses. It’s clear that a lot of thought went into the details and puzzles, and the effects and props are all well-done.
I highly encourage you to grab a pal, or your family, or your “pandemic safety bubble,” and book your time at Nightmare Escapes. You will one hundred percent get the most bang for your entertainment buck!
IF YOU GO:
WHERE: 100 Main St., Suite 4, Downtown Nashua
COST: $80 total for two people, $100 for three. Additional people, $30 each.
ONLINE: Website or Facebook
PARKING: Metered parking available on Main Street, or take the short walk from the affordable Factory Street parking garage.
Great American Downtown’s Kathleen Palmer and Jennifer Annand hold some gory props as they cross the finish line of Nightmare Escapes’ challenging haunted escape room experience.
Above: Just a few of the devilish details in various rooms at Nightmare Escapes.