Creation of the escape room “Mad Vet” Nice, France

Vladimir Kalugin
12 min readFeb 2, 2018


Hello reader, I’m not going to bother you with introduction, we will immediately get down to business.

After the escape room “1408” was built, I started construction of the second one. The script was written when I was in Russia. The customer seemed to like it and the puzzles were interesting, but there was one problem.

The story of the “1408” construction can be found on my site, it contains a lot of useful content about escape rooms.

On flea markets there was no suitable entourage, furniture, equipment that would create the right atmosphere.

If there were suitable objects, they cost an arm and a leg. For example: a bull skull costs 70 euros. That’s no good.

Customers agreed to pass to Plan B.

It meant finding an abandoned clinic, a hospital or a sanatorium and checking if there were any items there that could suit us.

I should note that we neither broke in or stole on private property. We chose only abandoned places, which for many years (decades) had been empty and shelters for drug addicts and homeless people.

The first place that fit the description was an abandoned asylum in Italy.

It was relatively close, only 3 hours away by car and in case of success we could get good quality decorations.

We knew that they were there because the explorers of abandoned buildings had already got there before us.

In France this direction is called urbex, and people who penetrate abandoned houses are called urbexers.

A square building in the shape of B — a mental hospital

We left early in the morning and at 14:00 were in a small provincial town.

Quiet streets, no tourists and the air filled with tension from the upcoming adventure.

After wandering around the city in search of the right building, we finally found it. It was in the very center of the city.

We waited till night. When twilight came to the city, we entered the territory of Rakoniga De Komio asylum — that’s how it was called.

According to the history of the hospital, it was a kind of prison for people others wanted to get rid of. If someone entered it, he never left its walls.

Night, moon, road to the mental hospital

The door was not closed and we entered the building. It was in terrible condition, the walls scattered somewhere, inside special supporting structures were installed to prevent walls and ceiling from collapse.

In the dark we went around the floors one by one in search of interesting decorations. And in the end we found:

Gynecological examination chair

A huge lamp, a gynecological examination chair and horribly looking dental chair. All equipment, despite at least 40 years old age, functioned perfectly.

Dental chair

We found pictures of patients, cases and medical records. Some records dated back to 1934. All this is in huge piles in the basement of the building.

After that we went home, taking nothing from there except for a couple of X-rays. There were several reasons for this.

  1. There were supporting structures inside, which means that the building was not completely unattended.
  2. Things were too heavy to be carried out through the entrance we had found, we’d have to open the central gate. To do this, you need to contact the owner.

So we did. We found the contacts of the man who bought the building. It turned out that it had belonged to the city, but then it was resold and now they plan to demolish it and build something new in its place.

We wrote the owner an offer to buy things in the building. He’d throw them away anyway.

After waiting for two weeks for an answer, we realized that we could lose too much time arranging the details.

We began to look for a new place where we could find necessary items and furniture.

It was an abandoned cosmetics factory in Italy. Its story is no less interesting. They not only produced cosmetics, but also tested it on animals.

Because of litigations and endless claims, the factory changed its name severally, but in the end it was closed. And most of the laboratory equipment remained there.

We quickly prepared for the trip and within a few hours reached the city where the lab was.

The factory territory was huge. No less huge was our surprise when we saw what had been left there.

Laboratory equipment have been preserved in a full set.

We began to explore the buildings one by one. And found a huge amount of laboratory equipment. It all was in a working condition. In the photo above there is formaldehyde in flasks. After 5 years, in the device there was a solution remained since when the plant was closed.

The walls of the buildings were covered with graffiti and in some rooms there were traces of people’s stay. Traces of fire and booze. But the equipment stood untouched, like on the day when it was turned on for the last time.

After walking around the premises for more than an hour, we went through the basement to another building and found evidence that they were testing animals for sure.

We entered a dark room where there were about 20 cages for dogs. Inside each cage there was a wooden bench on which an animal had to wait for its fate.

The wood preserved traces of claws, the legs were gnawed.

Mice for experiments were grown on metal shelves in small plastic containers.

Drinking bowls for rats

We found several reinforced cages, most likely for monkeys.

Reinforced cage

We were able to create an authentic escape room based on found things. All the decorations there are real.

We took just a small part of what was there. I think we could make at least 2–3 escape rooms more using what was left.

In search of things we had to go down to cellars and catacombs, climb up to high-altitude objects.

Photo from water tower

After we took what we needed, we moved it to the escape room. Washed it. I began to work on the equipment for the puzzles.

Photo of the room and decor at the beginning of work

This escape room distinguishing feature is that it’s completely non-linear. It includes 10 complex puzzles (besides the easy ones), 2 caches.

All of them can be passed in any order, which is good for large teams and corporate parties.

Players are not connected by the plot and disperse around the room, choosing riddles they like.

Corporate parties are an important source of profit for escape rooms: if you need a script for large teams, go to the site where you will find all the necessary information about my work.

In addition, there are 4 puzzles that require participation of 2 players working together.

Photo of the cage — here the players start the game

The escape room is filled with electronics.

Everything is flashing, glowing, buzzing, caches are opened, sound effects and scare tricks are turned on.

Everything is done to make sure that the person in this escape room felt like a hero able to overcome all difficulties and get out of a mad maniac’s captivity.

Arrangement of the scenery

The conversion of the devices into riddles was carried out as carefully as possible in order to preserve the authenticity of the devices and not to cause players’ suspicions of “artificiality”.

A curious case happened connected with it: after the first test game, one player complained to us: “Why did you do the riddles so well?” When you see the device you can’t believe that it can be a part of the game process and therefore it hasn’t been touched for a long time.

And when the device was turned on and flashed all the lights, it amazed the players.

Creating a puzzle from a photometer

In spite of some puzzles being filled with electronics so that the case could hardly fit it in, everything was done as well as possible.

I use only “old-school” components: 12V switches, magnetic sensors, electromagnets, buttons, toggle switches, lighting. I have used all the components many times in my practice of and I know their strengths and weaknesses.

Mounting the puzzle. White cords in the photo on the left are neon cords.

All riddles are tightly and reliably screwed to the floor, to the walls, to each other. To everything. All that shouldn’t be moved is glued, nailed, and tied.

That’s all in order to save puzzles from wearing and players vandalism.

Photo before and after (the arrow on the scale also moves when turned on)

Wires are insulated and hid in the cable channels and corrugation. I try to do the wiring in such a way that it becomes a part of the decor.

What can’t be hidden should be shown as dignity.

Creating the puzzle with a pregnant woman

The riddle with the pregnant mannequin became the central element of the escape room. It’s not only interesting — it involves two players, they need to manipulate with pins and the video endoscope to solve the puzzle in the belly of the pregnant woman.

Testing the puzzle
Installation of puzzles

All subjects create an alarming hospital atmosphere. Apart from what we found in the factory and a few things that we bought on the flea market (mannequin, children’s toys), we did not buy anything to create the decor.

Most of the escape room cost was electronic components.

According to my estimation, the fact that we got such decorations for free saved the client at least 12 000–16 000 euros.

Some puzzles such as “Rat experiment”, surprisingly organically came out of the very kind of object.

How to invent riddles? How not to get lost in the sequence of creating the escape room? All the information can be found on the site

The essence of the riddle is that a mad scientist wanted to cross an animal and a plant. And he integrated genes of different plants to rats. Some of them accepted the genes, and some died.

Players learn from the reports of the experiment that rats with plant genes have adopted their smell. So one rat smelled of mint, the other of lemon, etc.

Players need sniffing the containers for rats, to find out where the right rats were hidden.

This is a very unusual experience for players requiring use of the sense of smell.

There are a lot of non-game items in the room.

On the board there are real photographs of patients of Rakonigi asylum.

Tests showed that players like high level of realism.

For example, at the beginning of the game players have to get the battery for the remote from the toilet.

It would be ok, but in the toilet there is something that floats…

Players start inside the cage. They are locked and the first thing they have to do is to find a flashlight in absolute darkness.

Ransacking the walls and floor, they find it. But this brings them no relief, because they realize that they are locked up, and that the maniac who kidnapped them is completely crazy.

As in the “1408” escape room, a contrast transition is used here.

Players start in a dirty cage, but after getting out of it they turn out to be in the lab of a maniac, which is decorated in a more “normal” style.

The story of the “1408” construction is on the site

Photo of the cage outside

The escape room turned out to be very atmospheric and interesting.

Riddles are non-standard, there are no “locks” in the room, only one codebox is used.

Five screamers, three of them are activated by the administrator at his will.

At the moment of this article writing, I consider this escape room to be the best that I’ve ever built.

If you are planning a cool escape room and are looking for a reliable performer, welcome to my site:

There you will find a lot of useful information on escape rooms construction: management, check list, business plan. Visit, it will be interesting!

Thank you for your attention, have a great day!



Vladimir Kalugin

All service for Escape room — creator, engineer, scenario writer, designer). See more: