Escape room: “There is someone In this house…” construction history — from an empty room to the first game.

Vladimir Kalugin
16 min readDec 29, 2018


The story of the horror escape room creation “There is someone In this house” began when a customer from Russia, Moscow, contacted me with a proposal to create an escape room based on Hitchcock’s films.

But in the process of work we came to the conclusion that the project might be too expensive and we changed the concept so that we would not have to repair the premises.

We chose the concept of the film “IT” based on Stephen King. A scary clown eats children and lives in an abandoned house.

Building an abandoned house locations requires almost no investment in repairing the premises. We made sound insulation of the ceiling and immediately began the construction of partitions for the decorations.

Photo of the premise before the start of construction, there are 5 rooms

Passages between the rooms were closed with OSB sheets reinforced with a wooden bar 50x50 mm.

Then I built the tunnel frames between the rooms. Tunnels are one of the main features of this escape room — players don’t just move between rooms through the door, they have to crawl from one location to another in cramped and dark tunnels where someone lives …

From above the tunnels were reinforced with double-thick OSB so that they would not break if the players would hit them with their head very hard (joke).

The tunnels are made in such a way that players crawl along them through the rooms to distant locations, and return to the locations outside the tunnel through ordinary doors, that’s why players get the feeling that the room is endless.

Tunnels and walls of the frame

In the photos below there is the base frame of the tunnel in the room with garbage.

After finishing the walls of the tunnel frame and cladding, I quickly painted them with a compressor spray. It is much faster and more carefully than to use a roller or brush.

I used a spray bottle with a 1 mm nozzle. I used ordinary acrylic paint for walls and the ceiling mixed with black color to get a gray one.

Whle painting use a respirator, mask and painter costume. When spraying, the smallest droplets of paint dry up in the air and form fine dust that easily rises to the top with any touch, this is harmful to the lungs. Therefore, after painting and drying, you need to wash the room to collect this dust from the floor surfaces.

Painting the scenery

After painting, the scenery became visually aligned. This is the basis on which you can place items that will create the atmosphere of an abandoned house.

To find suitable items, the customer and I went to scrap metal dumps.

First of all, we were looking for objects of unusual shape, rusty pieces of iron, plastic mannequins and any other things that could create the atmosphere of an abandoned house.

Landfills are the most profitable way to get items for the escape room, we paid for the things according to their weight (if they were metal) or arranged price if they were plastic.

We bought a whole bunch of plastic mannequins for 500 rubles. Metal pieces cost us a couple of thousand rubles.

For the location “ children’s room” we needed children’s things and dolls. Therefore, we went to the Kremlin market of used things in Izmailovo where people sell unnecessary items very cheaply.

It turned out to be a very interesting and beautiful place. This place has a special atmosphere — it’s hard to describe, it’s like you get back to the 90s..

I got the impression that the sellers come there not to sell and earn money, but to talk to other sellers over a glass of vodka. Therefore, in the end of the day we met people who were very tired (see photo below)

The result of the trip was the purchase of a huge suitcase (the customer managed to get it for a very good price) full of dolls and an old Soviet calculator. Things with history create a special atmosphere in the escape room, using only new things iis difficult to create the right mood in the room.

Therefore, to create a good escape room you need to delve in old things.

A pleasant surprise was this (see photo above), in the suitcase with dolls that we bought at the very bottom I found paper printed on old and very thick paper. This is a paper document written on November 15, 1907. (this paper is 111 years old.)

The document says that Zinaida Mikhailovna Babinina successfully completed her studies at the Mariinsky School and can work as a teacher for children.

I tried to find the descendants using the data from this document but could not do it, the only suitable person, great granddaughter Babinina, didn’t respond to my letter.

Комната “Мусорный подвал”

Room “Garbage Cellar”

To place things from the dump, I made a frame of boards.

Then covered it with a cloth. Painted it with black paint creating the illusion of an old black mold. After that, I fastened and fixed the objects — children’s toys, garden cart, etc., things that could create the atmosphere of a huge mountain of garbage that has been accumulated in the basement of the house.

During construction dangerous situations can occur. Usually I don’t write about them, but this time I decided to cover them in order to show that not everything is so smooth in reality.

In this escape room, there are a lot of tunnels and elevations, when I was walking from one location to another I had to jump from a high construction to the floor, I was holding a ceramic plate in my hands. My shoe caught on something and fell face down. The fragments of the plate cut my hands that’s why I couldn’t work for 4 days (the cuts were small but deep).

There will be no such situations in the game because the players have small steps at each descent or ascent. When I fell I hadn’t done these steps yet so I couldn’t just walk around the locations, I had to jump.

Location “clown’s den”

There are a few electronic puzzles In the escape room. Only 4 puzzles use electronics. This was a customer’s wish to ensure maximum reliability from breakdowns.

The less electronics, the less likely you will need the help of an engineer for repair, the customer can repair simple mechanical things on his own.

The “Mannequins” location with a general light — the process of building

Each location is made in its own unique style. This is done with help of the light.

Photos from the construction you see with the light turned off are very similar. But during the game, the general light is turned off and only the game lights work, which sets a certain mood.

For example, the “Mannequins” location uses UV illumination and a blue LED strip.

When players move from one location to another, the administrator switches the background music. For players, all locations due to different lighting create a clear transition effect.

Location “Mannequins” with gaming lighting

For example, in the children’s room (see below, wall sconces with warm light are used, creating a mysterious mystical atmosphere.

There are a lot of children’s clothes and toys in the room — they create a special eerie tension.

Location “Children’s room”

In order to make a dark location “Mannequins” more spectacular and to help players navigate in the dim blue light, I used fluorescent paints that glow brightly in ultraviolet light.

Photos are not able to convey this effect.

Fluorescent paint

Glowing paint not only creates a spectacular look for the atmosphere, all the game tips and information for players are written with it that helps players understand the tasks easily.

Also, all game items are marked with the paint, so players don’t need to guess what they need for the game and which items are just props.

The escape room involves many phobias and patterns of perception to create fear pressure: birds, mannequins, dark narrow tunnels, children’s toys, dolls, loud sounds, etc. visual patterns that can make players look around more often and wipe sweat from their foreheads.

In each location there are several screamers, they are activated by the administrator who watches the game through the cameras.

For example, in the video below, a dog is a toy that the administrator will “throw” on players when they reach the grid in the tunnel.

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The location of the scenery is arranged in such a way that the actor is always close to the players but they don’t see him.

We keep the intrigue until the very last moment.

The scariest monster is the one you can’t see, but you know that he is waiting for you outside the door.

This is an arcade escape room in gameplay style — this means there are a lot of hints in it that clearly give instructions on what to do.

Under maximum stress and fear, players think very badly. Therefore, any, even the simplest tasks become very difficult for them. So that the players didn’t torment the administrator with tips, we give them tips on the walls, furniture and some surfaces.

Players must be attentive and then they will pass the escape room.

None of the players have ever complained that there were too many tips on the walls.

The main thing in horror escape rooms is the atmosphere. And the correct lighting is an important element in it.

Two of the 5 locations are illuminated with dimmer light (you can adjust the brightness of the bulbs by turning the knob), the administrator watching the players at certain moments makes different brightness of the lighting, increasing fear.

(unfortunately, in the photo I can’t show how beautiful this location is in the game lighting in dim light — my camera doesn’t cope with it)

On example of a teddy bear, look how much you can change the mood of an item by simply changing the location of the light sources.

Light makes the bear evil

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In the “children’s room” location there are a lot of small details that create drama. For example, children’s drawings made with pencil hang on the walls. But the plot of these drawings is not funny at all.

Also, one of the escape room’s features is preparation for the game: when players come to the escape room we ask their names. And at this time we quickly make a drawing of the team (in the children’s style like in the photo below), we draw a picture in which the team of players is depicted with arms and legs torn off. On the edge of the picture IT is painted that is eating the players. We sign the names of the players on the picture.

When players enter the children’s room, they find a drawing on the table and see their team and their names on it. This really helps to feel the atmosphere of this escape room.

We were very lucky with the “Green” room. In this location there is an exit to the street. The exit is closed by boards and cloth; players can’t open it. From under the door cold air blows from the street.

Players, when they get to this location, immediately feel cold; also the cold spreads from this location through the tunnels.

This creates a more complete immersion into the game.

Smells, temperature, light, sound — all these factors make the player’s brain believe or not in the reality of what is happening around.

“Green” location

In the escape room there are some challenging intelligence puzzles — the most difficult is in the photo below.

Difficult puzzles are not typical for horror escape rooms, because too long thinking of the task destroys the dynamics of the passage. Adrenaline decreases.

Location “Clown’s den” in normal lighting
Location “Clown’s den” with gaming lighting

Tips for players are made as detailed as possible.

Under stress, people get adrenaline and become a little stronger. Therefore, they can unwillingly break your locks. That’s why I make clues in which direction they should rotate the key.

If players need to find an item, I not only write about it, but also draw how it looks. This approach is not applicable for intellectual quests — not horrors.

But for the horror escape room, it is important to watch that players do not waste time on unnecessary thins — for example, understanding which lock is suitable for this key.

Players must immediately know thanks to signs (for example, a doll icon) that the key from the doll will fit this lock.

The central place in this escape room belongs not to the riddles, but to the actor.

70% of the success depends on the actor game. On how he feels the team of players and timely scares them.

Administrator creates 30% of fear by the screamers and lighting control.

In this project, the customer managed to find an excellent team of actors who 100% fulfilled their task and made the players scream in horror.

Actor in mask and costume for the game

An escape room is like a horror movie where the main character walks along the corridor and the lights suddenly go out and the creak of the floor is heard behind his back.

To create this effect in the room, the administrator controls the quest equipment through a special panel.

This panel contains light control switches in each location. And buttons control the skreamers.

Similarly, the administrator and the actor (in special secret places) have buttons for opening the exit doors in case of dangerous situations.

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After the completion of construction we moved to a week of test games.

Testing the scape room — in the photo on the left is the team of administrators and the customer in the photo on the right are the team in the room.

After finishing the escape room we had a series of test games. The room received positive feedback from all teams, including players who played a large number of games.

After the tests, some improvements were made, and the gameplay was improved. Thanks to the actor, you can flexibly change the gameplay without creating new electronics.

The video below shows how scared the players are in the first location by the game of the actor and the skimmer (the falling chain).

(during one of the test games, one team refused to continue and stopped the game after activation of this screamer)

Come with a company of 2–5 people to play in the horror escape room “There is someone in this house” in Moscow, str. Samuil Marshak, house 19 (m. Rasskazovka).

Instagram of the scape room “ There is someone in this house “

This project was made during 3 months. During this time we managed to create an exciting, scary horror that makes players dive into the atmosphere and experience vivid emotions.

By the results of the project, I am grateful to Vitaly (the customer) for his help in the work, as well as for the desire to work together on every aspect of the escape room. This allowed us to make a cool product. I appreciate customers who want to delve into the “engine” of the escape room, which are interested in joint participation in making decisions about filling rooms and riddles.

Special thanks to all the people who helped me (morally and physically) in the process of working on this project.

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

There you will find a lot of useful information about building escape rooms: manuals, check lists, business plans. Visit — that’s gonna be interesting!

Thanks for your attention, have a great day!



Vladimir Kalugin

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