CSU alumni are escape room artists

Abigail and Noah Dalton

CSU alumni Abigail and Noah Dalton opened ConTRAPtions in August. It offers two escape room experiences: Mafia Gallery and Tiger’s Eye.

While some fear the idea of being trapped inside a confined space, others would willingly pay for the experience.

Escape rooms are trending around the world, and Northern Colorado has joined in on the fun with several escape rooms dotting the region. Noah and Abigail Dalton are the owners of ConTRAPtions, one of Fort Collins’ newest escape rooms. They consider themselves “escape room junkies” – between the two of them, they’ve attempted more than 30 rooms across the country.

“I was bad at the first five or six rooms I tried, but I learned how to play. I’m floored at how almost all the best rooms I’ve played are in Fort Collins – the bar was set really high when we decided to open one,” Noah said.

When it came to designing the rooms, Noah and Abigail leveraged the experience they gained while students at Colorado State University. Noah graduated in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, and Abigail graduated in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in art. Though their educations were vastly different, together their expertise has provided two top-notch escape room experiences.

“We put our heads together to create the clues and mechanics of the puzzles for both of the rooms, but Noah took the lead with incorporating technology and automation into the experience, and I was able to use the aesthetic principles I learned at CSU to choose artwork and create original paintings for the two rooms,” Abigail said.

Practical application of a CSU education

ConTRAPtions features two escape room experiences. The first is the Mafia Gallery, and to escape, players must outwit a mob boss and disarm a bomb. The other escape room, Tiger’s Eye, requires participants to break into a bank vault and steal a diamond to escape. Both feature aspects of the Daltons’ CSU-learned skills.

Technology, Noah’s expertise, is what helps make ConTRAPtions a unique experience, through dramatic, mechanical motion. The crown jewel of the automation components of the two escape rooms is what houses the diamond in Tiger’s Eye: a fully automatic rising pedestal, using two-axis, stepper motor-driven ball screw linear actuators.

Abigail also values the opportunity to use the skills she honed at CSU. “It’s nice to have a chance to use what I studied. It’s unconventional, but fun because people can interact with the art – it’s picked up and looked under. It’s like a museum, but you’re not going to get yelled at for touching it,” she said.

Future escape plans

ConTRAPtions opened its doors to the Front Range community in August, and has already had more than 2,000 people attempt escapes, with an overall success rate of 42 percent.

escape room
A look inside the Mafia Gallery, which features some of Abigail’s original paintings.

The Daltons have space for another escape room, and they hope to create a new experience in the next six months or so with more sophisticated and complex engineering elements. In the meantime, they plan to continually make improvements to the two existing rooms, ensuring the experience is never quite the same for return visitors.

“The responses we’ve gotten from customers have been overwhelmingly positive. Our goal is that they have a blast with the experience, regardless of whether or not they solve the room – we want them to feel like it was money and time well spent,” Abigail said.