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Making the ‘Great Escape’ in the 209

Have you ever tried to escape your everyday routine? Do you fantasize about exploring Egypt in search of King Tut’s treasure? Perhaps you are sitting at home and watching the latest episode of "Crime Scene Investigation" and wonder what it is like to solve a crime? Or you are fascinated with television shows like "Prison Break" and imagined yourself as Michael Scofield and wonder what it was like to break out of the prison cell and go on the run?

If you have said ‘yes’ to any of these, then thanks to three local brothers you now have your opportunity.

Salim Mitri, Seri Mitri and Sammer Mitri have opened the first escape room facility in the 209. Escape Modesto, at 912 11th St., Suite 1 in downtown Modesto, opened up in October 2015 and has been a top-rated family destination since.

“I first learned about the concept of escape rooms in July of 2015. I was visiting a friend in Athens, Greece. He had mentioned the idea and it intrigued me. It sounded like a lot of fun and at the time I had never heard of them. Modesto did not have anything like this,” recalled Seri. “I did some research and really became mesmerized by the concept of it. Modesto lacked things for young adults and families to do so when I returned home, I pitched the idea to my brothers and we decided Modesto would be the perfect location to open it. I had texted my brothers about it the night I found out about it and the three of us were very excited about it.”

Escape Modesto has three challenging escape rooms: King Tutankhamun’s Treasure, CSI: Modesto and Prison Break.

Seri described King Tut’s room as “A time warp into ancient Egypt and the Pharaohs. The idea of searching for long lost treasure, but when things go wrong it quickly can become an Indiana Jones thing.”

CSI: Modesto is the newest of the rooms and was brought in due to the popularity of TV series and its broad appeal to all ages.

“We brought in this room because the overwhelming popularity of the television show. It is current and people are intrigued by the world of crime and solving mysteries,” Seri explained. “That was also the idea behind our prison break room. People are fascinated with Alcatraz and other famous prisons.”

Other ideas were pitched by the public such as Alice in Wonderland and Harry Potter, but copyright issues prevented the brothers from incorporating them into the venture.

Each room has its own unique setting, and is full of clues to help guests succeed in their quest to escape. The goal is for a guest and nine of their friends or family members to gather all of the clues and escape the room in one hour. Sounds easy, but the success rate is low. Still, it leaves people wanting to come back for more.

“My friends and I went into the Prison Break room and failed to complete it. We had so much fun that we wanted to do it again and try the other rooms. It was a lot of fun,” said customer Anthony Ihana on the challenge.

Seri went on to add “It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt. Sometimes the clues are in plain sight but you need to piece it all together, and when you and nine others are trying to solve the same thing it can become a challenge. The people who are in the room really get into character. By that I mean they see the timer ticking away and they act like they’re running out of air in the King Tut room, or the warden is after them in the Prison Break room, or even how time sensitive the case is in our CSI room.”

Seri said the most enjoyable and rewarding part of Escape Modesto is watching people’s reactions, and really getting into it.

“I love watching people of all ages getting on their hands and knees searching for the clues and laughing and getting into it. It is like going to Disneyland and seeing the way people react to some of the attractions,” he said.

Although sometimes the room seems impossible to escape, the Mitri brothers keep a close watch on the groups to make sure that all 10 people in the room are safe at all times.

“One of my favorite things about this is that I hear people say that they are claustrophobic and can not complete this. The truth is anyone can do this,” Seri added. “Obviously, with fire code regulations and for the safety of our guests, we do not block any of the exits and can stop the experience for anyone at anytime if they want out. We have not had anyone want to stop yet, but we want to let people know that we can if needed.”

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