Bainbridge Escape – The Mystery of History – Bainbridge Island’s Debut Escape Room!

Bainbridge Escape The Mystery of History logoBainbridge Escape – The Mystery of History is a historic interactive escape room, which revolves around the story of David Caplan, famed fugitive from the 1910 Los Angeles Times Bombing. Caplan evaded capture and spent more than four years hiding on Bainbridge Island under the alias Fritz Moller. As Moller, he was known locally as the Belgium Barber, occupying a shop in Rolling Bay, next to Lucas Rodal’s grocery store (now Bay Hay & Feed). In 1915, law enforcement and agents from the world-famous William J. Burns National Detective Agency apprehended Caplan on Bainbridge Island after a nationwide manhunt.

Escape Room - David Caplan 1910 Sacramento Daily Union article -1Bainbridge Escape Presents: The Bombing Barber of Bainbridge

It’s 1915…You are a crack team of investigators from the world-famous William J. Burns National Detective Agency. You have been tasked with finding the last missing member of the “L.A. Bombers” – a group of radicals who bombed the Los Angeles Times press building almost five years ago, killing 21 innocent civilians. All of the perpetrators have been brought to justice…except one.

The evidence has led you to a small island in the Puget Sound, and a mysterious barber that may be the villain in question. 

Find the clues, solve the case and bring the Bombing Barber of Bainbridge to justice. Your team will have 60 minutes to complete your mission and escape. Do you have what it takes to outwit this elusive criminal?

Bainbridge Escape is a fully immersive escape room experience*. The adventure brings an epic, historically relevant story to life in a one-of-a-kind tactile experience.

William J. Burns Detective Agency sign at the Bainbridge Escape Room and Jessica Perkins and Tj FaddisI was invited to get a sneak peek of Bainbridge Escape before it opens to the general public on June 26th. Joined by my husband, Bryan and friends Jessica Perkins and Tj Faddis, the game began with our host, Nathan Thayer, who gave us a quick history lesson surrounding the escape room theme, and (because none of us had done an escape room before) an explanation of how it all works. We were then ushered into the “William J. Burns National Detective Agency” office where we began to search for clues.

Each detail was well crafted, giving it a very authentic 1915 vibe. The puzzle pieces (or clues) were cunningly integrated into the set, and the designers incorporated interactive technology that surprised and delighted us at each turn, as well as some brain teasers that called upon the need for collective thinking to solve the puzzle and move us on to the next stage of the game. Fortunately, when we got stuck—which admittedly happened a couple of times—our host Nathan was there to prod us along with a hint or two, and I’m pleased to say we made our “escape” with just minutes to spare.

Nathan Thayer, Erika Thayer and Phillip JustmanFor Bainbridge Apothecary & Tea Shop owner, Erika Thayer, creating an Escape Room experience here on Bainbridge has been a dream come true. When she and her family purchased the historic buildings on Winslow Way, known today as The Ravine Shops, in 2020, she was one step closer to making that dream a reality. She began the process by contacting acclaimed “experience designer and innovator of leading-edge immersive storytelling”, Phillip Justman, to knock ideas around for a historic escape room experience filled with island history. However, it wasn’t until early 2023, when the owner of the Cuts Above Barber Shop retired, that Erika and her husband Nathan decided to take the leap and use the newly vacated space for their project.

Erika and (mostly) Nathan did the majority of construction work building out the design, with Phillip just a phone/video call away to advise as they progressed. “My favorite escape rooms to bring to life are the ones based in historical fact and this is a true story,” Phillip said. “It has been amazing bouncing ideas back and forth between Erika and Nathan. They have set a high bar and are attempting to create a truly authentic experience of this amazing story.”  Visitors and locals won’t be disappointed, Phillip noted, “A lot of love and creativity and history has gone into the creation of this adventure; from researching hair products from the 1910’s to dusting off old maps of the island – it has been a lot of work and joy to bring this story to life!”

William J. Burns Detective Agency desk at the Bainbridge Escape RoomPhillip’s career and expertise in immersive storytelling began in his 20s, when he travelled the world as a stage actor, and eventually moved into the directing side of the theatre world. “It was there I discovered ‘immersive theater’.  A style of theater in which the audience can wander around a venue and experience the story in their own way,” Phillip explained. “Essentially, storytelling in 360 degrees. I began producing immersive theater events all over the southeast. When the escape room boom happened in 2016, I was in the unique position to know how to guide an audience through an interactive experience. So, I simply showed up, and said, ‘I sort of know how to make one of these things!’ I have been creating escape rooms and interactive experiences ever sense!”

When it comes to creating the story, Phillip says it often begins with the client. “What is the style of room they want to create? Who are their players? What kind of experience do they want to create? Horror? Fantasy? Mystery? I take that theme or story idea and run with it.” He also does a ton of research, for this project, Phillip read a number of articles and a book that tells the story of the Bainbridge Bomber, American Lightning by Howard Blum.  From there, he interweaves puzzles into the escape room story as cohesively as possible. “It’s very easy just to put a random puzzle up on the wall in an escape room. It’s much more challenging and satisfying for the players to have puzzles that fit seamlessly into the narrative that they are experiencing, immersing them into the adventure.

American Lightning by Howard BlumPhillip’s designs span across the US and internationally, and are currently active in Georgia, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Kansas, Los Angeles, Ireland, New York City, and Denmark to name a few. All of the designs on his website are existing Escape Rooms and many of them are in multiple locations. “The Titanic escape room for example, is located in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as Belfast, Ireland. The only escape room that is not active is the official F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Escape Taxi Cab experience I created for Warner Brothers. It toured the country in 2019 for the 20th anniversary of Friends the TV show. Last I heard it’s in a lot at Warner Brothers chilling next to the Batmobile.”  Visit his website to learn more: About — Phillip Justman

Phillip also noted that Escape Rooms are perfect for corporate team-building, birthday parties, and curious minds looking for fun. “Escape Rooms are the most fun you can have in one hour! Furthermore, this escape room has my favorite puzzle I’ve ever created…it’s pretty cool.”

Local business owner, Alex Sanso had this to say about her “sneak peek” experience: “Excellent experience! Wasn’t sure what to expect, as this was my first ever escape room adventure. It was fun AND educational as we learned about actual events…It was very challenging with satisfying a-ha moments as we figured out the clues. Great activity with a group of friends, with an exciting finish! This is a great way to spend an hour in town. Nothing else like it on the island!”

*An escape room is a live 60-minute game. You and your team will step into a themed room with a unique mission where you will work together to uncover clues and overcome challenges to complete your mission. While there may be digital elements, you are interacting in a real immersive environment. This isn’t a video game. These games engage every sense in a one-of-a-kind tactile experience inside an immersive setting that feels like the set of a Hollywood blockbuster.

Reservations are strongly recommended; however, they do accept in-person reservations, and can book you in if space allows. Visit their reservation portal by clicking here.

Bainbridge Escape is located at 440 Winslow Way E, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

Advertisement Churchmouse Yarn and Teas Bainbridge Island
Advertisement Churchmouse Yarn and Teas Bainbridge Island

If you’d like to learn more about the LA Times bombing and the manhunt that ensued, visit: Bainbridge fugitive nearly escapes history (

To learn more about Erika and The Ravine Shops, visit our previous articles: Welcome to The Ravine – A slice of history with a side of enchantment | THE ISLAND WANDERER and Summer is Here and The Ravine is ramping up the fun! More Food, More Music and a Historic Escape Room… | THE ISLAND WANDERER

If you’d like to read more articles from The Island Wanderer Blog website, click here, to subscribe to The Island Wanderer Blog, click here.

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