Osceola escape room

Beth Thole and Barb VanderVeen arrange the Goeway schoolhouse, located on the Osceola County Fairgrounds in Sibley, in preparation of hosting an escape room.

SIBLEY—The Albert W. McCallum Museum Board will put on a puzzling fundraiser during the Osceola County Fair.

In an effort to raise money for a new agriculture museum building, the board is organizing an escape room in the Goeway schoolhouse at the Osceola County Fairgrounds.

Goeway schoolhouse

The Goeway schoolhouse will host an escape room during the Osceola County Fair July 18-20. Proceeds will go toward the McCallum Museum’s fundraiser for a new agriculture museum.

The escape room, titled “Scandal at the Schoolhouse,” will bring fairgoers back to the early 1900s to solve the mystery of a missing teacher.

Museum board member Beth Thole said the story is based on true events.

“By following the clues, you will find out what happened to the teacher,” Thole said. “She didn’t teach in this building, but in another country school. The story behind her and what we’re developing here are very much alike. We’re using her picture and her classroom picture in our posters we’re using around town.”

Thole and Sibley-Ocheyedan Elementary teacher Barb VanderVeen designed the challenge after going through their first escape room in Edgerton, KS. That escape room also is held in an old country schoolhouse, called the Lanesfield School. Profits from the escape room go toward the museum in its county.

“When you don’t know something, what do you do? Don’t you Google it? I went to Google and I typed it in and that’s the first one that came up,” VanderVeen said of the Lanesfield School. “I talked to them and she kept saying, ‘You really need to do one first.’ She was right.”

VanderVeen and Thole made about a 700-mile round trip to the Lanesfield school on June 20, and completed the escape room in about 43 minutes, nearly breaking a record.

“It was so much fun. I can’t wait to do another one,” VanderVeen said.

The create as authentic a setting as possible, Thole and VanderVeen have meticulously removed items except for those that would have existed in the schoolhouse 1900-29. They have even removed books because the publishing dates were beyond that time frame.

Once inside, contestants will have 55 minutes to complete the puzzles and escape. No cellphones or electronic devices will be permitted inside; participants must rely on their wits.

There is no age limit for entering the escape room, but children must be accompanied with an adult, and high-school age or older is recommended to be able to complete the puzzles. The maximum group size allowed is six. Participants may sign up on a first-come, first-served basis during the fair. The hours posted may fluctuate based on demand.

“If we have people we’ll certainly be open much longer,” Thole said. “We’ve gone as far as to say if a youth group or a 4-H group or a family would like to do this to call us; we’ll open it up and do it for them.”