Westport Museum Creates Escape Room For Connecticut Witch Trials

WESTPORT — Just in time for the Halloween season, the Westport Museum of History and Culture is hosting an escape room that will transport attendees into a spooky, fictionalized adaptation of the real-life Connecticut witch panic of the 1600s.

The event runs from October 2 to October 30. Taking place inside the museum’s newly restored 19th century cobblestone barn, the escape room features antique props and decorations, where groups will solve a series of puzzles to find a key piece of evidence that will uncover the truth about an accused witch.

“Many do not know that witch hunts have taken place here in Connecticut, and even fewer know that they happened almost 50 years before Salemsaid Nicole Carpenter, Director of Programs and Collections at the Westport Museum. “Our hope is that by solving these puzzles, guests reflect on the reality of these persecuted people and how the end result of the escape room – albeit fictional – makes sense in this convoluted story.”

Executions of accused witches in the state date back to May 1647 in Hartford, where Alys Young was hanged. A single line of text in the governor’s diary from the colonial era exists today to recount the event.

Events even approached the Westport area, where in 1653 Goodwife Knapp of Fairfield was convicted of “suspicion” of witchcraft and eventually hanged. Rumors swirled after Knapp confessed to Roger Ludlow, then the colony’s vice-governor, that Compo’s Mary Staples was also a witch.

Carpenter said he chose this story because the Connecticut witch hunts are unknown to many, whereas the Salem witch hunts are more popularized.

She said diseases like smallpox, yellow fever and influenza were rampant in the Colonial Connecticut area. There were also attacks from rival colonizers and native tribes. This led to an escalation of fear and hysteria, with repercussions for people believed to be witches.

A total of 11 people were killed in the state from 1647 to 1662, Carpenter said.

This is the museum’s first escape room, although it has been in the works since late 2019, she said.

“I don’t think most people understand the work that goes on in an escape room,” Carpenter said. “We were very lucky to have a small team working on it.”

Carpenter said one of their interns, Claire Menard, spearheaded the creation of clues.

“She’s done a really fabulous job of putting all of her thoughts together on how to make all of these puzzles work,” Carpenter said.

They also wanted the space to feel authentic to the 17th century.

“We wanted to make sure the space felt like time travel,” she said.

The escape room is currently being tested by staff and volunteers to ensure the puzzles make sense, the space is appropriate and safe, and the language and rules are clear, to ensure that the room is as good as it gets when attendees enter, Carpenter said.

Carpenter said they turned to an escape game company in Poland to buy materials and advice on some of the puzzles they created, as well as the accuracy of historians.

“We were very lucky to not only have good, multi-talented staff working on this project, but also to have key advisors,” she said.

This is the first event held in the cobbled barn since its restoration over the summer. It’s also the only such barn in Connecticut, Carpenter said.

“Our goal and hope is that in solving these puzzles, our guests and attendees reflect on the reality of the people who were actually involved in the Witch Panic,” Carpenter said. “And also to think about the end result of our escape room — even though it’s fictional and meant to be educational fun — how it all ties into this very, very complicated time in Connecticut history.”

Tickets are $20 for museum members and $25 for non-members. At least two people are required to participate with a maximum of 10 people.

[email protected]

About Bobby F. Lopez

Check Also

This new chef from the Blanton Museum will reintroduce you to the redesigned space

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Blanton Art Museum in Austin on Wednesday named a new director …