Escape Room Indianapolis imagines the world without Indiana University. Dystopia ensues.

By Sarah Bahr, Indianapolis Star

Indiana University burned to the ground in 1883. It was never rebuilt. 

You have an hour to fix it. 


That's the scenario a new room at The Escape Room Indianapolis asks gamers to imagine. In honor of IU's bicentennial in 2020, visitors must travel back in time 135 years in a "Time Reversal Machine" and locate lost funds to rebuild the school, according to The Escape Room Indianapolis website.  

If room occupants succeed, they'll jump forward in time to 2020, when IU, founded in 1820, is celebrating 200 years filled with basketball, midnight Rose Well House kisses and Little 500 races. 

But wait — the game isn't over yet. 

After returning the missing funds and flashing forward to the aggressively cream-and-crimson future — featuring basketball championship banners, football jerseys and even an old turnstile from Assembly Hall — players must then locate an IU Bicentennial Plaque and hightail it back to the time machine...all in under an hour.

The scenario is based on a real-life 1883 fire that destroyed the university's science building and library of 14,000 volumes, causing nearly $104,200 in damage, according to the Indiana Daily Student of 1885. The school was rebuilt thanks to insurance money and donations from Monroe County citizens.

So how difficult is "IU Time Warp 2020" compared to the location's six other escape rooms?

The site ranks the room "intermediate," which means it's challenging for most people, even those who have previously done — and maybe even broken out of — an escape room. However, more than half of occupants escape, so a Hoosier Hysteria victory dance isn't out of the question.

The room is an obvious destination for trivia-loving, cream-and-crimson-bleeding Hoosiers.

But what about Purdue fans?

Pros: They get to imagine a world without Isiah Thomas or Steve Alford in pinstripes. And, as the Escape Room Indianapolis boasts on its website, no Indiana or sports knowledge is necessary to solve the puzzles.

But it turns that alternate universe might not be so great. Not only are IU's physical buildings wiped away, but so are all its sports, science and cultural contributions.

No Crest toothpaste — IU researchers never discovered how to shine up the country's teeth. No Breathalyzer or Drunk-o-Meters to slash the former 50 percent of car crashes caused by drunken driving. No Meg Cabot "Princess Diaries" books (which means no Anne Hathaway movie).

But Boilermakers can, at least, enjoy a world sans IU's five NCAA men's basketball championships.

If you're keen to check it out, you and five friends can book the "IU Time Warp 2020" room. The maximum group size is six people, but you can still book if you have fewer individuals —you'll just be paired with another group to create a team of six. The cost is $29 per person.

The experience, which opened Sept. 28, will remain in place through 2020.

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