The judge’s room is just as he left it. A half-played domino game is spread out on a coffee table and framed photos of a teenage-aged girl decorate one corner of his desk next to the gavel the judge was known for liberally pounding during trials. A wallet and pile of mug shots in the beaten-up leather briefcase under his chair are the only clues he’s left behind.

Now, the question is where did he go and who might have wanted to see him missing?

 This is just one of the mysteries that people pay to solve when they step into 307 Mysteries. Parked in a gravel lot off of N. Highway 14-16, a mile out of town, four mobile trailers have been meticulously repurposed into various staged scenarios by owner Lezlie Kinsinger, whose imagination and analytical crime-solving abilities rival that of Sherlock Holmes.

It’s pretty addictive, she admitted. Kinsinger had tried an escape room for the first time with her kids during a trip to Kansas, and again, later when she was in Las Vegas. A pharmacist by trade, she’d never thought about opening her own escape room business, but after talking to the owner in Kansas and doing some research, she decided to try it part-time as a side business that wouldn’t require too much of a capital investment.

Since opening less than two years ago, 307 Mysteries is staying busy, and Kinsinger is happy to see it catching on, primarily as a group activity for friends or family, corporate team-building exercises and even for couples on first dates. It’s a great way to weed out a potential boyfriend, Kinsinger noted, recounting a few of the times couples have emerged with mysteries unsolved and not talking.

And though some people have never heard of escape rooms, they have been popular since around 2004, emerging by extension from interactive escape room games like “Crimson Room.” In the last decade, they’ve made it to Wyoming, with escape rooms in most of the larger cities like Jackson, Sheridan, Casper, Cheyenne, and Laramie.

Recently, Kinsinger purchased an enclosed trailer with two converted rooms to grow her mobile operation, parking at events like Donkey Creek Festival, fairs and sometimes at businesses, where she offers shorter, 10- or 30-minute versions of the typical allotted hour to solve a mystery or crime.

She opened the business with one room – her husband’s former camper trailer used for hunting – that has since been converted into the sparse home of a crazy guy, who has been accused of killing the woman he’s obsessed with and her fiancé. She came up with this storyline – much like all the others – at one of her son’s wrestling meets while sitting up in the bleachers.

“There’s a lot of time in between matches,” she laughed. Some of the mysteries can get a little kooky – like searching for an alien at the neighbor’s or escaping from the grips of a mad scientist or from a crazed man who currently has you locked in cuffs inside his grandma’s basement. Where the scenarios might be whimsical, however, the clues to figuring them out are anything but analytical, requiring the deduction skills of a CIA agent and the sleuthing of a bloodhound. Seemingly simple, easily overlooked details like a circled date on a wall calendar, an underlined passage in the middle of a book or a plastic tic-tac-toe game stuck in a kitchen drawer all might be integral clues for unraveling the puzzle in as short as time as possible.

As a chemist, her mind naturally thinks in puzzles, so for her thinking this way comes naturally, whereas most others struggle. She said that her friend wonders if she’s a secret serial killer. At times, she joked, she wonders herself.

Anywhere from two to five people at a time are invited to solve the puzzle, racing to beat the clock. She watches groups through cameras in each room and is on hand to offer clues at their prompting, but each clue sets that group back by five minutes, so they use this lifeline judiciously.

You can learn a lot about a person in one of these scenarios, she noted, which is probably why they’ve become popular for corporate exercises or sometimes gauging the particular skills of an employee. For her part, she too has learned a couple things about people since opening the business. Namely, they will take anything apart, many are too stubborn to ask for help even when they desperately need it, and most people do not follow directions, no matter how many signs she hangs on the walls.

It’s hard to say who’s having more fun, Kinsinger or her clients, up to 30-50 people a week, many of whom are repeat customers, including one couple who tried all four rooms in one day.

Currently, she’s open by appointment only (with hours listed on her Facebook page). The cost is $12 to $15 for the hour-rooms and she has special rates for shorter-timed rooms.

By: Jen C. Kocher

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