Weeping Witch is the newest experience at Anaheim’s Cross Roads Escape Games

Owners Madison and Luke Rhoades at the Weeping Witch in Anaheim.
Owners Madison and Luke Rhoades have changed the escape room industry with their award-winning games the Hex Room, the Fun House and the Psych Ward at their Cross Roads Escape Games in Anaheim.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The first time Madison and Luke Rhoades participated in an escape room, the husband and wife admit they didn’t get very far.

“When we got there, there was 10 other people and they locked us in room and told us to figure out how to get out,” said Madison. “It was super fun, but we didn’t get far at all because it was Halloween night and the other people we were with were drunk. At the end, the host came out and said, ‘Yeah, you guys got like 60%.’”

An escape room or escape game is hosted in one or sometimes multiple rooms with clues and puzzles that must be solved by a team of players to “escape” from the room. Sometimes the game is scary — but not always. Escape games centered around solving a crime or pulling off a bank heist are popular too.

During their first experience, the Rhoades weren’t familiar with the concept.

“This was 2014,” said Madison. “Escape rooms were not a thing. I thought we were going to a haunted house.”

The experience captured their imaginations and despite not solving the puzzle they felt inspired to create their own game.

“We were driving home thinking if we did one, what would we do?” said Luke. “The basic concept of the Hex Room was born on that drive home.”

Today, the duo own and operate Cross Roads Escape Games on East La Palma Avenue in Anaheim, which they opened in 2016. They host three games nightly, Wednesday through Sunday, that include the Hex Room, the Fun House and their latest creation, the Weeping Witch.

Owners Madison and Luke Rhoades at Cross Roads Escape Games in Anaheim.
Owners Madison and Luke Rhoades at their Cross Roads Escape Games in Anaheim.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“This was our first time opening a game and closing one in the same space,” said Madison. “The Hex Room has been around for six years, but we do refreshes of it every year or so, and Fun House is six years old.”

The couple met during high school in a theater class, and both went on to pursue degrees in the theater arts, with Madison studying set design at USC and Luke studying scenic construction at Vanguard. The breakdown of the previous game, Psych Ward, and the build-out of the Weeping Witch took about four months.

“I design it and he builds it,” said Madison. “We are able to get things done pretty fast.”

Then a lighting, sound and special effects team comes in after to handle the tech.

“I just do what she tells me to do,” laughs Luke, who also plays all the acting roles within the games.

Their expertise and talent is part of what makes the games at Cross Roads such an exhilarating experience, with immersive sets and special effects. The couple was even featured on an episode of “The World According to Jeff Goldblum” about puzzles.

“He didn’t play here; we were his teammates for an escape game,” said Luke.

The Weeping Witch is 60 minutes long for three to eight players over the age of 14. The game features flashing lights, fog scents, jump scares and loud noises, though no one ever touches the participants and security cameras ensure everyone is safe at all times. The cameras also let the staff give hints or help out if a group isn’t having much luck solving the game.

The game is set in Madam Ruby’s study, which resembles a creepy antique store or paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren’s artifact room.

Tarot cards are fanned out at the Cross Roads Escape Games in Anaheim.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“A lot of it comes from going to thrift stores and going, ‘What looks cursed?’” said Madison.

Among the Victorian death portraits, however, there are some items that have a more personal back story.

“This landscape hung above my family’s piano all growing up,” Luke said of a horizontal oil painting. “It’s a family heirloom.”

The object of the Weeping Witch game is to solve the puzzles to rid yourself of a family curse before the witch, who cries to lure her victims near, gets to you.

Before they opened their own game, Madison and Luke played every escape game in the Southern California area, which at the time was about 30.

“Now there are 30 companies, let alone 30 games, just in Orange County,” said Madison.

Luke Rhoades at  Cross Roads Escape Games in Anaheim.
Co-owner Luke Rhoades feigns fright at the Fun House, one of the Cross Roads Escape Games in Anaheim.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

On National Escape Room Day, Oct. 1, many of those companies will gather at Stereo Brewing in Placentia for a free event that will include mini games, raffle prizes, food trucks and beer from 6 to 11 p.m.

“We have a 10-minute mini game called the Box,” said Madison. “One person is in a hydrotherapy box and you have 10 minutes until the temperature inside reaches a ‘deadly’ level. There is actually a fog machine, so you see steam and the person can feel for clues and the people outside can see clues. They have to work together to get the person out.”

Mini games from other companies like Exit Game OC and Trapped! will also be onsite for the event.

At Cross Roads, the Weeping Witch is now open, and it’s among the couple’s favorite games they’ve created.

“I love this one,” said Luke. “The lighting design and the sound design just fits each moment so well. And the actual physicality the actor has to do is minimal, but the effect is enormous.”

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