New local business offers team entertainment adventure
By Alex Owens
Most of San Diego’s top tourist attractions revolve around being outdoors, but the newest one involves getting locked in a room for an hour.
It’s the House of Hints, a brain-teasing, team building, puzzle-solving adventure where teams of three to six people pay $25 each to be locked into a room with only one hour to solve a mystery.
The business, which opened in October in a Kearny Mesa industrial park, is the brainchild of Jill Lux, a La Jolla native who was trained to play with people’s minds from a young age.
“My parents used to do harmless little pranks on me when I was growing up,” Lux said. “For example, I’d go out on a date and when I came home and sat on my bed, things would fall off the wall.”
Nothing that extreme happens in the House of Hints, but clues can appear in the strangest places and things that don’t make sense for the first 55 minutes suddenly come together in the last five.
Interactive mysteries such as House of Hints have been popular in Europe for the last few years. Lux experienced one in London with her new husband, Steve Smith, and decided to bring the concept to her hometown.
“We wanted to be the first in the U.S., but it took a long time to find the right location,” she said. “By the time we opened ours, there was one in New York, and there have been a couple of pop-ups in San Francisco that are only open for a weekend.”
The concept is the same, but Lux stresses the mysteries at the House of Hints are all one of a kind.
“They come from my demented brain,” she said, laughing. “I have all sorts of puzzles in my brain, but also want to provide enough clues so that people don’t feel bad that they can’t solve them.”
SPOILER ALERT: Even if people don’t find the key that lets them out within the 60-minute time frame, they probably will be let out — eventually.
Because the attraction revolves around a mystery, getting the word out about the attraction has been a bit of a challenge.
“How do you market something you can’t show?” she said. “You have to experience it.”
Luckily for Lux, word-of-mouth has been very supportive, with happy customers giving an average of five stars on Yelp and TripAdvisor.
“A group of homicide detectives tried it and had a blast,” she said. “They split up the younger ones against the older ones and the younger ones did better. Part of that was luck, but also because the older detectives were not used to a time constraint.”
There are currently four rooms with three settings: A detective’s office, a Black Ops safe house and a CSI lab. Lux hopes to add more if the demand increases.
She is also discovering that customers are using the attraction for their own mysterious ways.
“Employers are using this in job interviews,” Lux said. “It’s a great way to see how someone will interact with others. Are they organized? Do they think outside of the box? Do they get stressed?
“Honestly, what we are seeing is that the best qualities of people come out when they do this,” she said.
Lux said even parents who did this with teens have been happy.
“Life experience is an advantage in the game and we’ve seen teens look at their parents with new eyes,” she said with a knowing laugh — she has two teens of her own.
House of Hints is located at 5575 Magnatron Blvd., Suite H in Kearny Mesa. For more information call 858-634-0125 or check out houseofhints.com.
—Alex Owens is a San Diego-based freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.