Inside Business Track: XPhobia
Escape Room Entertainment in Olean
By Chad Neal
Do you have what it takes to solve a murder, diffuse a bomb, rob a bank, break out of jail, or escape from a serial killer in 60 minutes or less?
Entertainment has come a long way since the first Cro-Magnon man made noises with sticks and rocks to make his family smile. Now we have so much visual and audio entertainment it can get boring. But hands on fun, like being part of the game show that is on television is such a wonderful way to amuse oneself. Theatre is a form of entertainment where the viewer can be a part of the show, but there are even more ways to enjoy oneself, safely with a hint of tension and adrenaline for a more memorable time. The murder mystery parties are a fun way to spend an evening and now there is a new form of mysterious recreation, getting locked in a room and having to find clues to escape. Larger cities have seen them come into light, but now in Olean, a hop, skip and jump away, you can find Xphobia. Xphobia is a way to spend an hour with friends and family locked in a room using your keen wits and smarts to attain clues to find more clues to find the way to escape.
Bill Bechdel, proprietor of Xphobia grew up in Arcade, NY and attended Pioneer School district where he also graduated. He was interested mainly in computer sciences and later became interested in music and he taught himself guitar and joined a band. He found work at Motorola after school until the factory moved to Mexico. He then went on to find nursing and received his LPN at BOCES and his RN at JCC in Olean. But he wanted more. The Villager checked out XPhobia last week and wanted to share this wonderful new form of entertainment with our readers. We caught up with Bechdel and asked him about his endeavor with the escape room spectacle – Xphobia.
The Villager: Where did you get the idea for Xphobia?
Bill Bechdel: After a successful career in Nursing I decided I wanted to try running my own business. I considered numerous options, but couldn’t find something of interest that would be interesting to others. One day my mother heard about these “escape rooms” and my sister purchased a voucher for her birthday. She invited me along and I was hooked. I couldn’t believe how much fun it was! It was then I started looking into the business side of it. I’m extremely interested in the future of this industry and how to better immerse people into the story-line. That is the vision for Xphobia Entertainment. It’s more than just solving puzzles, it’s becoming part of the story, allowing people to become the protagonist for an hour and step into their own movie!
V: When did you decide to start it?
BB: Things happened quite rapidly. The first escape room I attended was October 8th. I did a couple weeks of market analysis, decided to sell my investments and anything else I wasn’t using, and invest my life savings into this. At the time I wasn’t sure if I was having a mid-life crisis or the best idea of my life, but I just had to know for sure. That idea is becoming more clear as I see how much fun people are having at Xphobia.
V: What is the basis of Xphobia?
BB: The general concept of an escape room is to lock people in a room where they will need to solve a series of puzzles to escape. Xphobia is taking that one step further and immersing people into an environment and allow them to experience conflict and resolution, their own personal interpretation of a story.
V: How do you explain it?
BB: It’s like stepping into a movie, but instead of being an actor, you’re the actual character.
V: How did you set it up the way it is?
BB: Each room is designed to a theme, the puzzles are centered around that theme, the lighting, furniture, the décor, the background soundtrack and sound effects all work together to emulate actually being in the story.
V: Did you do a lot of research? Where? What? Etc.
BB: No matter how much time I spent or spend researching I’m certainly learning and refining Xphobia. I’ve been to other escape rooms, come home and completely recreated their puzzles on paper. Studied how other places handle customer interaction, from greeting them to saying goodbye, clue delivery systems, and booking. Spoken with other owners and game designers.
The Villager asked Bechdel to say anything else he’s like to share and he explained, “You could say Xphobia is an entertainment business, and it is, but it’s more importantly a customer service business and providing the best customer experience possible is our mission.
I’m very excited about what Xphobia can bring to local businesses. Escape rooms can be a great tool for building/ growing a business. It can answer questions like: How does your team perform under stress? Do they work as a team? Who are your natural leaders, organizers, and problem solvers? XPhobia can help with team building and vetting employees for promotion.”
XPhobia is located at 453 North Barry St. in Olean NY. They can be found on facebook or their website at XPhobiaEntertainment.com or by calling 716-379-3393. With the idea of being trapped, but knowing you’re safe makes the game super fun and makes for a great time. If you enjoy problem solving and puzzles and the feeling of slight anxiety to heighten your adrenaline addiction, this is the game for you.