Yesterday, my wife and I were invited to attend a 49 Boxes event at the Brookledge Theater in Hancock Park as guests of the event creator’s Michael Borys and Alex Lieu.
Alex Lieu & Michael Borys
Borys is a magician member of The Magic Castle who has been working with Lieu for over 20 years on games, marketing campaigns and immersive experiences for the biggest companies in the world. They’ve won Webby, Clio, One show and Canne Lion awards (and others) for their incredible work.
55 visitors arrived at the Larsen residence (Bill Larsen Sr. was the original proprietor of the famed Magic Castle). Not knowing what would happen next, we entered the intimate theater with excitement and trepidation. The group was immediately transported back in time to an age of victrolas, vintage radios, and leather suitcases with travel stickers. The air was thick with mystery and history.
On their website the premise of The 49 Boxes is described as follows:
The 49 Boxes is a social, story-driven experience where audiences interact with incredible artifacts to solve mysteries that have been kept secret for more than half a century…
But it’s so much more than that.
The audience is told that the magician Floyd G. Thayer left behind a large box, sealed with 19 unusual locks. The guests have about 90 minutes to figure out how to acquire keys to open the locks and are promised an amazing surprise at the end if they complete the task.
Groups of guests sit at various tables with an array of strange boxes that contain instructive letters from Thayer and artifacts that can be used to solve puzzles. The group must work as a team to determine the solution. Our table had to do some code breaking, use an abacus in an usual way, and hook up a detonator to a special box to reveal the contents inside. At one point we had to look through a special ocular apparatus to uncover hidden messages. Some clues were right in front of us. Other times we had to engage with different guests to see if they had the necessary object or approach the stage to request special items.
The shared experience is in the vein of an escape room but instead of trying to escape, the goal is more about teams collaborating in a very unique and fun way to solve a series of puzzles for the ultimate payoff.
It’s part Vaudeville, Rube Goldberg, Rubiks Cube, and pure magic!
Strangers become friends, unknown talents are tapped into, and cheering ensues when a team successfully unlocks their lock. In Survivor like fashion alpha individuals take over, barking orders while other teams employ friendly delegation techniques. The room is filled with frenzied commands and gasps at “aha” moments. Yes, there will be some stumbling blocks and good natured confusion. Fortunately there are plenty of helpers available to assist to keep the momentum going.
One after another, keys are found, locks are unlocked as the anticipation builds to what could possibly be inside? Like any good magic trick, I’m not going to spoil that answer and you will have to find out for yourself. I will say that it’s worth it!
Bring a date, grab your closest friends, take your parents, set up an ice breaker session for your workmates and buy a ticket to the 49 Boxes quickly as the events sell out in a flash. We can’t wait to return, be dispatched to a bygone era and do it again!