Manor Farm opens 'haunted' escape room

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By Arielle Dollinger, News 12 Digital

As caretaker and program coordinator for the nonprofit educational organization Starflower Experiences, Rich Brundige spends three seasons teaching people “what it means to be green.” But at Halloween time, he says, “I get to be creepy.” 

Brundige and his wife, Elisa, live at Manor Farm -- a Town of Huntington-owned property on a street shrouded by trees. A few years ago, one might drive right past it. The signage is more visible now, and brings visitors’ attention to a list of autumnal attractions including a “Haunted Doll House” escape room. 

The escape room experience is an hour-long challenge: enter the car port Brundige and his volunteers have disguised as a haunted doll house, and solve the puzzles before time runs out.  

“This year’s ‘Escape the Haunted Doll House’ is based on the doll master, who is creating a living doll, and he’s looking for new parts and pieces,” Brundige says. “A group went in to go see what he was up to in the doll house he’s building and never came out. And what was left behind was a strange doll.”

Visitors are tasked with solving the mystery of where the doll came from and what happened to the group. They have one hour to do so.

This year’s escape “room” is three rooms. The key to the second is hidden in the first, and the key to the third is in the second. 

Brundige calls himself “a bit of a fanatic” when it comes to escape rooms. He has completed somewhere around 42 escape rooms, he says, and built nearly three dozen. Some, he has completed while traveling as a pediatric oncology camp director. 

“I’ve hit one escape room every month this year,” he says.

When designing his own escape rooms, he draws on his experiences as well as websites like Pinterest and YouTube. He works backward, deciding where to hide the key that unlocks the door before mapping out the path of puzzles that will lead to it. Rooms he builds include an average of 15 puzzles, he says. 

“I’ve been told my escape rooms are a little tough,” he says. “This one for Halloween I scaled back a little bit more.”

He adds, “Our last escape rate was more like 15 percent.” He says he hopes the escape rate will be closer to 50 percent this time around. 

At other times of year, the farm’s escape rooms might involve an environmental message. Over the summer, for example, he incorporated energy-saving tips into a code that would open the room’s safe, he says. 

When Brundige opened this year’s “haunted” room to its first guests on Oct. 18, the group could not find its way out in time. 

Manor Farm’s own story is far less haunting than the tales Brundige tells escape room participants. The 12-acre plot was established as a farm around 1830, then divided in 1970 when 6.84 acres were sold to private owners, and the rest was farmed by the Becker family, says a Town of Huntington spokesperson. 

The Town purchased the land from the Beckers in 2001 and entered into a license agreement with Starflower Experiences the following year. Today, the nonprofit runs environmental education programs at the farm. 

The Town tells News 12 that a report it has on file says the Beckers raised such animals as cattle, sheep, goats, wild boars, deer, rabbits, a Vietnamese pig, swans, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, flamingoes, guinea hens, pigeons, emus and a horse.

As Brundige tells it, the farm’s reindeer -- English Settler Deer -- would get out on Christmas Eve. The cows would go for strolls across Manor Road, and the Russian boars became “special sausages,” Brundige adds. 

The escape room runs through Nov. 10 and cost $15 per person. To schedule a session, call (631) 213-1927.

Check out some photos below of the farm and escape room.

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