Witches and wizards were trapped Thursday in the Rawls Room of the Tahlequah Public Library, where a Harry Potter Escape Room event was held, challenging participants to escape and prevent the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy from being exposed.

Before the escapees entered their confined space, Youth Services Coordinator Michelle Newton read a letter informing them of the dire situation.

"You're a group of brave students captured by a muggle who has hidden himself in an old shack in the Forbidden Forest," said Newton. "This muggle wants to expose witches and wizards to the world, starting with Hogwarts, and you cannot let this happen."

With the help of a "Death Eater," the muggle had a "concealment spell" placed on the shack in which students were trapped, making it difficult to locate. So students had 25 minutes to find the spell locked away in a trunk of the muggle's shack. To break the spell, the witches and wizards had to find six clues that led to six locks within the room.

This is the second year for TPL to host the Harry Potter Escape Room, which has become wildly popular. Every slot was filled this year, including both Thursday and Friday.

"I start at 9:30 [a.m.] and we end at 6 [p.m.], so every 30 minutes is new group, except for an hour break for me," said Newton. "It's totally full for tomorrow, too. Everybody loves Harry Potter and it's something to do on fall break."

Located around the escape room was nearly everything one might find at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The walls were decorated with paintings from Hogwarts; a teapot collection and ornamental plates from the character Dolores Umbridge's office were displayed; a potions table was available; spiders roamed the floor; and personal effects from Professor Albus Dumbledore's office were on hand.

The Harry Potter series of books and movies has captured the imaginations of millions across the globe.

One escapee Thursday said it helps let people escape from the real world.

"It kind of gives you a chance to envision something that you don't really have a chance to envision in this world," said Kylea Britton. "It's not something you see on an everyday basis. It's just so interesting how everything is."

Some of the groups who attended the escape room took longer than others. Kylea's group was minutes away from letting the Wizarding World's secret from spreading, but through teamwork, they were able to get out.

"I think it was just difficult enough," said JoElla Rutherford, who took her kids to the escape room Thursday. "It made us think. I knew that Michelle would make it challenging."

The group members were pretty confident they would be able to escape, "considering we've read all of the books about 100 times and watched the movies about that many times," said Katie Rutherford.

The group of witches - Kylea, JoElla, Katie, Allison Rutherford, Madison Rutherford, and Nikkita Bates - originally had plans to go out of town Thursday, but at the last minute decided not to.

"I'm glad we didn't," said Madison. "I wanted to do [the escape room] last year, but all of the spots were filled."

While many of the witches and wizards remained calm at the beginning of their escape plan, the running clock rushed some into overlooking clues. The first clue, according to Newton, was apparently found more quickly by younger students, while adults often looked right past it.

"The hardest thing to do is not help," said Newton, as she watched a group try to escape. "I built in a clue helper this year. I tore half of a ticket and wrote on the back, 'If you find this half, then I'll give you help with a clue,' because it's so hard not to help."

Not everyone who escaped needed help, however.

In fact, one group didn't even have knowledge of the Harry Potter world.

"They did it in under 10 minutes," said Newton. "They hardly even used the clues. One guy just looked at the clues and said, 'This answers that. That answers this.' He had not read Harry Potter or watched the movies or anything. He just used his intellect."

Check it out

While all of the slots for the Harry Potter Escape Room at the Tahlequah Public Library were booked for Friday, Newton said fans could get lucky if a group decided to cancel. Thursday, two groups cancelled, allowing for last-minute attendees to participate. For more information about the TPL's escape room, call 918-456-2581.

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