A couple of weeks ago my friend’s husband came to pick my kids up for church youth night. He is also my friend but this story feels more dramatic if I refer to him as “my friend’s husband.” While he was waiting for them to get ready, he asked me a question.
“Does this Saturday work for Laylee’s birthday party or would you rather do it next week?”
I had no response to this.
A. I’ve never had one of my friends’ husbands approach me about the timing of my teenage daughter’s birthday party.
B. I had momentarily forgotten that she had a birthday.
“I mean,” he continued, “We’ll want to have it fairly close to her actual birthday. We could do it at my house, but I’d rather do it at yours.”
This only made it worse. I mean, he’s a good friend, but. What?
It turns out that, as he was driving the jazz band carpool, he had been talking to Laylee about the “locked room” party craze. He’s super creative and wanted to plan an elaborate puzzle like that. And so they hatched a plot. Mike would spend hours creating a locked room/puzzle birthday party for Laylee and her friends, one of whom was his daughter.
It was just that no one had told me about it. So. The confused face.
Once I was up to speed, we got to work. Mike did all the mad genius stuff and I set the mood.
Retro 1980s Horror Show That Half of Laylee’s Friends Aren’t Allowed to Watch Because it’s Practically too Scary for Me. Perfect. Here’s how it went down.
The girls arrived at our 80s abode and we fed them dinner. Eggos. 80s dance music was playing.
As they were finishing dinner, I knocked at the front door, dressed as Joyce Byers. This was convenient because I just recycled my Halloween costume.
Joyce was crying as usual and told them to come out on the front porch. It was an EMERGENCY! You see, she believed that Barb was ALIIIIIIIIIVE!
While we were out on the porch, Dan and Mike threw grey thrift store sheets over everything to make it Upside-Downy and then dimmed the lights and flipped on some blue ones.
Joyce told the girls they had to go into the Upside Down and save Barb.
Back inside, Chief Hopper awaited to tell them how the puzzle worked. Everything they needed to unlock the secret door under the stairs and save Barb was on one specific book shelf and table. Then he gave them a walkie talkie and told them to contact him if they needed assistance.
The way Mike set up the puzzle, there were three numbers they needed to find that corresponded with three stickers next to a padlock.
The first riddle involved them sorting books by height. Each book had a letter on it. When sorted properly, the letters spelled Tolkien. When they looked in the Lord of the Rings books, they found a clue to another detailed puzzle. Once solved, that puzzle gave them the quote “rings for mortal men.” There are 9 rings for mortal men in LOTR, so the number was nine.
The second riddle involved an unfolded cootie catcher. Remember those little paper folded fortune tellers from when we were kids? When they folded it and held the points together, it contained a musical staff with a line of music. When they played the song on the piano, it was the theme from Star Wars.
In the Star Wars VHS tape on the shelf was an oddly cut out piece of paper. There was another piece of paper with similar markings on the table. They had to hold up the cutout paper a foot above the table paper with a flashlight shining through it.
The combination of the projected light from the first paper and the symbols on the second paper spelled out the word “quinze”, which means 15 in Portuguese. Good thing there was an English/Portuguese dictionary on the table. The second number was 15.
For the third and final clue, there was an 80s Troll puzzle half-assembled on the table. They had to put it together, squish it between two cookie sheets, flip it over, and read the message on the back. The message contained 4 quotes they recognized from Harry Potter books. Now, I know Harry Potter is not 80s appropriate, but we needed to pick books the girls would all be familiar with and time is irrelevant in the Upside Down.
They found the correct books and in their pages were the pieces to a brightly colored Sudoku puzzle. The colors matched the colors of M&Ms in a jar on the shelf. They had to solve the Sudoku puzzle, count the number of M&Ms and then do a math problem with those numbers, giving them the final number for the code.
They unlocked the door.
And found this VHS video from Barb inside.
She was ALIVE!!! And she’d left them some rad treats. Scrunchies, Coke glasses, hot pink nail polish, and makeup bags with Nerds inside.
Here is a picture of the girls watching Barb’s message. I love the older kids’ delight contrasted with Wanda’s horror. Eaten by monsters? Gross.
And I let them eat cake.
And monsters ate no one.