4 States. 9 Escape Rooms. 1 Potential Murder?

Our trip was a success! Starting and ending in Boise, Idaho, Christina and I completed a big circle around the northwest US, solving nine escape rooms along the way. But our strangest story involved VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner), not escape rooms.

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but for the record, here’s our travel log.

Day 1:
-Land in Boise
-Try an Idaho potato fry bar
-Drive to Lucky Peak park (a neat mountain park we saw from the plane)
-Drive to Twin Falls, ID
-Play two escape rooms

Day 2:
-Visit the site where Evel Knievel jumped the Snake River
-Drive to Elko, NV
-Play an escape room
-Drive to Winnemucca, NV
-Play billiards and an escape room
-Drive to Sparks, NV

Day 3:
-Drive to Lake Tahoe
-Play an escape room
-Explore a park (Logan Vista)
-Drive to Reno
-Explore Reno (Casinos, circus)
-Play an escape room

Day 4:
-Drive to San Francisco
-Attend a wedding and reception

Day 5:
-Return to San Francisco to look for lost jewelry
-Drive through Shasta National Forest
-Drive to Klamath Falls
-Play an escape room

Day 6:
-Drive through Klamath National Forest
-Drive to Nampa, ID
-Play two escape rooms
-Flee VRBO near Boise

Flee VRBO near Boise

This last one was really something. Our night played out like a real horror movie. In reality, it was probably a combination of small, innocent things that led to a sinister overall feel.

We pulled into our VRBO around 10PM, so it was already dark when we got there. We had no idea what to expect except that the place promised a nice mountain view.

Upon arrival, we were surprised to find that this was no ordinary home. Our route took us a few miles outside of Boise proper, down a quiet road, to a large gate. As we passed through the gate, we realized we were staying on the premises of a mansion.

The VRBO instructions advised us to go through the garage to get in. We found that our lodging was set up in a loft added above the mansion’s detached second garage. The garage itself was very large, mostly dedicated to a single ice cream truck. At this point I was more excited than creeped out. Sure, the Twisted Metal game series has made ice cream trucks a little spooky, but nothing really unsettling.

As we settled in, we were quite happy with the space. The loft was a large studio with plenty of space for us to relax. We ordered in food via delivery and waited for it to arrive.

I set up my mini film projector and Christina and I started to kick back for a few minutes while our order was being prepared. Suddenly, Christina jumped up and threw her pillow on the floor.

I saw a large insect on the floor (a stink bug, I think) and thought that’s why Christina threw the pillow. I killed it with some toilet paper and got rid of it. Then Christina showed me what was bothering her. Bloodstains on the pillowcase.

The stains were mostly isolated to the edges. We speculated- maybe they were old. Maybe someone had a hangnail when changing the bed. I sent a message to the VRBO owner asking for support.

Meanwhile, I saw two more large stink bugs and chased down and killed both. While I was doing this, Christina, clearly nervous, called me again. More blood on the bed. This time on the sheets.

Sure, the most likely cause is that someone had a cut while putting together the bed for us. But we were starting to get a little uncomfortable with visions of strangers sneaking up to the loft in the middle of the night and stabbing guests in their sleep. It’s not like I haven’t done a few HH Holmes themed escape rooms, after all.

Our food order arrived and we were thankful for human contact. The mansion was completely dark and I hadn’t received a response to my inquiry about the bloody sheets.

I wanted to grab some snack items we had picked up earlier in our trip to have with dinner. I couldn’t find a light switch in the garage, so I used the car’s remote lock to get the car to flash its lights for a second at a time. Making my way around the ice cream truck, I started to get a little paranoid- that one of the times I flashed lights, I would see something new and terrifying. But I retrieved the bag without incident and hurried back upstairs.

After we ate dinner, I noticed more bugs high up. Large, unusual bugs, about one inch long each. There was one at the peak of the ceiling, too high for me to reach, and a big clump at the top of one of the windows. I couldn’t tell what I was looking at- I stood on a chair and got a photo with a camera’s zoom, and we could definitively see a cluster of bugs, but we couldn’t make heads or tails of it. The bugs were immobile, but were they dead, or merely waiting for the lights to go off to become active?

Christina called me to the bathroom. Red stains on the floor, with a few tiny drips in the shower and bath mat, and a more substantial streak on the floor near the toilet.

Now our imaginations were in overdrive. Had someone been murdered here, and the killer did a sloppy job cleaning up the evidence?

We heard what sounded like a car pulling up outside, followed by footsteps. We looked out the window but couldn’t see anything. The wind was blowing, so maybe it was just the wind? And still no answer from the VRBO owner.

Having had one too many spooky encounters, we hurriedly packed everything up and hit the road. Only once we were safely clear of the area did we stop for me to send another message to the VRBO owner that we would not be staying, and I found alternative accommodations at a nearby hotel.

The blood on the bed was probably a hangnail that someone didn’t notice while hastily putting the sheets on. The stains in the bathroom were probably red nail polish. Bugs aren’t unusual to encounter in older buildings. And the wind can easily sound like people prowling around outside. The VRBO owner may have been asleep already, or occupied with something else at the time. But all these factors together make it hard to get any sleep. You start asking yourself who else really knows where you are. You start to think about that extra key you know the VRBO owner must have. You start imagining waking up with bugs crawling on your skin, or worse.

I’m sure the VRBO owners are in fact very nice people, but we didn’t stick around to find out!

This experience did lead me to finally pick up a copy of Devil in the White City for my plane ride home, both to learn about history and to better enable myself to keep an eye out for the signs that I’m staying in a murder hotel.

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