SIBLEY, Iowa — There’s Mayhem in Melvin, and the public’s help is needed to solve the clues and learn the rest of the story.
Following a successful venture with its “Scandal at the Schoolhouse” escape room that debuted last summer, volunteers with the McCallum Museum are at it again.
This time, teams of up to six are welcome to try and solve the mystery for a chance at bragging rights. In the two weeks since the new escape room opened in the basement of the Goewey No. 5 schoolhouse on the Osceola County Fairgrounds, just one team has completed the challenge in the allotted one-hour time limit.
Beth Thole, a McCallum Museum board member, was careful not to divulge too much information about the mystery, saying only that it’s based on a true event that happened in the early 1900s and involved both the communities of Melvin and Sibley.
“I know some of our Melvin people know of the story,” she said. “It’s a story that kind of rocked the county at that time.”
Thole said she and volunteers “happened on actual old police records that kind of led from one thing to another,” and that led to the plans for Mayhem in Melvin.
“We did a lot of research — we’ve done our homework,” she said as she explained how hours were spent going through books and photographs and searching online for information. “Who can write a better story than history?”
The location of the new escape room is a story in itself. During the launch of their "Scandal at the Schoolhouse" during the Osceola County Fair last summer, Thole said the tornado sirens sounded in Sibley.
A storm shelter was opened up by fair board members in the basement of the schoolhouse.
“Most people didn’t even realize there was a basement there,” Thole said, noting its entrance faces the street on the south side of the schoolhouse.
“I got a little courageous and went down there to see what it was like,” she shared.
What she found was a lot of stuff in storage — and a lot of potential. She thought with a lot of work, the space could be perfect for a second escape room location.
She received support and manual labor from fair board members to remove the stored items, which then led to hours and hours of cleaning. She extended her appreciation to fair board members who also put in new doors, windows and lighting.
“We had lots of people donate items,” Thole said, noting that Randy Erwin Painting provided the paint to give the basement a fresh look. Hood Packaging (formerly Chase Bag) in Sibley donated steel for a local volunteer and escape room enthusiast to build a jail cell for the Mayhem in Melvin room.
“He went through the escape room last year and thoroughly enjoyed it,” Thole said.
The jail cell is one of four scenes in the escape, as teams have to get into the cell to finalize the clues.
“Once they open the last challenge, they get to read what really happened in this whole mystery,” Thole said. “Then we fill in the details.
“There’s a letter that explains what actually happened, connecting all of these things together,” she added. “This is a history lesson you won’t forget.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the escape rooms — the "Scandal at the Schoolhouse" is still an option on the building’s main level — are open by appointment only. To schedule a time for a team of up to six people, contact Barb VanderVeen at (712) 541-8451.
Proceeds from the entry fee go toward the McCallum Museum’s FARM SHED fundraiser to construct an additional building at the museum to store ag-related items.