Sneak Peek: A Dracula Escape Room

sneak peek drac final

When an American heiress is kidnapped, her family hires your investigative team to find her. But the more you uncover, the odder and more supernatural the crime seems. Finally, it’s down to you, one room, and some very unusual clues…

This is a sneak peek at our Dracula escape room next month (you can see our previous escape rooms here and here). And we are going Gothic, as demonstrated by the mysterious bejeweled candelabra in the above photo. It’s also a little hint, too. Look closely…would you say that one of those candles is glowing with an unearthly light?

Full details of this fabulous escape room to come! If you are local and want your kids to give it a go (and they are between the ages of 9-13), you can register them here.

Shelter Story

Puppies and kitties in our Storytime Shelter eagerly await adoption…bring your custom pet set (complete with carrier, treats, blanket, ball, collar, and food dishes) and find your forever friend!

We read Who Wants Broccoli? by Val Jones (Harper, 2015). Breezly’s Animal Shelter has many pets, but none quite as big, energetic, loud, and messy as Broccoli the dog. The problem is, most people want a slightly less…ah…enthusiastic pet in their homes. So Broccoli gets passed over time and time again. But when little Oscar moves across the street, a big energetic dog is EXACTLY what he wants. Yes! Broccoli and Oscar, together in love and loudness.

You’ll need:

  • 1 large tissue box
  • A box cutter
  • 1 strip of poster board
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • 1 dog adoption papers template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • Various pet accessories (more on this below!)
  • Scissors, tape, and stapler for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Accessories vary according to what you have on hand, but here’s our pet set…a carrier, treat canister, plastic ball, blanket, collar with bell, and a water and food dish.

We used a 4.5” X 4.5” x 9” craft box, but a large tissue box works too! Use a box cutter to make a little door in one side of the box. We added a foam bead knob to the door, and used a hole punch to create “air holes” as well. The pet carrier’s handle is a strip of poster board stapled to the lid. You can decorate the carrier with markers, or used color masking tape and patterned tape like we did.

We wanted the top of the carrier to open so kids could stash their supplies, but we didn’t want the lid flying open while they were carrying the box. So we rigged up a latch using foam beads and a small rubber band. It worked great!

In terms of accessories, our treat jars were old film canisters, the balls were leftover from our Willy Wonka escape room, and the food and water dishes were snippets of a toilet paper tube. A little bit of ribbon, a bell, and a square of fleece fabric completed the set.

But the REAL surprise? You actually got to take a dog home, courtesy of a major Beanie Baby donation to our library!

Yes! When kids were finished their pet carrier set, they walked over to our Storytime Shelter (which was a cardboard facade propped up by two small tissue boxes).

Kids waited outside the shelter while Katie asked them the following questions…

Do you like dogs that bark, or dogs that are more quiet?
Do you like dogs that do tricks?
Do you like to play ball?
Do you want an adult dog? Or a puppy?
Will you take good care of your dog?

When all the questions were answered, Katie would select a Beanie Baby dog and “run” it out the shelter door to the kids, and the official adoption papers would be signed!

After everyone had a dog, we made another special announcement. You would get to select ANOTHER Beanie Baby companion for it! And out came a massive box of Beanie Babies to choose from. Were the kids excited? Oh, they were WAY excited! So were the grown ups! Hah!

We had enough Beanie Babies to allow younger siblings to adopt pets as well. So no one left the Storytime Shelter empty handed.

And now, an incredibly sweet coincidence…one little girl selected a cat from the big box of Beanies. She selected the VERY same version of the Beanie Baby kitty that had been her mom’s lovie so many years before. As the lovie was in storage, the little girl couldn’t have possibly known it was the twin to her mom’s. But she picked the very one.

Tears in my eyes!

Seeing Spirits

seeing spiritsA quiet forest appears empty. But gaze long enough and…a fox spirit will magically appear before your eyes! No, its not Photoshop or camera trickery. It’s a simple physical stage illusion called Pepper’s Ghost (invented by English scientist John Henry Pepper in 1862). We conjured it at To Be Continued, our chapter book story time program for 6-8 year-olds. Scroll to the bottom of the post to see a video of the illusion in action!

We read Arlo Finch in the Lake of the Moon, written by John August (Roaring Brook Press, 2019). Summer camp for most kids means bonfires, canoeing, and hiking. But for Arlo Finch and his friends, it means surviving the supernatural forces of the Long Woods. Doppelgangers, menacing strangers, talking foxes, locations both in and out of time, and a mysterious object unearthed after decades in hiding test both Arlo’s courage, and his friends’ loyalty.

In the book, Arlo has a special ability to see the spectral world. And I’ve wanted to make a Pepper’s Ghost project for kids for AGES. Through an afternoon of happy experimenting, I was able to construction this inexpensive and kid-friendly tabletop version.

You’ll need:

  • 2 large tissue boxes
  • A box cutter
  • 1 toilet paper tube
  • 1 piece of glass or clear polystyrene (more on this below)
  • White card stock
  • Scissors, glue, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

First, cut the lids off the top of a pair of large tissue boxes. Then cut the boxes in such a way as to create an L shape box like so:

ghost box step 1The L shape box is consists of two sections: a “forest section” and a “ghost section.”

ghost box sectionsNext, cut a small square (approximately 1.75″ x 1.75″) in the side of the box that faces the forest section. This is your viewfinder.

ghost box step 2In the book, Arlo gazes through a slipknot, a loop of rope or lacing that allows him to see and travel multidimensionally. In order to replicate that rounded view, we slid a 2.25″ piece of toilet paper tube into the viewfinder as well.

ghost box step 3 Now draw a backdrop for the wall opposite the viewfinder. I had the kids decorate a pre-cut  piece of paper or cardboard, then we glued it to the inside of the box.

ghost box step 4Next, sketch a ghost on a piece of white card stock. Here’s my tribute to Fox, a spirit from the book (and my favorite character):

fox spiritTape the ghost in the ghost section of the Pepper’s Ghost box. Though you will probably need to do a little adjusting on the exact placement, try to arrange the ghost in the center of the section. I found this gave the best results.

ghost box step 5Now for the magic! A Pepper’s Ghost illusion is essentially a reflection. For this model, the reflection is caused by a piece of glass or clear polystyrene set at a 45 degree angle in the junction of the L shaped box.

ghost box step 6During my initial test, I used a piece of glass from a 4″ x 6″ picture frame. However, I was a little uncomfortable giving multiple 6-8 year-old kids pieces of glass to take home. Luckily, I found clear polystyrene sheets on Amazon (a set of ten, 8″ x 10″ sheets cost $15). Polystyrene is plastic, lighter weight, doesn’t shatter, and you can cut it down to size with a box cutter or scissors. Testing revealed that the reflection illusion works just as well with polystyrene as glass. Yay!

The final piece of the Pepper’s Ghost illusion is the lighting. First, cover the area above the view finder with a square of cardboard…

ghost box step 7Then hinge a second square of cardboard over the ghost section. It’s important that this flap open and close. With the flap closed, the ghost will not appear through the viewfinder. But when you lift the flap, the ghost section will illuminate, causing a reflection to appear.

ghost box step 8Ready to see the illusion in action? Close the flap and peer through the viewfinder. Keep gazing through the viewfinder, then lift the flap over the ghost section. Your ghost will magically appear! I also encouraged kids to stick their hands in the forest section and try to grab the ghost. Their fingers passed right through it, of course!


This isn’t the first time the To Be Continued kids have adventured with Arlo Finch and his friends. We read the first book, Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire earlier in the program (you can see the project we did here). The kids voted unanimously to read the sequel. It did not disappoint. The Arlo Finch books are full of action, intrigue, mystery, and humor. I highly recommend them!