MONTREAL -- Sarah Lolley is a medical writer who lives in Notre Dame de Grace. During the pandemic she’s founded a side business that offers customers a unique experience she likens to a portable escape room.

“I had been thinking a while about trying to do an escape room, one that’s contained in a box.”

From her website, she rents out lock box games that she created. There are two versions for adults and two versions for children aged 6-10.

She also offers up PDFs on the site that include free walking puzzles around NDG.

“It’s looking at something and not taking the surface meaning,” she said. “Seeing if there’s a code behind it.”

For instance, the kid’s puzzle CTV News tried challenges the player to figure out where a bus is leaving to a mythical witchcraft school. The adult puzzle challenges the player to decode the password and account number for a fictional inheritance.

“I’ve had a lot of stories of parents who play it with their teenage kids. And they’re amazed by what they’re kids bring to the table, knowledge they didn’t know,” she said. “They’re amazed.”

Getting the degree of difficulty right was the biggest trick, she said. “And anticipating where people are going to have problems,” she said. “And knowing where they’re going to need a hint and finding that sweet spot where it’s challenging but they won’t be discouraged.”

She said that when potential customers express interest in renting the boxes, she asks screening questions. “For example, if you’ve done an escape room and you didn’t have fun, you probably won’t enjoy doing this,” she said.

The lock boxes are rented on periods of one day at a time.