Paradox allows guests to “escape” reality

When thinking about going to an escape room, some may think Escape Room Florence on South Pine Street is the only nearby location.

However, during the creation of several entertainment venues in downtown Florence, a new escape room, Paradox, opened almost a year ago in October 2016.

Now nearly a year old, Paradox, located across from the historic Shoals Theater, continues to offer residents and students the chance to test their thinking skills in a realistic escape game.

An escape room is an adventure game that puts players into a room designed to look like another place or time. To win the game, they must find clues and solve puzzles to escape within an hour.

While Paradox is still an escape room, owner Mark Stevens said what makes it different from others is the cutting-edge technology used to make the settings fully immersive.

Stevens, along with his sister, Sandi McGee, worked with a team of engineers, animators, software developers and prop designers to make the room as believable as possible.

“People know that it’s not real going in, but we make it as real as we can,” Stevens said. “Once they’re in the game, they forget they’re in Florence, Alabama.”

The Florence location currently has one operating escape room, titled “Agent 22.” Taking place in 1962 during the height of the Cold War, players must solve riddles to find a spy and disarm a bomb.

Stevens said there is another room in the works for the near future.

To add another level of believability, there is also a cast of workers portraying a character called the Game Master who interacts with players throughout the experience.

Senior Java Moody, who portrays one of the Game Masters, said it is fun to watch people get lost in the game.

“They really believe they’re in 1962 and that they’re going to save their country,” Moody said.

Senior Cody McCrary said bringing escape games to Florence is beneficial to the community.

“Sometimes, you get tired of going out to eat and going to the movies,” he said. “We need more entertainment places (in Florence).”

Stevens said the inspiration to start the franchise came during a family vacation when they happened to try out an escape room. He noticed how the challenge brought his family together as a team and how much fun his teenage children were having.

He and his wife, Christie, opened the original Paradox escape room in Tupelo, Mississippi, and later decided to open a second location in Florence.

“When the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t help bringing (Paradox) back to my hometown of Florence,” Stevens said.

McCrary said there is not a problem with having two escape games in Florence because it offers variety.

“I think it’s better to have two than one,” he said. “There’s more than one fast food place, too. If there was only one place to eat, they wouldn’t have to worry about how good their food was.”

For more information, stop by Paradox on 117 E Mobile Street, call 256-275-4500 or visit