Sherlock Holmes Escape Room

Hey y’all! So since I run a lot of escape rooms at my library, I thought I would make a post about one of them so that other librarians could use it. We have the Breakout Box which is super helpful, but you can still make it without. I ran this escape room for 4th-6th grade, 7th-12th grade, and adults, and it worked with each (the adults had an extra step I ended up not liking, so it probably can be done in a shorter time frame with this version for them!)


  • 3 boxes that can be locked
  • Four tables
  • Laptop
  • Backpack
  • Key lock
  • 3 digit lock
  • 5 letter lock
  • Directional lock
  • Blacklight
  • Invisible ink pen
  • A Sherlock Holmes book (NOT A Study in Scarlet) that contains a listing of Arthur Conan Doyle’s works somewhere in the book.
  • 3 other books (more on specifics listed below)
  • 2 pieces of Scratch Paper and a pen
  • Printouts (below, and at the bottom of this post)


Set your locks. Each of your locks should have come with a guide to resetting them (and locks may vary from company to company), but here is what you want their codes to be:

5 letter: STUDY
3 digit: 857
Directional: Right, Down, Up, Left
Laptop: REICHENBACH (all capital letters, I made a guest account specifically for the purposes of this escape room)

Fill the largest box with your prize (I used mystery air heads…because, ya know…mystery) and close it with the 5 letter lock. Place it on one of your four tables

Another box (for me its the small black box) will contain the black light. Close it with the directional lock. Find a spot to put this box (I put it on a chair that was tucked into the table)

Cut these pages in half (pdf linked at the bottom of the post). Put them up on a wall in a 3×3 grid in this particular order:

Top row left to right: Sherlock, Mycroft, Mrs. Hudson
Middle row left to right: Lestrade, Irene, Mary
Bottom row left to right: Moran, Moriarty, Watson

(I added little notes to mine as if Sherlock was making commentary, but it’s not necessary. It just throws them off a little bit because they assume it must be a clue!)

Open a new document or note on your laptop and type this note:

Mrs. Hudson would like me to tell you that your violin concerto kept her up all night
I told her I thought it was quite nice
Mary disagreed, but she hates Bach.
Lestrade wants us to meet him at 8pm sharp at Scotland Yard


Once that is done, re-lock the laptop.

In the backpack, put the piece of paper with the 11 digit code (crumpled up) and the Sherlock Holmes book. Stick the laptop in there too. Lock that compartment with the 3 digit lock. Place the backpack somewhere in the room.

Now we’re to those 3 other books we spoke about.

Here are the three I used, but really you need a book that has the word ANATOMY on the front cover, a book that has BOTANY on the front cover, and a book that has CHEMISTRY on the front cover. They need to be placed on one of your tables in this exact order.

In your final box, place the knowledge audit that Watson did of Sherlock. Lock it with the key lock, put it on one of your tables.

Using your invisible ink pen, write on the bottom side of your bottom piece of scratch paper “A _____ IN SCARLET”. Place the scratch paper and pen on one of your tables.

So on your four tables you should have:

TABLE 1: Final box with prize
TABLE 2: Scratch paper and pen
TABLE 3: Box with key lock
TABLE 4: Three books

Now as for the key, which we still need to hide. I got this handy hat in a Sherlock Holmes props kit. Using black electrical tape, I hid the key on the inner lining of the hat. Other places I’ve hid the key include taped under a table, or inside a tissue box.


Print out this piece of paper (yes it is the Gnommish alphabet from Artemis Fowl I didn’t have the time or inclination to make up my own cipher). Cut it into 7 pieces, so that they need all the pieces in order to determine REICHENBACH is the code. My pieces were (ABMY, NOZ, CDPQ, EFG, RS, HTUVW, IJKLX). These pieces should get scattered throughout your room. Over the course of my escape rooms, I had a few in random pockets in the backpack, tied one in the ribbon on the hat, taped one on the laptop, put one under a chair, I just copied the RS one onto the Knowledge Audit paper…there’s a lot of options.


I give them an hour, and limit attendance to 6 people (more than that gets crowded and leaves people feeling they didn’t get to contribute) to complete this room. When I first bring them in I do my opening script and then explain the rules:

  1. They get two hints (you can give them more if you like, the lower the age of the group, the more hints I gave them). When ONE person in the group asks for a hint, it is given, even if other people in the group dissent. They HAVE to work as a team. Hints are not in the form of an answer to a question they get to ask, rather you, the administrator, will give them a hint in regards to helping them solve whichever part of the puzzle they are currently working on.
  2. Sherlock is very particular and all of his passwords are in capital letters.
  3. Nothing should be removed from the walls, and nothing is in sockets or light fixtures (or anything else you have in the room that isn’t part of it).
  4. Set your boundaries (for us, it’s “past the trash cans there is nothing, the random construction cart in the corner is not involved” but obviously would change based on your room setup)
  5. Clarifying questions, such as how to work a particular lock, don’t count as hints. Use your best judgement.


“Welcome to the Sherlock Holmes escape room, you will have one hour to complete this puzzle working as a team. If you haven’t done an escape room before, basically you will be attempting to solve a series of puzzles and locks in order to reach our end result. Sherlock Holmes is missing and he’s left some clues behind as to where he went. John Watson has enlisted me (and now you) to help solve the riddles and track down exactly where he is. [rules]. Any questions?”

Then they’ll start looking for clues. There may not be a discovery straight away, just be patient.


Hooray! They found the key. They will now use it to open the key lock and reveal our Knowledge Audit piece of paper.

Here’s where our three books come in. You might notice that three of the knowledges feature words that are on our book covers (Botany, Chemistry, Anatomy) as well as a number at the beginning of it’s row. This is why the books need to be in the order they are in. I actually ended up sitting at the table WITH the books and would reset them to their correct positions as attendees moved them.

So, in order, our three books are ANATOMY, BOTANY, and CHEMISTRY. Anatomy is number 8, Botany number 5, and Chemistry number 7. That’s a three digit code


They’ve opened the backpack. They should be pulling out the laptop, the Sherlock Holmes book, and the crumpled piece of paper with the code. Now they have to search for all seven of the missing pieces of that cipher. Once they have all seven, they will be able to open the laptop


Now that the laptop is unlocked, they have this note before them:

Mrs. Hudson would like me to tell you that your violin concerto kept her up all night
I told her I thought it was quite nice
Mary disagreed, but she hates Bach.
Lestrade wants us to meet him at 8pm sharp at Scotland Yard


Now, if we go down the left side we have five people listed in order (Sherlock, Mrs. Hudson, I [which we know by the signature is John], Mary, Lestrade).

Let’s go over to our wall. If we start at Sherlock and then go in order we go RIGHT to get to Mrs. Hudson, then DOWN to get to John, UP to go to Mary and then to the LEFT for Lestrade. That’s our directional lock.


Now that it’s open, they have the black light. Once they discover that the scratch paper has the secret message on it, diehard fans will know it is A STUDY IN SCARLET and since STUDY is our 5 letter word, it is the answer to the 5 digit lock on our final box. If they don’t know, this is where our Sherlock Holmes book comes in, and they can look at the list of Conan Doyle works to find A STUDY IN SCARLET.

And voila! They have solved it. I put a cute little note in the box with the prizes “from Sherlock” saying that John worries too much and he went to Disney World, but you can make any variety of that…or just tell them.

I know this is a very long post but I hope it helped! And if you have any questions, please let me know!


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