Welcome to The Disappearing Act, a free virtual escape room by the Sydney Opera House
- In order to complete The Disappearing Act and escape, you will need to read closely and uncover passwords hidden throughout the story.
- There are optional hints throughout to help you along the way but if you need more help, try @SydOperaHouse and #EscapeTheHouse on Twitter.
- No spoilers! If you do escape, revel in it and let everyone know (#EscapeTheHouse), but keep the passwords to yourself.
- This is our second online escape room – you can try the first, The Trials of Wisdom, here.
- The Disappearing Act was produced by Dominic Ellis and Natalia Scherer, story and puzzles by Dani Siller from Escape This Podcast, programming by Luke Mico, illustrations by Sylvia Zheng, and voices by Patrick Morrow.
The greatest math, one wonders,
Is with letters, and not numbers.
It's not as it may seem,
To play, first rearrange the green.
You check your phone for the hundredth time, fidgeting your foot impatiently. A well-dressed crowd swarm around the Opera House foyers, but you can’t spot Maria anywhere. Where is she? You can’t go in without her; tonight’s show has been sold out for months. The only reason she snagged tickets was because she’s one of the event coordinators. And she knows how much you’ve been looking forward to this… she wouldn’t let you down.
Your heart races as you imagine what’s to come. A gathering of four of the world’s most renowned magicians. Four giant posters adorn the wall beside the entrance.
Which one, you wonder, is going to put on the most spectacular performance? The most hyped has been Oscar O’Reilly. Illusionists always have the flashiest stunts, and O’Reilly’s even better than most at keeping his tricks secret. Apparently once, in Budapest, he transported his entire two-hundred-person audience outside without them noticing, and not even other magicians know how he did it. You’re dying to see his work in person – if you ever get in.
As if on cue, your phone buzzes with a new text. Maria’s name pops up. You groan; great, she’s late – let’s see her excuse.
“I’m in the Opera House!”
You type back an irritable response.
“Well, come out! The shows are starting and I need my ticket to get in.”
“No! You don’t understand. I’m STUCK.”
You stare, unsure what to make of that. Then another, longer message appears.
“I was in the foyer alone, setting up, and I found a piece of paper on the floor. I was going to throw it out, but when I read it… I’ll show you, I took a photo. But then someone grabbed me from behind and everything went black! Now I don’t know where I am. It’s dark, my left hand is tied to something so I can’t move, and my reception’s going in and out.”
There’s a long pause before the next message: a single sentence followed by a photo.
“I think one of the magicians has kidnapped me.”
This isn’t a big deal, you assure yourself... Your friend’s just been kidnapped by one of the world’s greatest magicians because she stumbled upon a secret plot to steal something from the Opera House. No problem at all.
You venture up the escalator and through the foyers, wondering where they might have hidden her. But if Maria, who works here, doesn’t know, what chance do you have?
You’ve got a plan, though. That torn paper in Maria’s photo mentioned unseen, witty accomplices. If you can convince the kidnapper you’re one of them, they might tell you everything.
Now, who is the kidnapper?
It could be Elisio the Escape Artist. He'd know how to tie someone up, right? Or maybe Gregor the Mentalist used his psychic powers to do it. Surely not Viola, Sage of Sleight – what help could card tricks have been in a kidnapping? Although someone good with their hands is most likely to be a thief…
Or it could be O’Reilly. Illusionists specialise in making things disappear.
You bite your lip and send a text to Maria. “I’ll find you.”
Seconds later, a reply. “I’ll help any way I can.”
The crowd inside is swelling in four different directions, attention divided between the four magicians. Viola and Gregor are performing at small booths at opposite ends of the foyer, Elisio is in the Drama Theatre, and O’Reilly is of course centre stage in the Joan Sutherland Theatre. That’s where you’re headed. You aren’t sure how you’re going to show your wits to O’Reilly to prove to him you’re one of his accomplices, but you’ll have to try.
Gregor: The Marvel of Mentalism
You head towards Gregor, Marvel of Mentalism. You’ve heard that he’s a mind-reader. You hope he isn’t reading yours too closely. But if anyone would know how to get a ticket to O’Reilly’s show, it’s him.
He smiles. “Welcome. I trust you’re having a pleasant evening? Although… it appears you’re searching for something.”
Wow. That didn't take long.
“I may be able to assist you,” he continues. “But first, you’ll want to speak to Viola. Unfortunately, she can be quite uncooperative at times. Perhaps if I…”
He shuts his eyes and inhales deeply.
“Yes. I see. She will only talk if you hand her what she needs for a specific trick. The item is…”
Again, he pauses. Then, a tune comes from his mouth, it sounds like some sort of riddle...
His eyes remain closed, and he says nothing else. You’d better figure out what he means, so you head straight to Viola.
Viola: The Sage of Sleight
You head to the booth of Viola, Sage of Sleight, where she stands between two crowded tables of typical magic props.
She’s supposedly brilliant; she designs and builds props for everyone’s shows and is famously one of the only magicians to be licensed to use animals in hers. She even has an assistant, who is an actual chimpanzee. She must be brilliant to teach a chimp to do card tricks.
Viola watches you as you approach, seemingly uninterested. She’s alone, you notice – no assistant. Maybe that’s why she looks so down.
“I’m on break,” she says. “I’ll start back up again… eventually. I don’t know. I’m just not really feeling it right now.”
Well, that was unhelpful.
“Unless,” she adds, “you can give me inspiration to perform a certain trick.”
She waves a hand over the table on her left, which is covered in a miscellany of random items. Right. This is what Gregor said – she’ll only perform if you hand her the item she wants for her next trick.
Viola: The Sage of Sleight
Suddenly the dice are gone and she’s shuffling cards. You don’t have a clue where they came from.
“Pick a card,” she instructs. You take one: the Jack of Diamonds. Then you slide it back into the deck, and Viola shuffles more.
“You know, magicians can draw any card they want. We could clean out a casino in a heartbeat.”
She deftly draws five cards. A Royal Flush.
“But you have to be subtle.”
A wave of the hand, and the cards are now a straight flush – the two, three, four, five and six of hearts.
“And sometimes, you shouldn’t even play cards.”
The dice appear, sitting on top of the cards. Except now there are eight of them. Viola raises her eyebrows.
“I will share some of my magic with you. But you must prove yourself. You see these creatures on my table? One of them is hiding your card. If you can tell me the name of which one, I will reward you.”
Viola: Sage of Sleight
“Excellent. You may keep that card. And as an additional reward –” She reaches behind her back and pulls out a set of three rings, linked together. “These should help.”
You examine the objects closely. The linking rings look just like the ones used in a basic magic trick, except there’s a tag attached to one of them. A price tag, maybe?
And as for the Jack of Diamonds, the card is different on the back…
Well, this hasn’t gotten you closer to O’Reilly, but you’ve proven your wits to Viola, at least. Perhaps if you do the same with the other magicians, you might get something out of it. As you consider whom to visit next, out of the corner of your eye you see Gregor waving to you, gesturing for you to come over again. He looks very much like he wants to tell you something.
Gregor: Marvel of Mentalism
“Well done with Viola,” Gregor says. “She’s extremely unpredictable. You must have the gift of Sight, to handle her so well.”
You shrug, flattered in spite of yourself.
“In fact, how about a test of your Inner Eye?” he asks. “It’s simple. I think of a word, and you tell me what it is.”
He takes a breath and, in the same melodic voice as earlier starts reciting a poem of sorts.
Wait. Is this magic or another riddle? You rack your brain – what do you know about Elisio? You've only ever seen him on billboards and posters.
Elisio: The Escape Artist
Another set of rings... You try to make sense of them, as you make your way to the Drama Theatre where Elisio is performing.
From outside the theatre, you hear rapturous applause. The ushers are watching the show so intently they don’t notice you slip inside.
Elisio bows modestly onstage. “My escapes, they are a gift. But they are not unbeatable. I travel the country, searching for one special soul who can craft the knots to defeat me. I have a special prize for whoever that person is. Any volunteers?”
Hands shoot up all over the place – including yours. And, amazingly, somehow... Elisio chooses you.
“One knot for my wrists, one for my ankles,” he instructs as you join him. “Choose carefully! There’s only one combination from which I cannot escape – one combination unlike any other...”
Elisio: The Escape Artist
“I am defeated!” Elisio declares, although he doesn’t sound upset. He sounds proud.
“The prize is yours!”
He nods towards a box sitting nearby. As the audience goes wild with applause, you open it: inside is a magician’s straitjacket. Elisio’s name is sewn into the sleeve. And there’s something else…
“A little souvenir,” Elisio says. You turn towards him – and see he’s no longer tied up.
“How –?” you ask. He grins.
“Every magician gives himself a way out.”
The audience hollers with laughter. Oh, well. You still won. And you got a ticket! Finally, it’s time to confront O’Reilly.
Oscar O’Reilly: The World’s Greatest Illusionist
You walk up to the usher manning the main theatre and proudly brandish your ticket. He scans it and you head inside. Your seat is right up front! And there’s O’Reilly, tall and imposing. He’s wearing a cape and everything. Intense music pounds through the sound system, vibrating along the floor.
“Who among you,” he booms, “is brave enough to step into my disappearing box?”
Indeed, an empty, human-sized box is onstage with him. Maria, you think. That’s a perfect place to hide a kidnapping victim.
You raise your hand, and as if he was watching your seat all along, O’Reilly points at you. For the second time tonight, you walk onstage.
“Step inside, assistant.” O’Reilly smirks. You do not like this guy. But you obey, and he shuts the door.
It’s dark, but you see something on the back wall of the box. Glinting. Silvery.
Moments later, you hear O’Reilly speaking to the audience. “And now – my new assistant has vanished!” The audience gasps. He must have concealed you behind a secret panel or something, making you invisible to them when he re-opened the door. But you’re not interested in that. You’re interested in this secret you’ve found. You’re quite sure it’s a hidden door.
The final act
The lock clicks and the secret door opens! You rush through. You’re in a narrow corridor, which must be built into the stage itself. You’re heading downwards. It’s pitch black, and even though you walk slowly and put your hand on the wall to guide you, you collide into something.
“Ow!” a voice cries in front of you.
You gasp. “Maria?”
You’ve found her! By the light of your two phones, you see what’s keeping her tied up: not a lock, nor a handcuff… a set of linked handkerchiefs, the kind a magician pulls out of his or her sleeve.
You unknot them and pull Maria free.
“Thanks,” she sighs. “Now, where are we? Where does this tunnel go?”
Now that she’s out of danger, you’re feeling less nervous and more curious. Why would O’Reilly have set up an elaborate passage from the stage to somewhere else? The mechanical skills to pull it off must be insane.
The two of you walk further downwards.
Finally you reach another door, unlocked. And behind it is a room the likes of which you’ve never seen.
It’s a control room. There are buttons, machines, and TV screens on every wall. Some show footage from inside the theatres, some from the Opera House steps. Hundreds of tourists are milling about the area.
You walk to the main panel. You see five buttons, and one piece of paper.
Through the TV screens, you hear a loud, collective scream. And Maria’s voice joins them.
“Look!” She points frantically.
The screens from the theatres have gone black, and on the outdoor ones… the Opera House has completely disappeared. No steps, no sails, just the darkness of the harbour beyond. And everyone is losing their minds.
“What’s happening?” Maria demands. “Is this a camera trick?”
As if answering her, a booming voice comes through the screens.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the real show.”
It’s O’Reilly. His voice is strange, distorted, but you know it’s him. He must have abandoned his stage when you disappeared for real.
“Copperfield,” you say.
“David Copperfield. O’Reilly’s crazy jealous of him. Ages ago Copperfield did a trick where he made the Statue of Liberty vanish for a few minutes – I think this is O’Reilly trying to outdo him.”
“But – but this is my event!” Maria says, flustered. “A magician I hired can’t vanish the Opera House! Make him bring it back!”
You think hard. Meanwhile, O’Reilly speaks again:
“I had such a hard time deciding what souvenir I should bring home from my visit to Sydney. But when I saw this building… well, I couldn’t resist.”
There’s something strange going on in his announcement. Whatever he’s using to broadcast, it’s messing with the system. The TV screens are flashing different coloured lights, which are accompanied by odd sounds.
This isn’t real magic. This is criminal trickery. And like Elisio said, every magician gives himself a way out. There must be something in this control room that can reset whatever O’Reilly’s done.
In front of you sits a panel with five buttons, each has an image on it.
Police arrive to take statements from the two of you, and O’Reilly is quickly arrested for the kidnapping. It’s a funny thing, though – as he’s being led out, you hear him protest: “I have no idea what you’re talking about! Secret passage? Stealing a building? Absolute nonsense!”
The evidence against him is quite damning. You hand over to the police everything you’ve gathered: the rings, the playing card, the handkerchiefs.
It's funny, you think to yourself... You wouldn’t have picked an illusionist to own a set of these handkerchiefs.
Once everything is said and done, you're surprised by Gregor and Elisio, who offer to take you and Maria out for drinks. Helping you to recover from your ordeal, they say. It's funny; they don't seem overly concerned by what's happened here. They admit that O'Reilly convinced them to play a small role in his plot, but insist they were told it was a minor publicity stunt and not a crime. A little later, they also confess they didn't much care for O'Reilly. He was a nasty piece of work to them, and even more so to Viola. They're happy to see him gone.
Viola. Now, why hasn't she joined you here? In fact, you haven't seen her since before going into the secret passage. But then, she did seem to be in a bad mood all evening.
You shake your head. She probably just didn’t want to stick around for all the drama. That’s all.