The elevator horror story that inspired me to write The Escape Room
by Megan Goldin
It was while standing with my young son in an elevator that I became stuck in a lift for the first time in my life. The lift stopped. The lights turned off. And a cold, hard knot of fear formed in my gut.
It was pitch black. Too dark to see anything at all. My son clutched my arm, I tried to soothe him but I was just as terrified. A few minutes later as we began going into full-blown panic mode, the elevator jolted. It slowly dropped until the doors opened and we scrambled out of the darkness and into the safety of a deserted car park basement.
At the time, I was mulling ideas for my next novel. The elevator experience still stung perhaps because my son was refusing to go into elevators and we were constantly taking the stairs.
As it happens, I was reading the wonderful book called Sapiens by Yuval Harari and I thought to myself that elevators defy the natural evolutionary instincts of humans. We get into a small box, usually with a bunch of strangers, often all awkwardly pushed up together, and leave our fate to the integrity of steel cables.
That set me off to do some research on elevators and I discovered the remarkable story of a man who was stuck in an elevator for 41 hours in 1999 in New York. There’s even CCTV footage online that shows him gradually going mad.
It made me wonder what if he hadn’t been alone. What would have happened if he’d been stuck in that elevator with colleagues and they all had a psychological meltdown due to their predicament.
It’s remarkable that there are few thrillers set in corporate environments. After all, there’s so much material for writers in offices with the backstabbing and office politics that is rampant in many workplaces, the manipulations and games that colleagues play, taking credit for other people’s work and undermining rivals. When you think about it, it’s quite fascinating the way that colleagues work and collaborate together, but at the same time they are rivals for salaries, bonuses and promotions. They need and often want to work together, but they are also vying for resources. It’s a modern-day survival of the fittest. Perfect fodder for a thriller.
Perhaps another ingredient added to this literary soup that I was cooking in my mind was that I was reading The Wolf of Wall Street at the time and I was caught up in the mindset of greed and entitlement of the characters in that book. Everything merged into a concept and setting for The Escape Room: a thriller about four Wall Street high-flyers who are stuck in an elevator where their deepest darkest secrets are revealed until they discover one final secret – that one of them is a killer.
The Escape Room
In the lucrative world of Wall Street finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie and Sam are the ultimate high-flyers. Ruthlessly ambitious, they make billion-dollar deals and live lives of outrageous luxury. Getting rich is all that matters, and they'll do anything to get ahead.
When the four of them become trapped in an elevator escape room, things start to go horribly wrong. They have to put aside their fierce office rivalries and work together to solve the clues that will release them. But in the confines of the elevator the dark secrets of their team are laid bare. They are made to answer for profiting from a workplace where deception, intimidation and sexual harassment thrive...