Between pumping carving, costumes, and scary movies, spooky traditions have a way of awakening the Halloween spirit. Katie and Gregg Dufort, owners of Puzzle Rides
, have created spine-chilling scavenger hunts designed for friends and family to join forces and crack codes year-round.
Complete with unsolved mysteries and local history, Puzzle Rides fuses golf carts with ghost stories for an eerie mobile escape room-style experience in historic downtown Prescott and Old Town Scottsdale.
One of their more popular rides around this time of year is called Ghost Riders
Upon arrival, a Puzzle Master — who is properly dressed for the occasion as Velma Dinkley from “Scooby-Doo” — guides the group through the experience via golf cart, driving them down hidden alleyways and dark side streets to discover the next clue and solve another piece of the puzzle. Riddles and clues are presented to the group using various keys, lock boxes, and elements along the route like murals, statues, landmarks, or storefronts.
As each mystery is solved, the group hops back onto the golf cart and it’s onto the next destination. It’s important to move swiftly once the clock is set because the group is only given 75 minutes to complete the scavenger hunt.
They shuffle through encrypted messages written on scrolls, reading them aloud to figure out the next stop along the route, leading the group to another clue that becomes the combination for opening a lock in the Ghost Riders scavenger hunt kit.
Following this same rhythm, the group pieces together one last clue (a 25-piece jigsaw puzzle) and makes it to their final destination. To the group’s surprise but not so coincidentally, Shaggy Rogers makes an appearance and hands each participant a bag of “Scooby Snacks” as a trophy for completing the game.
One of Puzzle Rides' most popular scavenger hunts at this time of year is Ghost Riders, a spooky ride offered in historic downtown Prescott and Old Town Scottsdale.
Puzzle Rides adventure games are uniquely different from other escape rooms because of their design and mobility — an idea initially sparked by an escape room the Duforts did together in January 2020.
“That night I purchased the domain, and then it was really figuring out game theory and how escape rooms work. I used to worry about people stealing the idea but now I don’t because it’s very complicated in how the things work together and how to create it,” Katie says.
In July 2020, the Duforts launched their first ride in Prescott called Hijacked by Science, an idea that Katie was not only passionate about but could keep their former golf cart taxi service alive during the pandemic.
At a time when bars and restaurants shut down in areas where they serviced including downtown Prescott and Old Town Scottsdale, the Duforts reinvented their business model. They realized the mobile escape room concept could appeal to families and friends who were already in quarantine together because it gave them a fun way to get out of the house.
While Arizona’s tourism season came to a screeching halt at the onset of the pandemic, the Duforts approached Prescott and Scottsdale businesses that they already advertised with to extend the opportunity to be included in their new venture. To this day, Puzzles Rides partners with local restaurants and bars to hide clues and host golf cart pub crawls.
“There’s so many small businesses in Old Town and my heart has always been for other small business owners. I really feel that as a small business owner, we need to support each other, so all of our puzzle rides do entail local businesses,” Katie says.
Puzzle Rides incorporates various notes, locks, objects, and hidden messages in every scavenger hunt kit.
When the Duforts first started Puzzle Rides in 2020, they only had four signature routes available but they now offer 18 unique rides and counting, including bachelorette parties, team building, and corporate or group relays. According to Katie, they are actively looking to evolve and improve rides whether it’s adding new experiences and mysteries to solve or tailoring specific rides and relays to larger groups.
For the Duforts, it’s all about providing a fun experience for the whole family to enjoy. Their style of escape rooms is designed to be fun by deriving aspects from childhood games and creating an opportunity to bond with family and friends — without unnecessary pressure.
“We have a dirty secret ... we really don’t like you to lose ever. There are things we might do to make sure you win — and we learned that in the pandemic no one needs a loss, they just didn’t,” Katie says. “If you’ve been to an escape room and you haven’t gotten out, it’s not fun not to get out. It’s frustrating and we don’t want to do that. We want you to have fun.”
The Duforts are currently working on expanding their business outside of Arizona and plan to launch Puzzle Rides in Columbus, Ohio this winter. By 2024, they hope to become a nationwide company and partner with other entrepreneurs who have the desire to create unique Puzzle Rides in their own communities.