To appreciate the mad genius of Marty Parker, you need to experience one of his "shows."

To appreciate the mad genius of Marty Parker, you need to experience one of his "shows."

The good news is I'm dead.The bad is I feel a nagging sense of failure. And my shoe is broken, and I'm embarrassingly sweaty. But I'm … happy? Energized? This is a very confusing time in my life.

I've just done something I swore I would never do: I let someone lock me up with a bunch of strangers for an hour so I could experience one of those trendy escape rooms. This one is called Trapped in a Room with a Zombie, and it has the distinction of being the city's first escape room-before Columbus housed the Chamber Escape Room, Lockdown Columbus Escape Room, Trapped Columbus, eXcape Columbus … the list goes on.

We got that first escape room because we have Marty Parker, a 41-year-old former stock trader with both an exhausting zest for life and an easily distracted mind. Parker is a walking exclamation point, a man who built theme beds for fun when he was a trader, then created a 5K obstacle course called Mud Ninja when he wasn't. Parker discovered escape rooms through the suggestion of his wife's friend and had so much fun trying one out in California that he set out to build his own in his Dublin garage.

And then, because he's Marty, he wanted to step up the experience. He wanted to involve actors. Specifically, zombies. Even the idea cracked him up. "I laughed for one hour," he says.

Parker opened his first escape room in late 2013 in Chicago, and when he ran a Groupon, it sold out in three days. A couple months later, he opened Columbus' first escape room. "Then we spread like wildfire," he says. Over 12 months, he opened escape rooms in 14 cities, including Madrid and London.

He sees his rooms as more theater than game, and he and his staff at Room Escape Adventures refer to their events as "shows." They're popular with businesses that use them as team-building exercises.

I didn't get it. So I decided to go to one of these shows. I admit, I was reluctant. I would have to interact with strangers. I would have to solve puzzles. I would have to deal with a zombie chained to a wall. I hate zombies. And puzzles. And strangers.

I booked a spot in a Saturday evening show and arrived at the Bosco Center across from Grant Medical Center with plenty of time to spare. This is the third Columbus location for Parker's shows, and he's expanding his new space to include an '80s-themed room, a wild west scenario and a show that involves Leonardo da Vinci and a meatball. Also, he's working on a game show for his Chicago audience because escape rooms are already becoming a bit passe and again, because he's Marty.

At the Bosco Center, I meet a young man with a convincing German accent named Mike Gill, though the badge on his white jacket says Dr. Mike Von Guttenberg. He's our host for the night. He escorts me and 11 others-including a 13-year-old celebrating his birthday with two friends and a mom already jonesing for some wine (there's no booze in the escape room)-through a door where zombie Patrick Jerger is chained to the wall.

I can't tell you what happens over the next hour, because that would ruin the surprise. Suffice it to say that I felt both brilliant and stupid, and alternately panicked, entertained and annoyed. After 60 minutes, my team failed to solve all the puzzles, so we never unlocked the door. Patrick mercifully ate us all. And the heel of my boot fell off at some point, probably when I was trying to distract the zombie by kicking up my heels and humming "New York, New York."

"Start spreading the news," he sang, as he reached for my ankle. "I'm eating today."

I get it now. I understand why companies appreciate the team-building aspect of these escape rooms. It's not just corporate torture. In 60 minutes, mailroom heroes are born, and executives are dethroned. You either rise to the occasion or huddle in the corner. You run and sweat and make a lot of mistakes.

You have a blast, and you understand why Marty Parker devotes his life to such weird pursuits.