It’s time to find 14 of your most resourceful friends, give up on sleep for seven days, and throw your hat in the ring for Gishwhes, the Internet’s biggest scavenger hunt thrown by Supernatural actor Misha Collins.
“It’s a scavenger hunt that starts online,” explained Collins, when asked to give an elevator pitch about the event, before going off on a several-minute tangent. “That’s not an elevator pitch, unless the elevator was going from the basement to the top of a 300 story building. Maybe that was an elevator pitch for an elevator that broke down halfway.”
In short, Gishwhes (Greatest Internet Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen) gives teams of up to 15 people one week to do as many items as possible from a list compiled by Collins. Those items rage from the near impossible to the mundane but totally weird. Last year 14,000 people participated.
The event was inspired by Collins’s undergrad career at The University of Chicago and its annual event, Scav Hunt, which he calls “hands-down the highlight of the year.” He said he searched for a great hunt as an adult, but never found one as involved as his undergrad adventuring, which had some distinctly memorable moments for him.
“My wife and I both attended the University of Chicago, and one year one of the items on the hunt was three live sheep,” he said. “I had a car, which was an unusual thing at University of Chicago. She was on a different team, and she asked if she could borrow my car to go get some live sheep. I was like, ‘First of all, no, you can’t borrow my car to put sheep in it! But also you’re on another team, so no!’ She waited until I fell asleep, she stole my car keys, and went up to Wisconsin to get some sheep. So I definitely had participated, and definitely essential stole this entire thing from my University of Chicago undergrad career.”
Of course, stuffing three sheep in a car seems mundane compared to recent challenges. Things like “popcorn wig diamond shopping” and “Gishwhes dog igloo” (made with real snow) made up the lists in previous years. There are also simple, feel-good challenges intended just to make the world a better place, like “hug a veteran” and “children’s hospital puppet show.”
“There are a few themes that seem to have evolved over the years that we continue to play with,” Collins said. ” We always have a sculpture with sanitary napkins and feminine hygiene products, for some reason. They actually turn out to be great sculpture materials. We have something that involves Storm Troopers, to the extent that the 501st Legion have actually contacted us and asked if we can give the dates for when Gishwhes happens in advance, so they can prepare their members for the barrage of requests.”
The hunt has had even exited the confines of the planet. Over the years Gishwhes has attempted to involve NASA, and in 2013 the space agency posted a plea via Twitter asking participants to stop bothering their astronauts to fulfill prompts. Collins and Gishwhes were not deterred.
“We posted again last year, ‘Last year NASA asked us to stop bothering their astronauts, and we know they’ve been kicking themselves all year for not participating,’ and we included another NASA item,” he explained. “And they came around!”
NASA bent to the requests of participants and wrote “Gishwhes” on the Martian landscape. Now there’s a mountain on Mars that’s officially named “Gishwhes.”
“If NASA needs to refer to this geological configuration, they have to say, ‘The peak is three degrees south of Gishwhes,'” Collins explained gleefully.
While there’s been minimal backlash over the years, most of it comes from prompts that encourage participants to interact on social media with celebrities or government agencies like NASA. Collins says there’s a simple solution for the annoyed: Just ignore it.
“I actually really enjoy playing with people online, in general, that’s just my personality,” Collins said. “If I find something irritating, I ignore it. One really good option is if someone is asking you to do something and you don’t want to do it, you can just ignore it.”
When all is said and done, the winning team is the one the earns the most points and is summarily whisked away on a one-in-a-lifetime trip with Collins himself. In the past that’s been a trip to Scotland or Croatian pirate ship, while this year’s winning team will head to the Costa Rican jungle. However, with the increased participation by celebrities like Orlando Jones and William Shatner, they have had to institute a new rule.
“There’s actually a rule in the hunt called the Shatner Clause,” explained Collins. “If someone has attained a certain degree of celebrity, or is fabulously wealthy, then we’re going to award the top prize to the runner up team as well. We want average citizens to have a fair shot.”
But even with additional provisions, celebs aren’t the ones dominating the competition.
“William Shatner had a really amazing team (last year), he had Grant Imahara from Mythbusters on his team, and they did really well, but it was mostly college kids who ended up beating them,” Collins said. “It really is about how tenacious you are and about how willing you are to forgo sleep for a week.”
Registration is now open for the hunt and costs $19, which goes directly to Random Acts, a non-profit promoting random acts of kindness. Registration will close July 20, with Gishwhes kicking off Aug. 1.
Image courtesy of Misha Collins/Gishwhes.com | Remix by Jason Reed