It’s that time of the year again. GISHWHES, aka the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen, is the loving creation of Supernatural star Misha Collins. The week-long event, now entering its fifth year (August 1st through 8th), was originally a publicity stunt wherein Collins decided to get fans to help him break a Guinness Book World. The emphasis of the event soon shifted from Supernatural to supporting and promoting the charity he founded, Random Acts of Kindness.
But what exactly is GISHWHES? The scavenger hunt challenges teams of 15 people to capture images from a long list that is published as soon as the event goes live. Some items on the list need to be created from scratch, such as drawings, craft projects, or wacky costume pieces (such as a kilt made of sliced cucumbers, pictured left). Others require participants to take photos of themselves in unusual (and usually very public) situations. And many require a combination of both: for example, one year a GISHWHES item was to submit a photo of yourself shopping for diamonds at a fancy jewelry store while wearing a wig made entirely out of cheese puffs.
The event managed to break several world records over the years. In its first year, the very aptly named GISHWHES broke the world record for most participants in a photo scavenger hunt with 6,200 participants, then with 14,580 the following year. In 2012, GISHWHES broke the record for most pledges for a campaign with a staggering 95,596 people pledging to do a Random Act of Kindness for Misha’s charity.
A big part of the wow factor is that no “interpretations” or symbolic substitutions are allowed, per the official rules:
Do not interpret items. Produce the item exactly as we request it. If the item reads “A photo of you standing with the Queen of England,” we don’t want you in front of a picture of the Queen, or you in front of an action figure of the Queen. It must be a photo of you with the Royal Mum in the living flesh. If you choose to “interpret,” you will have a 97.67% chance of getting 0 points.
Even if you’re not participating, it’s always fun to track submissions being posted across various social media sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest. [Apparently it’s against the rules for entrants to post things before the contest ends, but I always see plenty; I don’t know if it’s a new rule or if contestants do so in spite of the restriction. In any case, it’s fun to watch from the sidelines.]
A large portion of the list contains items that require a staggering amount of bravery, creativity, or both. I always look forward to seeing if some persistent and intrepid Gishwheshers will manage to pull off some of the truly impossible-seeming tasks, like covering a full-sized commercial blimp with autumn leaves, or standing next to a functioning particle accelerator.
Though you have to register well in advance to compete officially in the hunt and have a chance at the prizes, you can also do some of the challenges by yourself or with some friends simply for pure enjoyment; everyone should have a few wacky, embarrassing stories to tell. So if you’re feeling daring this week, consider dusting off your glue gun and shelving your dignity to do something fun and carefree.
Some highlights from previous years: