William Shatner was baffled by it. The International Space Station was bombarded by it. Twitter was flooded by alarm clocks seeking accounts because of it. “It” is GISHWHES, or the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, an annual, week-long event conceived by actor Misha Collins, of “Supernatural” fame. GISHWHES’ inaugural hunt took place in 2011. The thrice awarded Guinness World Record breaking event scatters people of all ages on frenzied missions of kindness, humanity, and yes, pure insanity.
If you’re a fan of “Supernatural”, you are probably infatuated with lovable, naive angel-turned-God-turned-human-turned-angel, Castiel, Collins’ character. In the world of social media, Misha Collins truly is an unparalleled character himself. On Twitter, Misha has over 1.4 million followers, but follows no one. At one time, he did follow one lucky person – Justin Bieber. It appears they’ve since had a parting of ways. Misha is a man of mystery like that, and his fans hang on his every tweet. It’s with this charisma that he rounds up the masses to do his outlandish bidding globally for GISHWHES.
Along with his enigmatic co-host, Miss Jean Louis, Misha sets out to create the most off-the-wall, challenging to-do list possible. Last year was my first as a participant. I was anxious, excited, and even a little scared waiting for that list to be revealed. This is all strictly timed, you see. A countdown clock to registration closing, list reveal, and hunt end are prominently placed on the GISHWHES homepage once open season is declared on the event. As I waited for that list, all I could think of was the photo I had seen from the previous year’s hunt – Misha Collins on a motorcycle, wearing a very elaborate outfit made entirely of cheese.
The 2013 list contained 156 items to find, do, construct, or conceive, with photo or video evidence. Some were practically giveaways, and a few were downright impossible. The list items ran the gamut from charitable to challenging, and plenty were obviously just meant to see if we had limits, and if we could laugh at ourselves. It’s not really easy to put this scavenger hunt into perspective by mere description, so here’s a selection of highlights from the 2013 list to paint a more vivid image of what we were dealing with.
- Get Alexander Misurkin, Pavel Vinogradov, Chris Cassidy, Fyodor Yurchikhin, Karen Nyberg or Luca Parmitano to take a photo of themselves holding up a sign that says, “Hey (INSERT ANY USERNAME FROM YOUR TEAM)! GISHWHES does space too!” or a similar slogan. As a side note, the preceding individuals are all currently on the International Space Station orbiting planet Earth. 334 points
- Make your country’s flag from food or food packaging. 49 points
- Dialysis treatments are long and boring. Entertain a dialysis patient during their treatment. 26 points
- Fold a paper crane whilst sitting outside, uncovered in a rainstorm. 45 points
- Toast for underwear. Butter and jam are optional. 22 points
- Strike up a conversation with a homeless person, talk to them until you know their first name, where they are from, and what their favorite food is. Bring them that food and, if they give you permission, take your picture with them and their meal. 38 points
- You’re a pirate, so dress like one. In addition to the eye-patch and other accouterments, you must have a live bird perched on your shoulder. You should be standing on your ship’s deck, which in this case is neither a ship, nor a deck… it’s a queue at the Department of Motor Vehicles
- A storm-trooper at a laundry mat folding clothes. 56 points
You may have noticed acts of GISHWHES shenanigans if you were active on Twitter during the week of August 11-18, 2013. William Shatner certainly took notice when thousands of alarm clocks suddenly rushed for Twitter accounts. Thank item #57: ” Start a twitter feed for your alarm clock. Get at least 200 followers. At least once a day the account must post: BEEP! BEEP! 7:00 AM. We will be checking the twitter accounts to verify count”. That was a relatively easy 46 points that most of the nearly 1000 teams of 15 members took advantage of. Once Captain Kirk himself openly asked what was going on, he became fair GISHWHES game. Players actively engaged him in the fun, and he has since become a fully embraced member of the “Supernatural” family.
The International Space Station wasn’t as willing to encourage our antics, unfortunately. When they saw a sudden rush of thousands of personalized photo requests from hunt participants, a gracious, PR-friendly rejection tweet kindly informed us that they couldn’t accommodate endorsement requests, for diplomatic reasons. Kind of explains that 334 point value, doesn’t it? The greater the point value, the harder the task.
In the process of all of the random acts of kindness and craziness, we managed to break yet another World Record. That was item #1 on the list: ” GISHWHES Hugs the World! We are going to break the Guinness World Record for the largest online photo album of people hugging.” Before GISHWHES, that record was just over 69,000. Collectively, GISHWHES participants topped over 100,000! That’s an awful lot of hugging!
I’m personally proud of what I accomplished with GISHWHES. I didn’t win the grand prize trip to Vancouver for a seance and Viking “surprise” with Misha Collins, but I did meet fun new friends from around the world. Teams of 15 are required. If you can’t compile a team of 15, other participants and incomplete teams are randomly placed together to complete the team. I also loved the unique bonding opportunity I had with my two teens, who were my teammates. We made priceless memories, that we can laugh at, and take pride in. I look forward to what Misha has in store for his army of minions this year. I will absolutely be a 2014 GISHWHES participant. After all, it was the most abnosome experience of my life! What is “abnosome”, you ask? If you were a GISHWHESean, you would already know. Join the fun in 2014.