|The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen|
The GISHWHES logo as of 2013
|Most recent||July 31 – August 5, 2016|
|Next event||August 5 – August 12, 2017|
The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (GISHWHES, pronounced gish-wes) is an annual week-long competitive media scavenger hunt originally held each October or November, but more recently each August. Teams of 15 competitors earn points for submitting photos and videos of themselves completing prompts from a list they receive at the beginning of the week. Actor Misha Collins officially founded GISHWHES in 2011 after a publicity stunt to help the television series Supernatural (on which Collins appears) win a People's Choice Award. The competition holds a world record for being the largest media scavenger hunt ever to take place, and several additional world records.
Actor Misha Collins, known for playing the angel Castiel on the American television series Supernatural, is the founder of GISHWHES. The competition began informally in 2010 when Holly Ollis, a publicist for Warner Bros., asked Collins to engage his audience to help Supernatural move from second place to first in the People's Choice Awards voting. Collins posted a message on Twitter, declaring that if the show won, Ollis had promised him a rhinoceros which he would share with everyone who helped by voting for the show. When Supernatural won the competition, Collins, partially inspired by his time at the University of Chicago as an undergraduate during which he participated in the school's annual scavenger hunt, asked his followers to send him self-addressed stamped envelopes into which he put scavenger hunt prompts written on the backs of jigsaw puzzle pieces from a puzzle depicting a rhino. Soon, participants began to respond to Collins's "absurd" requests. One successful prompt, for example, challenged fans to photograph a group of firemen wearing nothing but kale.
Collins enjoyed this exercise so much that he decided to create an official scavenger hunt in 2011. He established the event's website and gave it its name, the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, calling its acronym, GISHWHES, "the ugliest acronym the world has ever seen". According to Collins, the primary reason for developing the competition was that he "loved the idea of thousands of people from all over the world connecting to create incredible things". He hoped to use GISHWHES to encourage participants "to do good in the world". The inaugural event, categorized by Guinness World Records as a "media scavenger hunt", broke the record for the largest scavenger hunt of its kind. In 2012, it broke its own record with 14,580 participants, representing 69 different countries. The contest broke two additional world records in 2013: the longest safety pin chain, measuring 1,901.8 metres (6,239.5 ft), and the largest online photo album of hugs, totaling 108,121 images.
|2012||October 30 – November 4||14,580|
|2016||July 30 – August 6||55,000|
On the first day of the week-long competition, a list is posted on the GISHWHES website with over 150 different tasks for competitors to complete during the hunt, which Collins and his friends, including co-coordinator Jean Louis Alexander, have devised prior to the beginning of the competition. Teams then submit photos or videos of themselves completing the prompts at the contest's website, receiving points for each item completed. While literal interpretations of prompts are preferred, judges will sometimes award points for especially creative responses. Prizes for the team with the most points at the end of GISHWHES have included a trip to Scotland for a slumber party with Collins and a trip to Vancouver for a "Viking surprise".
Teams consist of 15 members who may come from different countries. Individuals may prearrange teams or sign up individually, in which case they are randomly grouped into appropriately sized teams. As of the 2013 contest, signup costs ran $19 per person with participation fees going towards Random Acts, a non-profit run by Collins that aims to encourage random acts of kindness.
GISHWHES challenges vary widely in focus and sometimes attract media attention. The Los Angeles-focused OC Weekly reported on a local ice cream shop's response to a GISHWHES team that asked them to create a custom ice cream flavor for the 2013 challenge "Get your team's new ice cream flavor on sale in an ice cream parlor". Another challenge involved participants using and spreading the word abnosome, Collins's portmanteau of abnormal and awesome. During the 2013 hunt, competitors were asked to dress up as the DC Comics character Flash and have their pictures taken next to a functioning particle accelerator. As a result, the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility and Fermilab received numerous emails from GISHWHES participants and set up special tours for the visitors. Dean Golembeski reported in Symmetry, the official magazine of Fermilab and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, that the visits were welcomed and seen as an opportunity to educate a wider audience on the goals of and research done at national laboratories.
Most GISHWHES challenges are completed successfully by at least one team, according to Collins. During the 2012 contest, for example, only one item saw no successes: coating a commercial blimp with fall leaves. Collins speculated it failed because of physical limitations. A 2013 challenge noted by Écrans, a French website run by Libération, challenged competitors to convince astronauts on the International Space Station to take a photo holding a sign with their team's name. Efforts by participants were headed off by NASA, which posted that the astronauts were unable to participate on its official Twitter account.
2012, № 95: "Kilt made entirely of sliced cucumbers. Must be worn by a man."
2012, № 148: "A picture of you and a loved one kissing. Here’s the catch though - you must have at least 11 food items between your lips and the lips of your loved one."
Aspects of the contests have been well received by some media outlets. A writer for Nerdist.com called it an "avalanche of awesomeness" and compared the hunt's acronym to "an apocryphal GWAR album or a lesser deity in H.P. Lovecraft's consonant-laden pantheon". Reviewing the experience of participating in GISHWHES, a writer for Detroit's WKBD-TV described the contest as "a lot of fun" and recommended that others participate in the future. Shanghai Daily deemed several of GISHWHES's challenges "outrageous" and "visually stunning". Laura Prudom of The Huffington Post commended Collins's "herculean" efforts in organizing the event.
Not all reception has been positive. Todd VanDerWerff wrote for Vox that, "Quite a few of the items basically invite participants to pester—or even harass—the famous and semi-famous on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook." A 2014 challenge asked hunters to convince published science fiction authors to write a 140-character story for them and some, such as John Scalzi and Lauren DeStefano, complained that the task encouraged participants to harass them on social networks.
In an article analyzing Collins's relationship with his fanbase, Middlebury College Assistant Professor Louisa Ellen Stein argued that GISHWHES was a "co-authored transmedia experience" that "play[ed] with [the] power, erotics, and emotional excess present in Collins' fandom." Citing participants' independent efforts to coordinate teams using a variety of online platforms, Stein suggested that "GISHWHES may lack the overt language of industrial reconfiguration found in the Divine Kickstarter Project [a webseries that Collins engaged his fans to help fund]. But through its satire and dadaist play, it more fully models the potential for a congregation of authors, both official and unofficial, to direct fannish and creative investment into digital participation." Stein further argued that "decentralized projects like Gishwhes, with creators who fully immerse themselves in the surrounding digital cultures, show us the potential for future transmedia creative authorship in millennial culture."
GISHWHES has broken several Guinness World Records.
- Largest Photo Scavenger Hunt (2011)
- Largest Media Scavenger Hunt (2012) - 14,580 participants 
- Most Pledges for a Campaign/to Complete a Random Act of Kindness (2012) - 93,376 pledges 
- Largest Online Photo Album of Hugs (2013) - 108,121 hugs 
- Largest Chain of Safety Pins (2013) - 3,583 feet/1,802 meters long 
- Largest Gathering of People Dressed as French Maids (2014) - 695 participants
- Most People in a Decorated Hat Competition (2014)
- Longest Human Chain to Pass Through a Hula Hoop (2014) - 572 participants 
- Guzmán, Mónica (November 24, 2013). "Seattle contestants go wild for world’s largest media scavenger hunt". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
- Mandy, Chaos (October 11, 2012). "GISHWHES – International Scavenger Hunt". Wired. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
- Prudom, Laura (July 26, 2013). "'Supernatural' Season 9: Misha Collins Talks Castiel's Human Side, Sex Scenes, Random Acts And GISHWHES". The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
- Highfill, Samantha (July 23, 2014). "Here's how 'Supernatural' star Misha Collins is breaking world records". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
- Romano, Aja (October 22, 2012). ""Supernatural" star’s Greatest International Scavenger Hunt attracts 10,000 contestants". The Daily Dot. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
- Barrett, Dan (March 7, 2013). "Misha Collins and GISHWHES: the world's largest media scavenger hunt!". Guinness World Records. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
- "Largest media scavenger hunt". Guinness World Records. 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
- Hayes, Molly (August 14, 2013). "Wanted: Rooster costume and Russian colonel". The Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
- Benjamin, Maria (June 16, 2014). "Misha Collins and Friends Officially Break World Record for Hugs". WKBD-TV. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
- Fiesler, Casey (November 21, 2011). "GISHWHES: Epic Scavenger Hunt Underway". Geeks Are Sexy. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
- Brennan, Laura "Winter" (November 21, 2011). "GISHWHES: Misha Collins Now The Leading Cause of Insanity". Affairs Magazine. Archived from the original on August 16, 2013. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
- Benjamin, Maria (August 21, 2013). "International Scavenger Hunt Breaks Records". WKBD-TV. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
- Phernetton, Katie (July 18, 2014). "Scavanger Hunt with ‘Supernatural’s’ Misha Collins". WCWF-TV. Archived from the original on July 26, 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
- Kuhney, Jen Lebron (August 8, 2014). "Phoenix women compete in 'GISHWHES,' world's biggest scavenger hunt". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
- Lash, Jolie (July 17, 2015). "Misha Collins talks pulling double duty with GISHWHES and 'Supernatural'". Access Hollywood. Archived from the original on July 22, 2015. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- Highfill, Samantha (July 6, 2016). "Supernatural star Misha Collins launches GISHBUS tour dates". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
- Pogue, David (April 14, 2017). "Inside the World's Greatest Scavenger Hunt, Part 1". Yahoo! Finance. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
- Recorder staff (August 16, 2013). "Just try to find a stranger scavenger hunt than this". The Recorder. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
- Campbell, Amber (August 30, 2013). "TV actor sends teens on wild chase". The State Journal-Register. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
- Stein 2013, p. 420.
- Natasha, Verayo (July 26, 2014). "And then there was Gishwhes". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved July 30, 2014.
- Goei, Edwin (August 15, 2013). "Strickland's To Unveil Mystery Flavor Tonight For International Scavenger Hunt". OC Weekly. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
- Golembeski, Dean (August 23, 2013). "The Flash invades Jefferson Lab". Symmetry. Retrieved October 19, 2013.
- Gindensperger, Sophie (August 13, 2013). "" Gishwhes " : un stormtrooper dans ta laverie et 149 autres défis". Libération (in French). Retrieved October 20, 2013.
- Collins, Misha (2012). "GISHWHES 2012 List of Items" (Press release). GISHWHES.
- Collins, Misha (2013). "GISHWHES 2013 List of Items" (Press release). GISHWHES.
- Casey, Dan (July 25, 2013). "Join the Hunt with GISHWHES 2013 and Misha Collins". Nerdist.com. Nerdist Industries. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
- Lu, Feiran (August 3, 2013). "Scavenger hunt makes ‘awesome’ art". Shanghai Daily. Retrieved April 11, 2014.
- Prudom, Laura (October 20, 2012). "'Supernatural' Star Misha Collins Talks Season 8 And Holding The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen". The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
- VanDerWerff, Todd (August 6, 2014). "Why the Internet's biggest scavenger hunt is the bane of many sci-fi authors' existence". Vox. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
- Stein 2013, p. 421.
- Stein 2015, p. 153.
- Stein, Louisa Ellen (2013). "#Bowdown to Your New God: Misha Collins and Decentered Authorship in the Digital Age". In Gray, Jonathan; Johnson, Derek. A Companion to Media Authorship. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-470-67096-5.
- Stein, Louisa Ellen (2015). Millennial Fandom: Television Audiences in the Transmedia Age. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press. ISBN 978-1-60938-356-5.
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