peacenik stormtrooper

A Global Scavenger Hunt Inspires Some Creative Good Turns

Supernatural actor Misha Collins cooks up some truly random acts of kindness

If you happen to spot some strange goings-on this week–someone rolling in maple leaves while coated in maple syrup, for instance (Item #82), or racing a couple of sofa beds down a deserted street (Item #120), or staging a sit-in of peacenik stormtroopers (Item #143)–don’t be alarmed. It’s just GISHWHES, the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, a week-long global competition in which teams attempt to complete items from a very creative list ranging from the odd (freeze something in jello, Item #9) to the difficult (modify a shopping cart to be space-worthy, Item #74) to the outrageous (hold a board meeting at the bottom of a swimming pool, Item #72), to the charitable (delivering food to a homeless shelter, Item #91) and kind (thanking soldiers for their service, Item #51).

“It has turned into something that I quite love and that seems to be having a profound impact”

Inspired by a marketing stunt, the scavenger hunt started in 2011 and has since become a global phenomenon, with 55,000 people participating last year. The brainchild of actor Misha Collins, a star of the TV series Supernatural, GISHWHES asks teams to submit photos or videos of the various items they complete, and awards prizes to the teams that complete the most. Many of the items are aimed squarely at creating good turns around the world, although most are just aimed at creating laughs among the people attempting them (and the people who happen to be watching those attempts, as well)–a good turn in itself.

Collins has called GISHWHES “a strange little whimsical notion that has turned into something that I quite love and that seems to be having a profound impact on a lot of people participating.” And beyond the good turns built into the items the teams complete, the event seems to create its own joy. “A lot of people have come up to me at fan conventions and said things like, ‘My best friend is somebody that I met on GISHWHES,’ or ‘I now live with somebody who was on my team,’ or ‘It made me decide to drop out of my program and switch to a major in art,’ and a lot more dramatic things than that,” Collins told the Huffington Post a few years ago. “People have proposed to their girlfriends and people even got married during GISHWHES, so it’s been awesome.”

But this year will be the last, according to Collins. Whether GISHWHES will simply end or will take some new form in the future remains to be seen. But for the rest of the week at least, be on the lookout for people getting creative and spreading GISHWHES’s strange joy.

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