If Pokémon GO has got you in a hunting and scavenging mood but wishing you could discover some treasures IRL and not just on your phone screen, then Misha Collins has just the thing for you. The Supernatural actor is bringing back GISHWHES – the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.
GISHWHES, back for a sixth time, is a week-long scavenger hunt that has amassed tens of thousands of participants going to great and silly lengths to win the grand prize for their team. This year the winning team will get a trip to Iceland with Collins, who plays the angel Castiel on Supernatural.
Though the scavenger hunt has its participants discovering and creating cool stuff in real life, there is some phone (or camera, at least) use required. Teams must take photos and videos of their submissions so the judges can review entries of GISHWHESers around the world (but, really, it”s all so Collins can see a photo of a Stormtrooper cleaning a pool or a dinosaur made of tampons or a video of a church choir singing Willow Smith”s “Whip My Hair”).
Goofiness abounds in GISHWHES (it is run by Misha Collins, after all), but it”s also a hunt that raises awareness of current issues and creates opportunities for random acts of kindness. Collins co-founded Random Acts, and that non-profit organization partners with GISHWHES. Among the seven Guinness World Records broken by GISHWHES is the most global hugs. Points-awarded items have included paint a mural in a hospital or prison, tweet a message of support to troops and veterans, write a haiku for one of your parents or grandparents, put on a puppet show in a children”s hospital, and register to be a bone marrow donor.
Today is the final day to register for GISHWHES 2016. You can sign up on the hunt”s website. The hunt runs from July 30 to August 6, so whether you”re participating or not, that”s when you can follow along with the creative and wacky antics of GISHWHES online. The list of hunt items will be released the day GISHWHES begins. Participants can create a team with friends or sign up solo, and the hunt will find team members for them.
HitFix chatted with Collins ahead of this year”s hunt. He talked about getting Supernatural stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles involved in the hunt, GISHWHES weddings, and what it”ll mean to have the hunt overlap with the Rio Olympics.
HitFix: Why do you do GISHWHES – other than getting the joy of seeing people make a dinosaur out of feminine hygiene products?
Misha Collins: The first scavenger hunt I ran shocked me by how gratifying it was. I just remember scrolling through the submissions and being stunned by how amazing their work was. Some of the submissions actually made me laugh out loud. It just felt like we had hit on something that was kind of magical.
I go to a lot of fan conventions, so I get to meet people face-to-face, and I just, again and again, hear testimonials from people about how transformative the experience was. These are strangers who”ve become best friends and marriages that are formed, and I just love those stories so much that it makes me not want to stop.I love being a part of pushing people out of their comfort zone, which I think is one of the functions that GISHWHES serves. It gives people an excuse to try things that they otherwise wouldn't try or experience, and I feel like there's some actual value in that.
So there have been some GISHWHES weddings?
How many spouses have you brought together?
I don't have an exact count. We don't keep stats on our marriage successes, on matchmaking successes, but I have met, really, countless people who have told me they met their spouses or partners from a GISHWHES team, which is really cool.
A few years ago the winning team went with me to Scotland, and we stayed in this 13th century castle, and it was just amazing, and one night one of the team members organized a little mini scavenger hunt in the castle for everyone. And that little mini scavenger hunt culminated in his girlfriend finding a ring, and he proposed to her on the winners” trip, which was super cool.
What are you planning to do in Iceland with the winning team this year?
We do not have an itinerary at this point, although I”ve done some exploring online and there”s some pretty spectacular stuff – there”s these amazing glacial ice caves, which I think we have to hit. There's some volcanoes, I have a long-running obsession with volcanoes for some reason, so we”re going to try to hit some volcanoes and some ice caves, s–t like that. Run-of-the-mill Iceland stuff.
Is it looking like there will be an opportunity in the hunt this year for you to meet up in person with fans, like you have in Stanley Park in Vancouver in years past?
Possibly. It”s a little bit for maybe schedule-contingent, but I'm thinking that probably we are going to do some big event where we try to break a Guinness World Record or something like that. We did one event in Seattle a few years ago, where we actually broke three Guinness World Records in one meetup. That was personal best for me, three in one day.
Are you planning to get your Supernatural co-stars involved in any way this year?
I always enlist them, either on a voluntary basis or coerced but one way or another my Supernatural co-stars will be involved, even if it's just to humiliate them in some way.
That's the ultimate goal, humiliating Jared and Jensen.
Yeah, yep. I”m glad that you understand the dynamics so well.
Last year, didn”t you create some kind of crazy big conference call that you got them involved in?
We did. Last year we created this very bizarre automated answering system where people would call in and would be directed to various different menus. It took me eight hours to record all of the menu options.
One of the things in that phone system was a conference call that just dumped 100 people into a conference call, people who”d worked their way through the menu and then wind up in a conference call with other people that had called in, and there was no organization to it, there was no cohesion to it. It was just 100 people trying to talk at the same time. And Jared and Jensen both spent a fair amount of time last year popping in on that conference call and freaking everybody out which was pretty awesome.
Could anyone hear them or was everyone just screaming?
Actually, as soon as people figured out that Jared and Jensen were on, they immediately became silent and deferential. It”s an amazingly effective way to instill order.
Over the years, have there been any challenges that you wanted to do, or have the contestants do but couldn”t for one reason or another?
Yeah, there have been items like that over the years. There have been items we have pulled from the hunt because they were determined to be unsafe or something like that. There was a point at which Russia had just implemented some fairly unsavory anti LGBT laws, and so I put an item in the hunt to have two people of the same sex kissing in front of the Kremlin. A bunch of Russian participants wrote in that that could potentially be dangerous they could be attacked or targeted there, so we changed that item to be not location-specific. But there are times when I will pick items that will be, for whatever reason, somehow unsafe. Because I have a tendency to be fairly cavalier about issues of safety, I know that's a problem of mine, so that has to be kept in check.
I know you can”t yet tell me specific hunt items ahead of the list being released this year, but I wanted to know if you”re planning to do anything related to current events.
It coincides with the Olympics, it coincides with the lead-up to the U.S. presidential election, and there”s obviously some pressing recent world events that bear mentioning. Every year we also include a lot of charity-related items. So I think that all of those things are going to hold some sort of weight on the hunt in one way or another. The election cycle, the Olympics, and trying to find ways to turn this thing into an engine for some form of social good – all of those things will be in the hunt.
GISHWHES 2016 runs from July 30 to August 6. Collins is at San Diego Comic-Con this week along with the Gishbus, which has been partnering with various local charities on its drive across the country.