The Scavenger Hunt of “Unreasonable Pain and Suffering”

Otherwise known as the best week of my summer.

This was a 2016 GISH challenge to recreate media images of the presidential candidates in play dough. Images and art by the author.

Each year, I anticipate the first week of August. Since 2013, I’ve spent these days making crafts out of feminine hygiene products, donating to charitable causes, and helping my friends embarrass themselves.

It’s all part of a strange and unique charity event called GISH. It used to be called GISHWHES, and stood for the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. Now it’s just GISH.

During GISH, participants complete strange creative challenges, such as creating sculptures out of tampons, or kind ones, such as donating supplies to a local women’s or children’s shelter.

In full disclosure, you’re reading one of those challenges right now. It’s #42 on the 2020 list, and it’s worth 21 points. “What is GISH? We’re not exactly sure, but we sure want to read what you think it is. Write a 250–500 word essay and have it published …”

A past GISH challenge: Recreate a famous sculpture out of a single tampon.

Misha is Misha Collins, who created GISH and plays the angel Castiel on the series Supernatural. Other top-billed cast members and various celebrities, including William Shatner, sometimes get involved too. The legend goes that Misha’s family had some hard financial times when he was growing up, and someone once helped them have a really great Christmas. He always remembered that and now gives back.

He’d probably tell you he found the strangest way possible to do so. He likes to brag about torturing the participants, causing “unreasonable pain and suffering.” But he knows full well that all 55,000 plus of us enjoy every minute of it.

My friends and their dog Pickles created this “Kale of Thrones” for dog Pickles to sit on. I later used the image for a task to market GISH to the masses. How’d we do?

Once a friend and I got kicked out of a fast-food drive-through during GISH. I can’t remember what was going on, but it involved breaking a no-recording rule at the restaurant that we didn’t know about. Whatever it was, it seemed like a good idea at the time. That’s the kind of mayhem he sometimes encourages.

The challenges range from bizarre to tear-jerking. Even before this year’s pandemic, GISH items often included entertaining the elderly at nursing homes, donating to families without enough food, and raising awareness for social justice issues.

My favorite creative items have included a struggling Gingerbread Village, a birdhouse jail, and a 2020 politically-inspired task I can’t tell you about yet. (Most items can’t be shared until after the year’s hunt is over.)

“Gingerbread communities are always so quaint.” This challenge was to present a gingerbread community in danger.

What I look forward to most about this scavenger hunt each year are these creative tasks. I once heard that creativity is at its best when we have the fewest supplies. It’s easy to create something when you have all the pieces already. It’s much more challenging when you’re trying to make a Rube Goldberg machine out of whatever you have in your kitchen at the time, or a painting using only dirt.

I got super into this previous GISH task. Make sure to turn off your tweets before entering.

This one week every summer is a sanctioned playtime for adults, although plenty of kids are involved too. It’s that extra push to support a cause you care about. It’s a connection in a world when we don’t connect enough, even for those who normally hate connecting at all.

So, what is GISH? We still have no idea, but I am eternally thankful for it. Thanks Misha. Thanks Gishers. I’ll see you on the hunt.

Therapist, writer, newly published author. Check out my book PTSD Quest about healing trauma symptoms, available on Amazon at

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