Monday, January 26, 2009 by Dave Blum

Scouting treasure hunt clues is a bit of an art.  Some key factors to take into account when casting around for treasure hunt ideas include:

1) Is your prospective location a little-known or well-known site?

2) Will this clue be part a driving or walking hunt?

3) How are you going to have people “validate” that they’ve actually visited the clue location?

Clue writers all have their own scavenger hunt ideas.  Myself, when drawing up a scavenger hunt list, I tend to favor:

1) Sites that pretty much everyone has overlooked.
–I like my hunt participants to feel a sense of privilege; I want them to say,  “I am so lucky to see this spot. I would never have known about it if I hadn’t come on this hunt!”

2) Walking hunts
–Although driving hunts allow participants to cover more ground, they also tend to force people to endure long stretches of time stuck in traffic.  I believe there is something special about following a hunt trail on foot, exploring back alleys, and interacting with the details of the environment.

3) “Environmental Validation”
–This means that rather than having people look for a hidden cache of prizes or take a picture, I like for hunt participants to answer a question at the clue location, based on what they find there.   Of course, this means that as a scout, you have to choose a location at which you can ask an interesting question.  So for instance, if you select a statue for a clue site, there has to be something cool or unique about it … like, “What is the main figure holding?”  A:  “An hourglass”.     Or, “What is the artist’s Texan last name?”  A:  John Houston

I try not to pick well-known landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty or Alcatraz or the Washington Monument.  I prefer the humbler locations — a tiny time capsule, a stained-glass window with words written on it, a plaque commemorating the site of an ancient dentist’s office.  The more obscure or unusual, the better.

A good rule of thumb:  if you’re excited by your discovery, chances are your audience will be as well.

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