A Scavenger Hunt is a party game (played by individuals or teams) in which players have to find a list of items by a set deadline. Typically, the items do not have high monetary value, but some of them are likely to be highly specific and/or difficult to obtain. Purchasing an item is often forbidden or penalized. In some cases (usually large heavy or bulky items or even physical landmarks), a photograph of the player with the item is deemed sufficient to claim it.
Author and society hostess Elsa Maxwell popularized the scavenger hunt in the 1930s. Smaller scale versions for children and teens usually have very limited settings (say, the backyard of a house or a local shopping mall) and can require finding preprinted clues that are concealed in the area rather than actual items. Modern variations include online hunts (often for specific pieces of information) and hunts that have players use smartphones.
A Scavenger Hunt can serve as the plot device for a story, or as an incident in another plot. In mystery stories, the scavenger hunt frequently makes the investigators' job more difficult, since the game will mean many people will be moving near a crime scene or have sketchy verification of their whereabouts.
See also Fetch Quest.
- Shows up in several anime that take place during a school's sports festival as a "fetch race", where each participant gets a piece of paper with what they have to find written on it, then everyone goes to find what they have as quickly as possible.
- Shows up twice in Azumanga Daioh, both during the Sports Fest:
- The first year, Osaka gets 'glasses'. She gets Yomi's and goes towards the finish...while wearing them. Kagura is also yelling in the background looking for a swimsuit.
- The second year, Chiyo has to find 'an idiot'. She retrieves Tomo. When Tomo asks why Chiyo-chan took her, Chiyo tears the paper to shreds.
- In Haruhi-chan, Kyon gets 'a barrier of the heart'. He gets Koizumi to come with him; when Haurhi asks why, Kyon proceeds to tell Koizumi that he loves him. Cue hilarity in the form of a Bishie Sparkle and the breaking of Haruhi's mind.◊
- Shows up twice in Azumanga Daioh, both during the Sports Fest:
- This Calvin and Hobbes strip has Calvin and Hobbes in a scavenger hunt. Hobbes is concerned for the legality of obtaining some of the items on the list.
- Wacky Races issue #6 (Gold Key, April, 1972) had "The Scavenger Scramble," in which the racers had to gather specific items—a real-gone muffler, a drop of dirty motor oil on the driver's right palm, a strip of a worn-out tire, and a parking ticket. A big purse is up for grabs to the winner, and Dick Dastardly wins it. He wins a large, flowery woman's purse. (Penelope Pitstop was first at the finish line but she lost because for a "real gone muffler," she had a psychedelic scarf instead of a beat-up exhaust pipe.)
- My Man Godfrey (1936) has a socialite bring the title character to a scavenger hunt judge as a "forgotten man" to win the game. He takes a job as the woman's butler, and Hilarity Ensues.
- Scavenger Hunt (1979) had the relatives of a deceased man participate in a scavenger hunt (according to the terms of his will) to determine who inherits the man's wealth.
- The film Midnight Madness has a guy named Leon create a scavenger hunt called "The Great Allnighter". He picks teams of college students to participate in his night long scavenger hunt, going from clue to clue that Leon has set up all over town. The groups are made up of competing cliques.
- Dead Scared (AKA The Hazing). A group of men and women must participate in a scavenger hunt in order to join a fraternity and sorority, respectively. Trying to obtain one item gets them involved with a professor who's actually a satanic sorcerer.
- Sleepover had Alexa Vega and her friends, who are getting some objects for their romantic scavenger hunt, in the middle of the night, hoping to find her boyfriend in the end.
- Ngaio Marsh's Hand in Glove has Lady Bantling's scavenger hunt covering the murder of one of her neighbours. The man's body is found in an open trench.
- Agatha Christie used a variation called a murder hunt (following clues to various places leading to a staged murder scene) on the grounds of Nasse House in Dead Man's Folly.
- Irene Adler uses a scavenger hunt at a houseparty as cover so she and her companion Nell Huxleigh can retrieve a jeweled belt called the Zone of Diamonds from under a cross in Oscar Wilde's garden in Carole Nelson Douglas' Good Night, Mr. Holmes.
- A major part of the novel Leap Year has the characters go out on a scavenger hunt around town.
- A hunt of the "preprinted clues" variety is one plot in Aunt Dimity and the Village Witch. A seventeenth-century vicar wrote an account of a woman reputed to be a witch and hid pages of it in locations in and around the village. Mrs. Amelia Thistle has the first page, left to her by her late brother, and comes to Finch to find the rest. Each page has a graphic clue to the location of the next, and Lori and other residents join in the search by deciphering the clues.
- In the Warrior Cats book The Sight, Icekit and Foxkit are disappointed that they're too young to participate in the apprentice competitions, so their mother Ferncloud sets a scavenger hunt for them: they have to bring back a beetle, some moss, and a fly.
- On a Halloween episode of The Addams Family, a couple comes to the Addams' home looking for a black bat. Gomez assumes they mean the animal.
- On Parks and Recreation, Leslie sets up a scavenger hunt for Ben for Valentines Day. This being Leslie, she sets up twenty five clues, all of which are verbose riddles. The very first one even involved a word lock. Ron, who helps Ben figure out the clues, claims to dislike riddles and other such nonsense, but at the end confesses that he likes it and asks Leslie to prepare a hunt for him in an underhanded way.
- In the first season of the Miss Fisher's Mysteries'', Phryne's cousin Guy hosts his engagement party, which includes a treasure hunt as part of the festivities. Prizes on offer include half a case of French champagne, a full case of French champagne, and a chance to have sex with his fiancee, himself or both of them.
- Raj sets one up for the gang in The Big Bang Theory, where they follow clues to find a hidden golden coin. In the end, Raj revealed that he had hidden coins in the other's clothes so that they all feel like winners. This just makes everyone mad at him.
- In Vampire: The Masquerade this is a party game of Nosferatu - the twist is that the items usually belong to someone else and its not so much a problem of finding them as acquiring them subtly enough.
- In one episode of The Powerpuff Girls, the girls encounter through the Amoeba Boys something which to them appears to be instructions for a scavenger hunt. As they soon learn it was in fact the blueprint for another of Mojo Jojo's greatest plans to destroy the Powerpuff Girls ever. It didn't work.
- There's an episode of The Simpsons where Burns loses all his goods after being defeated in a scavenger hunt.
- One of the old My Little Pony cartoons had the characters go on a scavenger hunt.
- In an episode of Animaniacs, the Warners go into Sherlock Holmes' appartment looking for items for a scavenger hunt, first prize being a walk-on on Baywatch. Holmes realizes that some of the items have been stolen by Moriarty and theorizes that he is on the same scavenger hunt.
- The Perils of Penelope Pitstop episode "Game Of Peril" had Penelope involved in a scavenger hunt, with the Hooded Claw (of course) trying to do her in. The last item Penelope needed was the Claw's hat and cape. She seems to have lost the game until to everyone's surprise, Dum-Dum grabbed them during one of the Claw's quick changes (his alibi to the police that he was a quick-change artist).
- In the Fairly OddParents episode "The Big Bash", Timmy and his rival Remy Buxaplenty engage in a Time Travel-Scavenger Hunt organised by Cupid, but in the end find out it was just a ruse to make them do Cupid's grocery shopping.
- T.U.F.F. Puppy: In "Lucky Duck", Dudley is selected by his TV idol, Quacky the Duck, to go on a scavenger hunt for various items, including 8 cases of pudding, a police radio, a map to Mexico, a missile and the network president in a sack. It turns out to be part of Quacky's revenge against the president for canceling his show.
- The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Scavenger Pants" has Squidward sending SpongeBob and Patrick away to find various objects as a means of getting them out of his hair, but each hunt backfires when they keep actually finding what he asked them to.