About the Designer

(This article is a continuation of our Adventure Treasure Hunts 101 -
The FREE Course
series. To start from the beginning, click HERE.)

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Over thirty years ago, at the age of nine, I began to take a serious interest in treasure hunts. I chose to use the word serious here because it was at this time that I began to spend exorbitant amounts of time thinking about different ways to create clues. I was an insecurely quiet, straight A student who was struggling to find a challenging mental activity that would occupy my time in between assignments in elementary school. I began to think of different ways to mix up words and pictures. I became more fascinated by maps and directions. My teachers were just content that I was sitting quietly.

Once I saw the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark that following year, though, I was inspired like never before. The first scene would forever be burnished on my mind and imagination. I dreamed of excavating tombs and temples, of writing in dead languages and losing myself in history. The next several years were spent attempting to recreate the excitement and thrill I felt watching an archaeologist translate a foreign language on a tattered map as he searched for lost treasure.

At the age of 12, my then six-year-old brother was old enough to be a guinea pig for me and my adventures. I enjoyed creating the hunts and he enjoyed going on them. It was a terrific arrangement. Now, I began introducing makeshift booby traps to my hunts. I began experimenting with different ways to treat paper to make it look old and worn. Most importantly, it was at this time that I began introducing storylines to my hunts (more about this later…)

In high school I was finally able to break out of my shell and became extremely involved in student government. Now I finally had the opportunity to try out my hunts on groups of people rather than just my brother, that is). In my sophomore year, I first heard about murder mystery dinners and became quickly intrigued with the entire format. I used all the tricks I developed during my years of designing treasure hunts to host original Murder Mystery evenings for several different groups of people. It was during these years I realized the incredible potential of adding live characters to my hunts.

By the time I had graduated from high school, I had set up well over 100 treasure hunts along with several Murder Mystery events.

College itself consumed most of my time but I still found some to put on an elaborate hunt or two a year (at least one a year for my brother still…). While earning my Bachelor of Arts in Art History, I took several courses of interest (that eventually advanced my hunt designs) such as Japanese and ancient Greek, several archaeology courses, theater production, and studio art. Throughout college, I received phone calls from past participants (or friends of past participants) of my hunts and Murder Mystery dinners; all asking for help with their dinner parties or organization events. These calls gave birth to Quest Experiences, the company my younger brother and I launched in the summer of 1995.

Through Quest Experiences, we renamed our treasure hunts quests in an attempt to express the level of sophistication we were working hard to offer. By this time, we were casting actors for roles, working with a costume designer, and purchasing props like fog machines and stage scenery. Most of our clientele were companies looking for something different for their annual BBQ's and Christmas parties, and boy, did they get it!

Now at the age of 40+ I spend my time sharing my expertise and experiences with anyone who will listen. It's a great art form...

Simply put, designing these quests is a passion of mine.

Joe Dean
Quest Experiences

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Treasure Hunts vs. Scavenger Hunts

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