Where’s Waldo on the Magnificent Mile

By about 12:30 last Friday afternoon, University of Chicago mathematics graduate students Strom Borman and Daniele Rosso were sitting under the King Lear statue at the foot of the Magnificent Mile, basking in their speedy victory under the late fall sun. They proudly held a trophy bearing a boldly-striding golden figure clad in a red-and-white striped shirt, along with its source: a set of Martin Handford’s “Where’s Waldo” books.

Borman and Rosso were two of the roughly two dozen University affiliates, friends, and passersby who gathered at noon to play “Where’s Waldo” in person on the Magnificent Mile during one of the busiest shopping days of the year. They had one hour to find the real-life manifestations of all five of the stripe-clad puzzle book characters–Waldo, Wizard Whitebeard, Wanda, Odlaw and Woof–while they posed in designer store window displays, loitered in traffic islands, and wandered North Michigan Avenue. The search was inspired by item 207 from the 2007 UofC Scavenger Hunt, believed to be the largest such hunt in the world: “Where’s Waldo? On Friday between 15:00 and 17:00, he’ll be somewhere in the Loop. Find him. [25 points]”

This real-life Waldo hunt was the first event to be put on by Finders Keepers, a scavenger hunt company founded by three UofC alumni and former and current University Scavenger Hunt judges: Courtney Prokopas, Sebastian Ellefson, and Steven Lucy. The business has been in development for a little less than seven months and has picked up one more full-time staffer, UofC alumnus and Scavenger Hunt judge Jonathan Williams. The four plan to continue putting on these small public hunts for little or no cost, using the events to promote themselves and hopefully gain lucrative contracts for educational and corporate team-building exercises.

The three judges decided that they had found their calling relaxing during the downtime at the end of the special travel component of this year’s UofC Scavenger Hunt. Prokopas says, “We all liked what we were doing.” Ellefson explains, “We just set up a scavenger hunt in Las Vegas. That wasn’t so hard. Maybe we could do this as a business.” They don’t have any more public events in the works now, but you can keep up with their plans at finderskeeperscentral.com.