On the Halloween night of 2018, we launched ‘Haunted City’ quests in several cities around Europe, helped by Questo creators.
People were able to discover haunted and cursed locations in their towns, while reading horror stories about those places and the people who used to live there. Approximately 15,000 people showed up and haunted the streets. After the launching event, the quest is still available in the app, anyone can complete it at any time.
Cosmin Ceuca is one of the creators who wrote one such quest, which was completed by over 5,000 people only that night.
These are Cosmin’s thoughts on being a creator:
What do you do for a living now? Do you have any experience with writing?
I graduated from Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in Iasi, with a Master’s degree in geography. I am currently working in the field of urban development, but during my free time I am part of an informal group promoting Iaşi as a tourist destination – Iasi.Travel. Within this group I helped write texts for a city guide to Iasi, Romania – “Iasi, Seven Thematic Touristic Routes. Urban Exploration Manual”, but we have also done city tours for Romanian or foreign guests.
What did you like the most about the concept of Questo?
Questo combines the idea of treasure hunting with technology and thus manages to attract a target group that can hardly be impressed by history, architecture or art. With the help of Questo, many young people were able to take their eyes off of their phones, to observe details they would not otherwise see, and find stories otherwise hidden in books, which are not so interesting for them in these times.
How did you decide to become a Questo creator?
I really liked the idea of treasure hunting ever since I was a student and I was doing such paper clues games for the exchange students who were sharing experiences in Iaşi or for friends. I saw that a quest had been done in Iasi and I wanted to participate in the promotion of the city through this type of game. In addition, following a conference held in Iasi, I talked to Claudiu, who had presented the Questo project and so I decided to start making some new quests.
How much did it take you to write a quest?
3-4 days, including researching locations and adapting the stories to make them more appealing.
What was the most interesting part of the process of writing your quest?
I was happy that I was able to find interesting stories that I didn’t even knew about before I started scrambling through books and articles.
What did you find the most difficult in writing the quest? Would you do something different if you started again now?
The hardest was to keep the stories short and punchy. I think I prefer to break the complicated stories in more small stories and create more quests, rather than to pour all the information in just one quest. In other situations, it was hard to find suitable clues: not to be indoors, to be seen at all times of the day, not to be ephemeral, etc.
Why would people go on your quest?
I believe the ‘Haunted Iași’ event was a great success. I did not expect to see a few thousand people wanting to read horror stories about Iasi. Listening to the participants at the end of the route, I came to the conclusion that this quest is easy to do (as distance) and has a lot of unknown information about places you pass by every day, but know nothing about. And when you do the quest at night, the stories gain even more mystery.
How many quests of yours were sold on the night of the Haunted City event?
According to the data we received, there were over 1,000 buyers of the Haunted Iasi quest. Being there that night, I do not think there were groups of less than 3 people, the majority being 4 or 5 people on a phone. That’s why I think there were about 5,000 people who blocked the streets of Iaşi that evening.
What are your thoughts on the event overall? Do you have any stories from there?
The event had a spectacular evolution on Facebook. It reached over 350,000 people, of whom almost 9,000 responded with “Interested” and 2,400 with “Going”. I’m glad I chose a starting point that wasn’t in front of a state institution, otherwise I certainly had to give explanations to the Police. I got a little scared when I got to the start. I did not expect to find so many people out there. So I climbed the stairs of the theatre and turned on a flashlight. In an instant, the whole crowd started to come to me.
I felt like I was in the middle of a zombie attack. On the way to the first clue, the participants managed to block traffic on 2 streets, the drivers were not pleased.
Some places have not had so many visitors since they’ve been built. I also loved that some of the participants were dressed in Halloween costumes.
What types of people could write quests?
First of all, they must be passionate about that city, its history or the subject it addresses in the quest. I think those who write quests should have a highly developed information synthesis capacity, if we talk about historical information, and rich creativity, if they plan on creating fantasy quests.
What suggestions and pieces of advice do you have for future creators?
It’s important to know the city, to know its shortcuts and more obscure places. You can not just do a quest from the front of your computer. Stories must be attractive, without too many unnecessary details that readers will forget. The uniqueness element of each checkpoint on the route is very important, the idea or detail that will be remembered. The clues that the participants must find should be very visible in the area, but hard to notice even by locals who pass by that place every day. For example, the question should not be “what statue is in Union Square?”, but “what date is written on the back of the statue?” This way you can avoid people solving the clues from home.
Where do you dream/plan to write a quest next?
I plan on writing more quests in Iasi. If I were to name another city, I think I could write a quest in Brussels, one of my favourite cities.
Do you have anything else to add about being a Questo creator?
Once you write a quest, I do not think you can stop. I, for example, always have ideas for new quests. Time is what I need. I am glad to be part of the group of people who manage to carry on the sometimes forgotten stories of the city, rewritten for young people. I hope that by promoting interesting places we can also help pull them out of anonymity and support their conservation. The cities are alive and full of stories. We only have to gather and then deliver them in an attractive format that city explorers can enjoy.
If you want to create a quest too, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you with everything you need.
Also, here’s an article that you might find interesting about how to be a Questo creator.
Play Your City a Visit!