UCSB alumnus Graham Talley is currently seeking the aid of his former classmates in solving one of his company’s — and the university’s — greatest mysteries to date.

According to Talley, creator of the treasure hunt creation company Whim Custom Adventures, students will begin to notice odd happenings around campus today associated with the disappearance of professor and mad scientist Julian Ives Copse. The professor will post the Whim company logo — a set of parallel question marks — on flyers, signs and other hunt paraphernalia around campus as clues for students as they attempt to find the professor.
The weeklong hunt will also include video clues posted on YouTube and even large-scale, on-campus events featuring actors.

The madcap shenanigans of Whim designs grew out of Talley and his friends’ fascination with creating puzzle trails to entertain each other while attending UCSB. Although the company started with very little capital, Talley said his unique treasure hunts generate enough word-of-mouth buzz to allow the young company to prosper.

“At Whim, we don’t just offer scavenger hunts,” Talley said. “These are full-scale immersive experiences, including meetings in dark alleys with strangers, payphones ringing mysteriously and chase scenes at the pier with a man in a full wetsuit handing you a note before diving off into the ocean.”

After graduating in 2006 with a B.A. in psychology, Talley launched Whim and began offering custom-built excursions such as treasure hunts, faux kidnapping adventures and code-breaking mysteries to clients looking to add excitement to their lives.

Now, with the purported disappearance of the mysterious Dr. Copse, Talley invites the UCSB community to dust off their copies of Sherlock Holmes, don their Indiana Jones hats and join in the search.

Whim plot writer and actor Owen Thayer, a UCSB alumnus from the College of Creative Studies’ Literature program, said the hunt is tailored to appeal to many different kinds of people.

“We have designed the hunt so that several personality types can join in,” Thayer said. “We hope to entice the type of person who will answer a payphone in the middle of the night when it rings mysteriously, who are generally curious, who like spy and detective movies and who wish they had some of that adventure in their day-to-day lives.”

Past Whim adventures have included an Egyptian-themed hunt for a promise ring organized by a man for his girlfriend, a staged kidnapping for a going away party and a mystery dinner party for actress Reese Witherspoon.

Leslie Welts, who became involved in one of Whim’s programs through her work at the UCSB-affiliated National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, said the event drew her in.

“We didn’t really know what was going on or what the outcome would be, but we got completely wrapped up in it,” Welts said. “Half of you wants to make it a joke, but you just get more and more excited. It’s like you are in a movie.”

Although the entire Whim team remains tight-lipped about the details regarding the hunt for Dr. Copse, Whim Chief Technology Officer and former UCSB computer science major Colin Curtin said the company concentrates on staying up-to-date with the latest technological gadgets at their disposal, including Web-based clues.

Although the hunt does not require registration and participants are welcome to join at any time, anyone interested in finding out more about the hunt can visit the Facebook group “Who is Dr. Copse?”