Every Wednesday night in Edmonton, groups of people are being hunted down for sport. The name of the game is Manhunt. It's an exhilarating test of physical and mental endurance where alliances are formed and broken and no one is sure who they can trust—it's also a lot of fun and great exercise.
Taking place outside in a different part of the city each week, Manhunt is a hybrid game of tag and hide-and-seek. The rules are simple: the Manhunter is chosen from the group of participants through an intense round of rhyming elimination. After the initial Manhunter is chosen, the rest—referred to as fugitives—must run and hide to avoid being tagged by the Manhunter. Once tagged, fugitives become Manhunters and hunt down the remaining fugitives until none are left.
Perimeters are set and if a fugitives steps out of bounds they then become a Manhunter. All participants in the game must wear a bright visible arm band in order to be distinct from the general population. As more and more fugitives are tagged, it becomes harder to tell who is a hunter and who is the hunted. The most sinister aspect of the game is that a Manhunter does not have to reveal if he is tagged or not. A tagged person could be walking beside you for a while before he decides to swoop in and make you his prey—a fugitive must always watch his back and trust no one.
My experience playing this game was about as extreme as it gets. I had arrived a few minutes late and just narrowly avoided being chosen as the original Manhunter. After the hunter was chosen, I was given a 120 second head start. I decided to join a small group consisting of event organizer Adam Waldron-Blain and regular participant Daniel Walker. There is safety in numbers, after all.
“This has been going on since about 2005,” Adam says. “And we have a good number of people here tonight,” he adds, referring to the 15 or so people in attendance. Waldron-Blain has been with the event since 2005—until other duties required him to stop for a few years. However, he's been back at the helm of Manhunt for a while now. Although the game is physically demanding, Adam has admitted that thankfully no one has gotten seriously injured on his watch.
As our group cautiously stepped through a dimly lit alley, Manhunter Daniel Pazder jumps out from behind an air vent and begins his aggressive pursuit, causing our tight-knit group to be split up. It's just me and Manhunt regular Daniel Walker at this point. As we pass by a seemingly nice lady carrying her groceries on the sidewalk, she slyly tells us “You're going down.”
“She must know what's going on,” Walker says with a laugh. The game of Manhunt lends itself well to civilian involvement. Daniel recalls a time where a police officer stopped him in order to help out a Manhunter. “As I was walking by a police officer on a bicycle, he told me that he needed to stop me,” Daniel recalls. “He wouldn't tell me why, but then the Manhunter jumped out and tagged me—so that was why.”
Unfortunately not all bystander reaction has been positive. Pazder recalls a time where a person from a balcony yelled at him to “grow up” while he was looking for a place to hide.
As our group dwindled down more and more, I found myself cornered by one of the now many Manhunters and was eventually tagged and brought over to the other side. It was only a matter of time, I guess: Manhunt is a game where no one is safe.
Visit manhunt-edmonton.com for more information.