‘PotterVerse’ attracts thousands to Baltimore
On 20th anniversary of Rowling’s creation, the magic hasn’t faded
Jason Epperson, dressed in his best wizard’s robe, was considering the purchase of a “magical” 12-sided die Saturday when his son started telling anyone who would listen some Epperson family business.
“Our dad’s a wand-maker!” said 8-yearold Jericho, eyes sparking behind some Harry Potter replica glasses. His 10-year-old sister, Aranatha, shot an exasperated look from under her witch’s hat. “It’s true,” she said. “He uses our birthstones. And puts in LED lights.”
When Epperson decided to make wands for his two children to bring to Baltimore’s first PotterVerse convention, he even included a magnetic tip to attract objects from afar. “I try to keep them dreaming, and keep them imagining,” Epperson said during the second day of a sprawling Harry Potter convention at the Inner Harbor.
Thousands gathered at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel this weekend to visit with a half-dozen supporting cast members from the popular wizarding series, share fan fiction and dress in costume. As the J.K. Rowling series celebrates its 20th year in publication, fans are as eager as ever to delve into the world Rowling conjured up just beneath the reality of modern-day London.
“There’s an entire universe that has been created, something that people can take ownership of and imagine themselves in,” said PotterVerse convention co-founder Oni Hartstein.
Leslie Sterling of Clifton, Va., drove 90 minutes to spend the day in Baltimore dressed as the well-meaning and mischievous house elf Dobby. “You can walk into a room and you’re surrounded by strangers. But you walk into a room at a con [convention], and you’re surrounded by family,” Sterling said.
Organizers said at least 2,000 people had attended the convention by Saturday afternoon. Events continue through today, with actors who played supporting roles in the Harry Potter movies giving talks, signing autographs and chatting with fans.
“They’re real people, not just characters,” said Amanda Pash of Pittsburgh, dressed as Harry Potter’s best friend, Hermoine. As she waited in line to meet actor Devon Murray, who played Seamus Finnigan in the film series, she said she hoped he would autograph the seventh book in the series for her. “I’m so excited,” she said.
Her husband, John Pash, meanwhile, was dressed as the pallid, notorious Professor Severus Snape. John Pash has never seen a Potter movie in its entirety or picked up a book, but he agreed to attend the convention in a wig and robe as an 11th anniversary gift to his wife. “She told me not to talk to anybody because I get all the names wrong. I thought I was dressed as ‘Professor Snakes,’ ” John Pash said. “I’m just looking for a place to get a drink.”
Outside in a quiet corner, English professor April Walters was channeling Professor Dolores Umbridge, dressed head-to-toe in pink and offering free temporary tattoos that read “I will not tell lies.” In the Potter series, the cheerfully evil witch was aligned with villain Lord Voldemort and forced Potter to magically etch that message into the back of his hand. “Smiley and evil is fun to play,” said Walters, who is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
“It’s a good playground,” she said. “It’s easy to imagine yourself there.”
Members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority from Towson University trace a mural at Roots and Branches School in Harlem Park. From left are Ngafla Bakayoko, Darre'll Joseph, Ashley Britton, Lia Johnson and Jasmine Ward.