Potion Play

Avistrum Academy brings Hogwarts to the New World.

And they put quite a lot of time into it, too. The academy's website offers detailed backgrounds of all the faculty, staff and residents, from professors Kobayashi, Aberfoyle and Ward to nurse Kayenta and Lady Viola Fey. The "Tales From Avistrum" portion of the site provides thorough minutes from previous meetings fraught with danger and peril. The Medallion of Akpuch meeting this past May was a particularly harrowing experience, with forest trolls and dementors disrupting things at every turn.

There are Potter-like summer camps around the country, Dowling says, but he isn't aware of anyone else going to such lengths to create an entirely separate world from Hogwarts. "None of us are in this right now to make a lot of money," he explains. "We would love to be able to have our own space eventually, where we could be running activities on a consistent basis and do charity work and go to different conventions around the country, but right now it's a labor of love. When you're on stage, interacting with all the kids and seeing how exciting it is for them, and how excited they are about something you're putting out, it's incredible. No matter how big we get, we always want to make the experience more and more magical for the students."

Before offering a lesson on the origins and traditions of Halloween, Headmaster Dowling paces around the room, asking students what the holiday reminds them of, while Fineus Finbarr Fergus Flannagan Fitzgerald, the school's resident leprechaun and comic relief, writes their responses on the board. Students raise their hands and call their answers out to the headmaster: "Trick-or-treating!" "Ghosts!" "Goblins!"

Wands at the ready: Headmaster Dowling and the 
staff of Avistrum Academy.
Anthony Camera
Wands at the ready: Headmaster Dowling and the staff of Avistrum Academy.

The grandmother of one of the students, wearing enormous gold earrings, screams out answers in a loud, raspy voice without waiting to be recognized. "Jack-o'-lanterns!" she yells, trying to be heard above everyone else. "Apples from harvest, tombstones, the full moon!" While Dowling politely implores the woman to raise her hand, tiny arms go down across the room, their owners' ideas abruptly extinguished by the loud woman.

There are so many obstacles to overcome in the quest to become a wizard. Even on a Saturday in Brighton.

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