At the opening of the first book of the Harry Potter series, the title character is an orphan living with his abusive aunt and uncle. Within the first few chapters, he discovers that he is actually a wizard, famous in a magical world that exists hidden on the fringes of normal modern life. Before leaving home to enroll in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry must obtain magical school supplies on a street called Diagon Alley. This shopping trip is Harry’s first introduction to the sights, sounds and people of the fantastic world into which he had been born.
Our recreation of Diagon Alley is what’s known as a “home haunt,” a themed Halloween display built inside a private residence. As enthusiastic prop builders and Harry Potter fans, we realized that the Alley was an ideal environment for displaying the magical objects in the books and films. As we worked on the project, we gained a new respect both for Rowling’s imagination and for the enormous amount of time and talent invested in the films by the Warner Brothers art department. Our Alley was three years in the making, and we hope you agree that it evokes the sense of excitement and wonder that Harry would have felt.
Please note that Warner Bros. Entertainment and J.K. Rowling are not responsible for this event, but subject to conditions, they have kindly granted us permission to use the HARRY POTTER® trademark and other materials.
Frequently Asked Questions
Were any of these props actually used in the movies?
No, they are all replicas. The majority were created by Betsy Coe, an amateur prop artist from Elkins Park, PA. She is deeply indebted to the work of Jeannine Ginsburg, a fellow crafter from West Chester, PA; Rachel Bethard, a Potter prop collector from Wytheville, Virginia; and several other artists whose talent and attention to detail enhanced the authenticity of the event.
Do all the props look like they do in the films?
Some do, some don’t, largely because of discrepancies within the series. Sometimes an object is described differently in the books from the way it appears in the movies. In addition, production designs often varied by director. (The Leaky Cauldron pub is a good example; in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, its façade is constructed of black paneled wood, but in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, its front entrance is a grubby brick wall.) We have tried to reproduce the most famous props (including Honeydukes candy, the Gilderoy Lockhart books, and Ron’s Yule Ball dress robes) as closely to the film designs as possible. At other times, we opted for the book description, as with the purple U-No-Poo poster with the flashing yellow lights.
Have you built Diagon Alley to look like it does at a particular time in the series?
Because we wanted to give as complete a representation of the Alley as possible, the shop windows include objects that appear in all seven of the books and films. They are combined without regard to Rowling’s timeline, so the display is not a snapshot of a specific era. However, we have not included anything that will reveal key plot twists or the ending of the series. Visitors to the Alley are asked not to discuss such plot points while touring the display.
Is the display scary?
No. The shops are designed to show the fun magical elements of the series – costumes, books, sports equipment, candy, jokes and tricks, etc. The one exception is Borgin and Burkes, which contains some mildly spooky elements and a screaming portrait of Mrs. Black. This shop is slightly recessed from Diagon Alley and can be bypassed if desired. Despite the description of the display as a “home haunt,” nothing and no one will jump out at you!
Can I actually buy anything?
No, unfortunately. The displays are available for window shopping only. However, we won’t dissuade you from bringing your wallet. There is no admission fee for viewing Diagon Alley, but we will be accepting voluntary contributions to the Women’s Center of Montgomery County. This is a terrific local organization that supports women’s empowerment, with a primary focus on eliminating domestic violence and other forms of abuse. If you enjoy the display, we hope you’ll consider making a donation.
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