And now fans of J.K. Rowling‘s enduringly popular Harry Potter series can try what may be the most immersive experience yet: enrolling at a Hogwarts-inspired school in a real castle.
The first gathering took place over the course of four days in November at the Polish castle of Czocha and included nearly 200 participants from 11 different countries. Sofie Stovelbaek, 25, was one of the lucky few who got to attend the inaugural session.
“It was amazing,” she tells PEOPLE. “It was like being a part of the movies.”
Each player is given a robe, a study book and a tie in their House color when they arrive. They’re also cast as a student, teacher or other person at the College of Wizardry.
“Basically it’s the same as kids playing Harry Potter in the yard,” says organizer Claus Raasted, 35. “We just have a little bit bigger kids.”
Nobody gets to be Professor Dumbledore or Lord Voldemort, however. In this game, all the roles are brand-new characters inspired by the world of the boy wizard.
“We basically found a blank space in Harry Potter fiction and filled it up,” says Raasted. “There is no College of Wizardry in Rowling’s books. We plugged that hole with our imagination.”
He adds: “Everybody’s character is interesting. Sofie played one of the leaders of the Houses and she had a moment when she got to give a victory speech while accepting the House Cup. Others had their moment when they summoned the Dark Lord Grindelwald. So everyone has fun.”
Some have a little too much fun: “The people playing Potions professors brought a couple thousand dollars of Potions equipment,” Raasted laughs. “They’re crazy.”
Stovelbaek says she plans to return in April for a sequel to the first game. For that, she’ll be reprising her student role, but she looks forward to the day she gets to play someone more nefarious. “I want to be a troublemaker,” she admits.
As the game becomes more and more popular, Raasted says he’s receiving requests to attend from all over the world.
“There are people who think it’s a magical college that teaches real magic,” he says. “We even had a 13-year-old girl who asked for online classes.” (They accommodated her.)
But there are some complications. While Raasted would like to expand the event to other locations, he must first get in touch with the intellectual property holders – in this case, Warner Bros. and Rowling herself.
“The last thing we want to do is get into legal trouble because we do an interesting event,” he says.
Raasted says he hasn’t heard from Rowling, but he “hopes that she would be happy” with what they’ve put together.
In addition to the upcoming sequel game, another first-time event is slated for April. Organizers have released a captivating video to showcase the “collaborative and interactive experience” that awaits participants.
“One of the really magical things was the relationships we built up,” says Stovelbaek. “I met a lot of people who I think are going to become great friends. ”
Watch the video and tell us: Would you consider a trip to Poland to stay a spell at the enchanted “college?”