The Harry Potter series has always left us speechless. When the books were released, they became instant bestsellers and are still popular today. The series’ unprecedented success continued with the first film in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Since then, fans of the series have eagerly awaited the next instalment, eagerly anticipating the return of their beloved characters. Only three years have passed since then, and we have already seen the next instalment of the franchise. The wait for the upcoming film, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, seems interminable.
The hype surrounding the film has undoubtedly contributed to its box office success. The latest instalment in the franchise is projected to make £70 million at the box office worldwide, a significant amount for a book-to-film adaptation. However, the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter series is built on more than just film adaptations and high box office receipts. When the books were released, they sparked a craze for witchcraft and wizardry that continues to this day.
A search for ‘witchcraft’ on YouTube reveals many videos of people performing magical feats, connecting the series’ success to the mainstream emergence of the ‘Wicca’ religion in the 1970s and ‘80s. One of the most popular videos shows magician Chung Ling Soo performing a mind-blowing stunt that is eerily similar to the one Harry Potter used to defeat Voldemort in the Deathly Hallows. In fact, it would appear that without the magic and mystery of the Harry Potter series, the ‘Wicca’ religion might never have taken off in the first place.
Chung Ling Soo’s 1972 prestidigitation, which he entitled ‘Psychokinesis’, is still one of the most viewed magic tricks on YouTube. The magician shows an assistant a dove who, it is claimed, will not leave the nest until the bird is flown exactly three times in a clockwise direction. The bird then supposedly flies off into the distance, appearing to vanish from sight. The trick was such a sensation when it was performed that it was repeated on several television shows, including Tomorrow Night at 10:30, hosted by Billy Graham, and ABC’s The More You Know, hosted by Regis Philbin. It also featured as a bonus round on the television show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? When Graham and Philbin performed the trick, they would joke about how much they missed their shows’ theme tune – an apparent nod to its enduring popularity. This was also the case when the Australian magicians John Mulvaney and Rick Livesey performed a similar trick in 2004, which you can watch below.
What Is Psychokinesis?
The term ‘psychokinesis’ was coined in the 1950s by parapsychologists who were investigating the phenomenon. In the 1960s and ‘70s, a craze for ‘psychokinesis’ magic tricks emerged, with many popular magicians incorporating the technique into their performances. The term is typically used in relation to thought-based magic and the use of mental powers, sometimes known as ‘telekinesis’.
In his book Trick or Witch: Magic and Mystery in Australian History, historian Peter Cannon notes that many aspects of modern magicianship seem to have been inspired by the Harry Potter series. The Australian magicians who incorporated ‘psychokinesis’ into their repertoire include Roy Maclaurin, who was “a firm believer in the occult” and “always on the lookout for new ways to delight his audiences”, and Al Baker, whose career “progressed through the “futurism craze’” of the 1950s and ‘60s. Baker’s stage act was inspired by the films of Ridley Scott, earning him the nickname “the sorcerer from Scott’s films”.
“Al Baker’s career was a remarkable one,” Cannon notes. “He was one of the first to incorporate magic and mentalism into his performances and developed a style that was at once unique and instantly recognisable.”
Did The Harry Potter Series Inspire Other Media?
With its emphasis on magic and mystery, the Harry Potter series undoubtedly influenced other mediums. When the books were released, they sparked a craze for witchcraft and wizardry that continues to this day. This was reflected not only in other books and films in the franchise, but also in mainstream culture at large. Searches on YouTube for ‘witchcraft’ reveal many magical feats performed in an attempt to connect with the magical world of Harry Potter. This trend culminated in the ‘Wicca’ religion, which emerged in its modern form in the early 1970s and continues to this day.
The first of many examples is the television sitcom Gimme a Break!, created by Joan Rivers. One of the most striking aspects of the show is the way it incorporates magical creatures and ceremonies into its storylines. For instance, in one episode, a ventriloquist dummy dressed in wizard robes performs a magic spell that allows it to speak. In another, a witch appears in a cameo role as a judge.
There are also many examples of films and books that are clearly inspired by the Harry Potter series, from Timeless to Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book, The Neverending Story, and the Babadook to name but a few. The list is almost endless.
Where Can I Watch More Harry Potter-related Magic?
If you’re a fan of the series, where can you go to see more magic tricks related to Harry Potter? You could try YouTube, where the magic trick trend that emerged in the ‘70s continues today with thousands of videos showcasing the tricks of famous magicians. Another option is to visit a magic shop, where you can purchase all sorts of magical paraphernalia to replicate Harry Potter’s spells and wizardry in your own home.
The most exciting development is the Harry Potter exhibition, which opened at the British Museum in London in October 2018. The exhibition is composed of more than 200 artefacts, including magical wands, robes, and figurines. A video released by the British Museum notes that these items are “indicative of the excitement that the Harry Potter books and films have inspired in people, and of the continuing fascination that the series holds for millions of fans worldwide.”
The video also shows how fans have made the pilgrimage to London to see the exhibition, which contains more than 200 artefacts, including magical wands, robes, and figurines. It is clear that this is an exhibition designed to satisfy the needs of Harry Potter fans. However, given the enduring popularity of the series, it is likely that this trend will continue, leading to the emergence of other ‘Harry Potter’ exhibitions around the world.