It was witching hour at the fairytale Czocha castle in Poland on 9 April, as a Harry Potter-themed live action role play (Larp) was set to cast its spell over more than a hundred would-be sorcerers.
Clad in capes and hats, the 130 participants of the College of Wizardry resemble many normal graduation students - except for added wands.
Their own four-day course is set to follow a purely magical curriculum, with classes such as Physical Defence and Geomancy designed to charm fans of the Harry Potter franchise.
Attendees take part as both actors and audience, playing students, teachers and ghosts at a school of sorcery heavily based on JK Rowlings Hogwarts, where the hero of her wildly successful Harry Potter novels learns wizardry between bouts of fighting off the dark arts.
After news of the initial residential in November 2014 bewitched global fans, two more were organised for April 2015 and keen students signed up from across the globe.
The Danish organiser and game master of the College of Wizardry, Claus Raasted, said: When doing a game like this, we try to simulate a pretend magical college. So it means some people play professors, some play students, there are first year students, second year students, third year students, and so on, and we also have some rules for the game, because obviously none of us can do real magic, so we need to have some kind of rule to simulate it.
In this case its very simple. You point your wand at somebody, and say, Silencio!. And then if you think thats cool then you become silent, and if you think thats boring, then you think, Oh, that spell didnt work. Or maybe you dont understand whats going on and you do something completely different.
I think we can safely say that pretending to be a witch or wizard is something that appeals to everybody, said Raasted, adding that participants for the 9-12 April session come from over 17 countries and are aged between 18-60.
All students are provided with their own school books, carefully prepared in advance to preserve the games fantasy world. But its not all toil and trouble. Students are free to try and tame the magical creatures in the forest, explore hidden basements, visit the local tavern and, above all, further their characters narratives.
I play Hafnar Gudrinsson, an Icelandic wizard who went to the famous school of Durmstrang and now finally comes to the college. His father is a professor here and he doesnt know about me and Im going to tell him that he is my father and he left my mother and he will pay for what he did, one participant, Andreas von Knoblosh, said.
I am very much dead. My character died 150 years ago, and they actually celebrated my death-day party last time so...And, erm, my role is more of a guide and I guess its mainly a support role for the other players, he said.
The set-up does diverge from Rowlings fictional world at times – students are sorted into one of five houses, named Durentius, Faust, Libussa, Molin and Sendivogiuus – but has until now provided plenty of reference points for Harry Potter buffs.
Warners Bros, owners of the rights to the franchises film series, are allowing the explicitly Harry Potter themed events running from 9-16 April to go ahead, but to avoid potential jinxes the non-profit organisers, Polands Livefrom and Denmarks Rollespilfabrikken, have agreed to omit overt references to the books or films, with plans and enthusiasm for new sessions already bubbling away.
Sometimes people ask: Why do you go to a LARP?. And the answer is, why do you read a book? Why do you watch a movie? To escape from reality for a couple of hours or a couple of days. Or to learn something about yourself or about the world. Its quite simple, Raasted said.
Further College of Wizardry sessions are planned for November 2015 according to the groups crowdfunding page – where they also hope to raise money to purchase a castle as a long-term home for the venture.