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Muggles, wizards and others get their hands on Potter book

July 21, 2007|By PEPPER BALLARD

At the near midnight crackle of a microphone, hundreds of "Muggles" and wizards who gathered Friday at Borders at the Centre at Hagerstown fell silent, clutched Harry Potter lottery tickets and listened in a hush to a voice that carried throughout the jam-packed store.

As the announcer read each lottery number, those who were eliminated groaned while the others stayed focused. The bustling store hummed until the high-pitched squeals of 13-year-old Brianna Green announced the winner.

"I won! I won! I won!" Brianna shrieked while jumping up and down like an Olympic hurdler in training.

Still screaming and shaking, Brianna was led through the tightly packed crowd to the back of the store and to the front of the line. The Hagerstown girl was handed the store's first orange-sleeved hardback copy of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the last installment in J.K. Rowling's best-selling Harry Potter series.

Steve Lee, general manager of Borders, said he could not say how many books were sold early Saturday, but said reserved books remained when the store closed its doors about 2:45 a.m. Those reserved editions were to be held until the store closed Saturday night. Any remaining copies would be placed for general sale this morning, he said.

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"I am told by those who have been here for the prior releases that this was much more well-attended than years past," Lee said. He said it would violate store policy to release the actual number of people in attendance.

"Deathly Hallows" had an initial print run of 12 million in the United States alone; more than 2 million copies have been ordered from Internet retailer Amazon.com, The Associated Press reported.

The first six Potter books sold about 325 million copies in 64 languages, including Latin and Ancient Greek, the AP reported.

The novels have led to five movies, toys, Internet fan sites and companion books. A theme park, complete with Hogwarts castle and the Forbidden Forest, is to open in 2009 in Orlando, Fla.

Magic ... and human relationships

To elementary school teacher Esther Whitley, the books' popularity is perfectly understandable.

Whitley, 58, arrived at the Friday night event with a throng of former students. The group dressed as witches, and appeared as if they had just finished a lesson in a Hogwarts classroom.

"It's the classic battle of good and evil," Whitley said of the books. "It addresses all of their adolescent anxieties and things, you know how kids think mom favors this one or the teachers do this ... It addresses all the issues kids have to face in school."

One of Whitley's former students, Paige Shirk, 15, of Clear Spring, said, "I'm really glad to share this experience with my former second-grade teacher. It's nice to connect with someone like that."

Erin Gantz, 19, of Hagerstown, agreed that Potter relates to adolescents. She grew up with Harry Potter, although she said at one point she got older than him.

"It was good to know that the same thing was happening to him as everyone else," Gantz said. "Harry Potter is not about the magic to me. It's about the human relationships."

The books are about the magic to Nick Kaniski, who said he is a self-taught wizard who goes by the name Olias. He said Harry Potter has brought attention to the wizarding world and for that, he is grateful.

"If it wasn't for us wizards, you wouldn't have dragons and unicorns, for example," he said.

Kaniski, 24, who was dressed in black with a purple robe, said he is thankful that Rowling took the time to document the development of a wizard.

"You don't get to hear much about the childhood development of like Merlin ... any member of the Priory of Scion, for instance," Kaniski said. "It's very clear to see the darkness and the lightness conflicting each other (in the books) as you see in everyday life."

Lydia Strope said she likes "mystical stuff and magic," too. Lydia won "Queen of the Ball" for dressing as Potter character Moaning Myrtle, a ghost who sobs and whines in a girls restroom at Hogwarts.

The 10-year-old actress, who will be performing in a production of "Annie" next weekend, raided a wardrobe closet for her cloak, and had help from her thespian aunt, Laura Speis, with the pale makeup.

Waiting for their books

The waiting game seemed to begin for the fans after midnight, even though many had been at the store hours before. One little boy was passed out, face down, under a table of new releases. Some dutiful mothers and fathers fought fluttering eyelids as their children chatted with their friends.

Hogwarts-dressed friends Ria Giannaris, 9, and Natalie Bonham, 9, couldn't contain their excitement for the book's release as they waited in the wings for their copies. Ria's mother, Kristina Giannaris, was just as excited as the girls she chaperoned. The group passed time comparing the books to the movies, and talked about their other favorite fantasy authors.

"You come here for the fun and the hoopla," Kristina Giannaris said. "We come here for the event, not just the purchases."

This year, Giannaris said she decided to get two books for the family. She realized she was rushing Ria to bed just to get her hands on the Harry Potter novel her daughter was reading. Ria admitted there were times she took the book and read it after her lights were turned out.

On the other side of the store, Katrina Bushko, 14, of Keedysville, and her mother, Adriana Bushko, sat on the floor in the video section and waited for their group to be called.

Katrina, who already appeared tired, said she planned to stay awake until she finished reading "Deathly Hallows." She slept in Friday, she said, and was excited to take part in the Grand Hallows Ball event.

As her mother slumped farther to the ground in exhaustion, Katrina said, "We just kind of thought you have to do it before you die, so why not now."

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