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19 Amazing Details from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

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Over the course of seven books and eight movies, the Harry Potter series has transported readers into a magical world. Universal Studios has sought to make at least part of that world into reality with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida (and soon in Los Angeles as well). The first park, within the Islands of Adventure, opened to the public on June 18, 2010, and allows park guests to walk throughout the shops of Hogsmeade and into the Hogwarts castle. Four years later, a second immersive park opened: Diagon Alley, which is connected to Hogsmeade via the iconic Hogwarts Express. Both parks have been massive feats of creative and engineering innovation, built to replicate the Harry Potter universe in the movies to a staggering level of detail—and they're filled with Easter eggs for fans to discover.

1. Many Wizarding World staff members are from the UK.

The park hired a large number of its team members directly from Britain in order to make the experience as authentic as possible. Additionally, every member of the staff was made to take an exam, testing their knowledge of the books and the movies to make sure their interactions with the guests would be as seamless as possible.

2. The executive chef at Universal Orlando spent three years creating the park's menu.

J.K. Rowling’s writing directly inspired every dish served at the Leaky Cauldron in “London” and The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. The author herself even had the final say on the Butterbeer recipe served in the parks. Though in the books the beverage seems to be slightly alcoholic, it’s a frothy, kid-friendly drink in Orlando.

3. Arthur Weasley’s car makes a cameo appearance.

Waiting in line for the Dragon Challenge roller coaster, just as you cross the bridge and enter the castle, you can get a glimpse of Arthur Weasley's flying Ford Anglia, which Ron and Harry crashed into the Whomping Willow in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

4. There are interactive sites hidden throughout Diagon Alley where visitors can do magic with their wands.

One of the new features in the Diagon Alley expansion was the addition of wands that interact with the park, allowing visitors to cast spells if they say the right words while standing in the right spot. A map that comes with wands from Ollivanders will display the spell locations if held under the black light in Knockturn Alley—but the creators of the park also included some secret sites, unmarked on the map, where the right waving of a wand can create some special effects.

5. A Crumple-Horned Snorkack can be seen in the Magical Menagerie store.

On the second story of the Magical Menagerie, you can catch a glimpse of the Crumple-Horned Snorkack, Luna Lovegood’s oft-mentioned favorite magical creature. Rowling later said that Luna became a famous naturalist who discovered many creatures—but "she never did find a Crumple-Horned Snorkack and had, finally, to accept that her father might have made that one up." The colorful, purple representation is as close as muggles and wizards will ever get to seeing what a Snorkack looks like.

6. The sign for The Leaky Cauldron actually leaks.

In the books and movies, this London pub serves as a gateway between the muggle and the magical world. At Wizarding World, there's a small touch of that magic visible from the street: the Leaky Cauldron sign is perpetually leaking.

7. There are house elves all over both parks.

If you look into the rafters of The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, you can see the shadows of house elves dancing, presumably on break from preparing and clearing the food. In Diagon Alley, there’s a House-Elf Placement Agency storefront, and a statue of a house elf holding a lantern up on one of the buildings. Kreacher, the Black family’s servant, makes an appearance from behind the curtain of 12 Grimmauld Place every couple of minutes.

8. Harry and Hermione might sound a little different on one ride.

Although Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts features appearances from original actors such as Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, and Rupert Grint, neither Emma Watson nor Daniel Radcliffe reprised their roles as Hermione and Harry for the immersive, three-dimensional ride that chronicles their escape from the wizarding bank that took place in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

9. Moaning Myrtle can be heard wailing from the bathrooms in Hogsmeade.

In the books and films, Moaning Myrtle usually restricted herself to the girls' bathroom—but in Hogsmeade, patrons of both the men's and women’s bathrooms can hear the ghost whining and crying.

10. Visitors can catch a glimpse of Voldemort in front of Malfoy Manor on the Hogwarts Express going to Diagon Alley.

A shadowed figure in long robes can be seen just quickly as the train passes Malfoy Manor, the home of Harry’s school nemesis and where Harry and Hermione were taken after their capture in Deathly Hallows.

11. Diagon Alley contains a subtle tribute to the Jaws ride.

In order to build the Wizarding World expansion, Universal Studios did away with the boat ride that brought riders face to face with Steven Spielberg's shark. As a tribute, a record is visible in the windows of the shop on Charing Cross Road, right next to The Leaky Cauldron: The Quint Trio, with a song called "Here’s to Swimmin’ with Bow Legged Women" (a quote straight from Jaws). There’s also a set of shark teeth in Mullpepper’s Apothecary.

12. While in line for The Forbidden Journey, you can hear a teacher lecturing Neville from the other side of the Potions classroom door.

The line for The Forbidden Journey, which guides guests through the Hogwarts grounds and castle, is almost as magical as the ride itself. Along with moving paintings and iconic pieces like the Mirror of Erised, the creative team included a few less-obvious touches for fans to enjoy—like the voice instructing Neville Longbottom how to properly cast a spell.

13. There’s an actual London-style phone in the King’s Cross section of the park.

Just like in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, if you dial 62442 (MAGIC) you’ll be connected to the Ministry of Magic (although it seems that the engineers behind the park haven’t figured out a way to actually bring you there yet).

14. You can hear a bird chirping from inside the Vanishing Cabinet At Borgin and Burkes.

Draco Malfoy used a bird to test whether or not he could sneak Death Eaters into Hogwarts using the Vanishing Cabinet in the Room of Requirement. Visitors who head down Knockturn Alley and into Borgin and Burkes can hear a faint chirping from inside the magical piece of furniture.

15. The Hogwarts Express was built to look well worn.

Both J.K. Rowling and the film series’ production team were consulted throughout the design process to make every part of the parks as detailed as possible. The Hogwarts Express, which carriers park visitors from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley, was built in Switzerland—a nation famous for meticulously perfect mechanics—and was artificially aged to make it look as though it had made the journey from Hogwarts to London thousands of times.

16. The London Symphony Orchestra recorded new musical arrangements for Escape to Gringotts and the Hogwarts Express.

The same musicians that recorded the soundtrack for the films were used to play the new arrangements for the park attractions, which were recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London.

17. J.K. Rowling wrote the titles of every song Celestina Warbeck sings in the park.

A stage in Diagon Alley hosts puppet reenactments of The Tales of Beedle the Bard and performances from the biggest pop star of the wizarding world, Celestina Warbeck. Every song she performs is an original written from one of the titles J.K. Rowling mentioned in the series. According to the author, Celestina recorded the anthem of the Puddlemere United Quidditch team, “Beat Back Those Bludgers, Boys, and Chuck That Quaffle Here” to raise funds for St. Mungo’s Hospital. Molly Weasley listens to the singer on the radio every Christmas, and a few lyrics of “A Cauldron Full of Hot Strong Love” were even mentioned in the books.

18. The entrance to Diagon Alley is through an unmarked wall next to a record store—just like in the books.

Normally, a theme park that wants to attract millions of guests would create an entrance that’s open and obvious. But the creators of these parks wanted the Wizarding World experience to be as authentic as possible—even if that meant an entrance to Diagon Alley that’s meant to be invisible to muggle eyes.

19. The perfume advertisement in King's Cross Station is not quite the same as the ad that appears in the opening sequence for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

In the sixth movie, Professor Dumbledore makes his dramatic appearance in front of a banner that reads “Tonight make a little magic with your man.” The slogan on the billboard in Orlando is a little pithier and less suggestive.

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Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
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Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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Marvel Entertainment
10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment

Nearly every sword-wielding fantasy hero from the 20th century owes a tip of their horned helmet to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, after the destruction of Atlantis but before our general recorded history, Conan's stories have depicted him as everything from a cunning thief to a noble king and all types of scoundrel in between. But beneath that blood-soaked sword and shield is a character that struck a nerve with generations of fantasy fans, spawning adaptations in comics, video games, movies, TV shows, and cartoons in the eight decades since he first appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. So thank Crom, because here are 10 facts about Conan the Barbarian.

1. THE FIRST OFFICIAL CONAN STORY WAS A KULL REWRITE.

Conan wasn’t the only barbarian on Robert E. Howard’s resume. In 1929, the writer created Kull the Conqueror, a more “introspective” brand of savage that gained enough interest to eventually find his way onto the big screen in 1997. The two characters share more than just a common creator and a general disdain for shirts, though: the first Conan story to get published, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” was actually a rewrite of an earlier rejected Kull tale titled “By This Axe I Rule!” For this new take on the plot, Howard introduced supernatural elements and more action. The end result was more suited to what Weird Tales wanted, and it became the foundation for future Conan tales.

2. BUT A “PROTO-CONAN” STORY PRECEDED IT.

A few months before Conan made his debut in Weird Tales, Howard wrote a story called "People of the Dark" for Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror about a man named John O’Brien who seemed to relive his past life as a brutish, black-haired warrior named … Conan of the reavers. Reave is a word from Old English meaning to raid or plunder, which is obviously in the same ballpark as barbarian. And in the story, there is also a reference to Crom, the fictional god of the Hyborian age that later became a staple of the Conan mythology. This isn't the barbarian as we know him, and it's certainly not an official Conan tale, but the early ideas were there.

3. ROBERT E. HOWARD NEVER INTENDED TO WRITE THESE STORIES IN ORDER.

Howard was meticulous in his world-building for Conan, which was highlighted by his 8600-word history on the Hyborian Age the character lived in. But the one area the creator had no interest in was linearity. Conan’s first story depicted him already as a king; subsequent stories, though, would shift back and forth, chronicling his early days as both a thief and a youthful adventurer.

There’s good reason for that, as Howard himself once explained: “In writing these yarns I've always felt less as creating them than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me. That's why they skip about so much, without following a regular order. The average adventurer, telling tales of a wild life at random, seldom follows any ordered plan, but narrates episodes widely separated by space and years, as they occur to him.”

4. THERE ARE NUMEROUS CONNECTIONS TO THE H.P. LOVECRAFT MYTHOS.

For fans of the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, one of the only names bigger than Robert E. Howard was H.P. Lovecraft. The two weren’t competitors, though—rather, they were close friends and correspondents. They’d often mail each other drafts of their stories, discuss the themes of their work, and generally talk shop. And as Lovecraft’s own mythology was growing, it seems like their work began to bleed together.

In “The Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard made reference to “vast shadowy outlines of the Nameless Old Ones,” which could be seen as a reference to the ancient, godlike “Old Ones” from the Lovecraft mythos. In the book The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, editor Patrice Louinet even wrote that Howard’s earlier draft for the story name-dropped Lovecraft’s actual Old Ones, most notably Cthulhu.

In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow of Time,” he describes a character named Crom-Ya as a “Cimmerian chieftain,” which is a reference to Conan's homeland and god. These examples just scratch the surface of names, places, and concepts that the duo’s work share. Whether you want to read it all as a fun homage or an early attempt at a shared universe is up to you.

5. SEVERAL OF HOWARD’S STORIES WERE REWRITTEN AS CONAN STORIES POSTHUMOUSLY.

Howard was only 30 when he died, so there aren’t as many completed Conan stories out in the world as you’d imagine—and there are even less that were finished and officially printed. Despite that, the character’s popularity has only grown since the 1930s, and publishers looked for a way to print more of Howard’s Conan decades after his death. Over the years, writers and editors have gone back into Howard’s manuscripts for unfinished tales to doctor up and rewrite for publication, like "The Snout in the Dark," which was a fragment that was reworked by writers Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. There were also times when Howard’s non-Conan drafts were repurposed as Conan stories by publishers, including all of the stories in 1955's Tales of Conan collection from Gnome Press.

6. FRANK FRAZETTA’S CONAN PAINTINGS REGULARLY SELL FOR SEVEN FIGURES.

Chances are, the image of Conan you have in your head right now owes a lot to artist Frank Frazetta: His version of the famous barbarian—complete with rippling muscles, pulsating veins, and copious amounts of sword swinging—would come to define the character for generations. But the look that people most associate with Conan didn’t come about until the character’s stories were reprinted decades after Robert E. Howard’s death.

“In 1966, Lancer Books published new paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's Conan series and hired my grandfather to do the cover art,” Sara Frazetta, Frazetta's granddaughter owner and operator of Frazetta Girls, tells Mental Floss. You could argue that Frazetta’s powerful covers were what drew most people to Conan during the '60s and '70s, and in recent years the collector’s market seems to validate that opinion. In 2012, the original painting for his Lancer version of Conan the Conqueror sold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyer went for $1.5 million.

Still, despite all of Frazetta’s accomplishments, his granddaughter said there was one thing he always wanted: “His only regret was that he wished Robert E. Howard was alive so he could have seen what he did with his character.”

7. CONAN’S FIRST MARVEL COMIC WAS ALMOST CANCELED AFTER SEVEN ISSUES.

The cover to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #21
Marvel Entertainment

Conan’s origins as a pulp magazine hero made him a natural fit for the medium’s logical evolution: the comic book. And in 1970, the character got his first high-profile comic launch when Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian hit shelves, courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.

Though now it’s hailed as one of the company’s highlights from the ‘70s, the book was nearly canceled after a mere seven issues. The problem is that while the debut issue sold well, each of the next six dropped in sales, leading Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to pull the book from production after the seventh issue hit stands.

Thomas pled his case, and Lee agreed to give Conan one last shot. But this time instead of the book coming out every month, it would be every two months. The plan worked, and soon sales were again on the rise and the book would stay in publication until 1993, again as a monthly. This success gave way to the Savage Sword of Conan, an oversized black-and-white spinoff magazine from Marvel that was aimed at adult audiences. It, too, was met with immense success, lasting from 1974 to 1995.

8. OLIVER STONE WROTE A FOUR-HOUR, POST-APOCALYPTIC CONAN MOVIE.

John Milius’s 1982 Conan movie is a classic of the sword and sorcery genre, but its original script from Oliver Stone didn’t resemble the final product at all. In fact, it barely resembled anything related to Conan. Stone’s Conan would have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the barbarian would do battle against a host of mutant pigs, insects, and hyenas. Not only that, but it would have also been just one part of a 12-film saga that would be modeled on the release schedule of the James Bond series.

The original producers were set to move ahead with Stone’s script with Stone co-directing alongside an up-and-coming special effects expert named Ridley Scott, but they were turned down by all of their prospects. With no co-director and a movie that would likely be too ambitious to ever actually get finished, they sold the rights to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who helped bring in Milius.

9. BARACK OBAMA IS A FAN (AND WAS TURNED INTO A BARBARIAN HIMSELF).

When President Barack Obama sent out a mass email in 2015 to the members of Organizing for Action, he was looking to get people to offer up stories about how they got involved within their community—their origin stories, if you will. In this mass email, the former Commander-in-Chief detailed his own origin, with a shout out to a certain barbarian:

“I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman.

Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story—the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”

This bit of trivia was first made public in 2008 in a Daily Telegraph article on 50 facts about the president. That led to Devil’s Due Publishing immortalizing the POTUS in the 2009 comic series Barack the Barbarian, which had him decked out in his signature loincloth doing battle against everyone from Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney.

10. J.R.R. TOLKIEN WAS ALSO A CONAN DEVOTEE.

The father of 20th century fantasy may always be J.R.R. Tolkien, but Howard is a close second in many fans' eyes. Though Tolkien’s work has found its way into more scholarly literary circles, Howard’s can sometimes get categorized as low-brow. Quality recognizes quality, however, and during a conversation with Tolkien, writer L. Sprague de Camp—who himself edited and touched-up numerous Conan stories—said The Lord of the Rings author admitted that he “rather liked” Howard’s Conan stories during a conversation with him. He didn’t expand upon it, nor was de Camp sure which Conan tale he actually read (though it was likely “Shadows in the Moonlight”), but the seal of approval from Tolkien himself goes a long way toward validation.

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