Wednesday, December 5, 2018

"The Victims in the Willows"

Hey gang, it's your old pal Zoe Necrosis, former organizer of Potter Day. So, what have I been up to since Yensid's campus closed? I wrote a book. And two Yensid's alumni did the illustrations.

It's called "The Victims in the Willows." Sherlock Holmes meets Wind in the Willows. All your old friends are there - Moley, Ratty, the Toad and Badger - but in addition to boating and picnics they also solve crimes.

I'd love it if you'd take a look. The book is available in three formats: paperback, kindle ebook, and hardcover.

Please CLICK HERE to learn more. Enjoy your time on the riverbank. Tell Moley and Ratty I said hello. And stay clear of the Olde Woods.

Monday, January 18, 2016

2006 - 2014

Harry Potter Day at Disneyland was an unofficial fan event which ran from 2006 until 2014. This page serves now as a testament to the people whose dedication and creative energy made this event such a singular and remarkable experience.

What began as a simple scavenger hunt evolved over the years into a unique interactive experience that combined strategy, trivia, mystery and storytelling; its like is not likely to be replicated again.

The organizers of this event - the cast of 30+ volunteers known as "The Faculty" - have had their lives forever changed by meeting and interacting with fans with shared passions from all over. We remain incredibly grateful to all of the enthusiastic people who helped to make our annual event a veritable phenomenon.

This event came to a decided conclusion in 2014 when, without any warning, Disneyland advised us on the day of the event that we were no longer welcome. This is hilarious given that - right up until the conclusion - Disneyland offered discount admission tickets to Potter Day attendees for consecutive years. The message was conveyed through security officers who targeted young women with harassment and intimidation. Rather than go into gory details you can read all about it HERE.

Regardless, the legacy of Yensid's School of Sorcery - of the houses of Dashwood, Rickett, Grizcom and Willowdell - lives on in the memories of the hundreds of participants who joined us year after year. Also, school spirit is kept alive in other ways. You can still acquire Yensid's and House gear HERE. And Professor Delacour still maintains an online course in aesthetics on tumblr.

In the future we plan to use this space to share news of the exciting projects the Faculty are up to now.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Final Chapter

The 2014 session of "Classes" began when students opened their Student Orientation Books and found a message from the Chancellor-Elect:

The day's task, therefore, was for the students to hunt down the legendary Yensid's Hallows, five sacred artifacts laid by the original founders to safeguard the secrecy of the school from muggle eyes.

At noon, when the students opened up their pouches to retrieve their pencils and House ribbons, they found something else folded up inside: the front page of the Sunday, November 2nd edition of The Floo Tribune.

And here was the backside of that page...

So students began collecting excerpts and clues from the Faculty, including this very cryptic message:

There were many clues, all of which can be viewed in THIS FOLDER in case you should wish to try to solve the puzzle yourself before seeing all the answers...

Notable among those clues were what may have been a receipt...

And a strange note...

As they always have, for years and years, the Faculty intended to reveal which students did best that day, bestow awards and illuminate any lingering mysteries. They were prevented this year from doing so. We won't get into why. We won't comment at all. One individual will give an account of the matter, but his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of anyone else associated with the event.

Unable to address the students in person, several of the Faculty retired to the confines of Dashwood House, and by using magical means that muggles cannot interfere with, opened a channel of sorts to address all who had enrolled in 'Classes.'

The Faculty is now therefore proud to present the conclusion of the story of Yensid's School:

(use this link if embedded video does not work)

Monday, November 4, 2013

"I Told You the Answer Was Potato!" a Recap of Harry Potter Day at Disneyland 2013

(If video does not appear in frame above click HERE.)

Here, at last, is a detailed recap of how this groovy mystery was solved.

It all began when the legendary Lost Turret of Yensid's Castle was discovered. Inside this half-century old time capsule were many magical artifacts, among them them something truly unique: The Papyric Pensieve of R. S. Yensid. The school's Headmaster had experimentally embedded his recollections not in a conventional basin, but in an enchanted tome that encoded these memories as a narrative. It was hoped that these memories might serve as a clue to solving a very old mystery...

Over a century ago, first year students were conveyed onto campus by an array of flying buckets which were mysteriously destroyed in 1908. Distressingly, upon inspecting memories in the pensieve relating to these events, the Yensid's Archivists found evidence of tampering. Someone had been altering the memories for some reason, and only the Faculty would have had access and opportunity to do so.

It was therefore up to the students of Yensid's to determine who had altered the memories, and why.

It is not necessary at all to review the individual clues (i.e. pensieve memories) but if one is so inclined, here they are...

Clues I Through XI

Incongruities, geographical inconsistencies and mismatching details indicated that only clues 1, 9 and 11 were true, unaltered, and contained reliable information.

Clue 1 established that ragamuffin Fergus O'Flaherty's family derived from Abbeydorney (clearly in Ireland) and that Yensid spent much time in the past in the court of King Brian of Knocknasheega. O'Flaherty's ilk told and still tell stories of the old country. They once lived there, and now they live in California.

Clue 9 finds Takeri Rickett and Ryder Grizcom at the scene of the crime, but doesn't show evidence of Rickett having caused the buckets' destruction, it merely shows Grizcom accusing her of the act and her taunting him. The animosity between these two Founders is well-seated, as indicated in this clue and other materials pertaining to their past. Rickett makes a contemptuous departure, leaving Grizcom in an ignominious huff, but does not confess.

Clue 11 has Rickett imbibing veritaserum before stating her innocence. She does admit that she is insuring that Grizcom's crop, the orange, will disappear from its eponymous county in one hundred years, which Yensid reproves her for, but she redresses this criticism by pointing out that Yensid's treatment of King Brian's favorite crop was far more severe upon his departure from Knocknasheega.

As history tells us, the Irish Potato Famine caused as many as 2 million to leave their home for the Americas in the mid-19th century. The timeline strongly suggests that O'Flaherty's clan would have had to find a new home in the States as a direct result of Yensid's falling out with King Brian.

But how, one must ask, would one possibly determine that it was Seamus Finnegan who was behind all of this? The answer is that one could not derive so specific a culprit. However...

Hand-written scribbled notes on Clue 3 included the ingredients for polyjuice potion, suggesting that the person tampering with these notes may have felt compelled to impersonate someone for some reason.

The clincher - the crux of the whole mystery - lay in a small clue that most teams overlooked. The inside back cover of everyone's student packet consisted of a series of a bulletins and announcements. One particular announcement in the bottom-right corner stated that culinary instructor Viktor Krum had recently added a cooking course called "Emerald Cuisine" in which "coddle, boxty, barmbrack, colcannon, drisheen, crubeens" and such will be taught; all traditional Irish dishes.

So then, why would Bulgarian Viktor Krum choose to add a late addition course in which traditional Irish foods were the curriculum? Perhaps because the discovery of the Lost Turret and Yensid's Pensieve attracted the attention of someone who feared that evidence of their family's complicity in an act of destruction might come to light? Perhaps because Krum had been imprisoned in the very same tower and forced to tear a page out of the history of Dashwood's 'Life and Times' and write a plea for help and food and cast it out the window as a paper airplane because someone using polyjuice was impersonating him?

Naturally, most teams didn't take notice of this clue because they were focused on a red herring involving Charlie Weasley and the potential reintroduction of Dragon Husbandry into the curriculum. There were seven different red herrings, and most teams latched onto the one pertaining to Charley Weasley - not irrationally, as this particular item took a very large portion of the page of bulletins.

But wasn't O'Flaherty given an alibi by virtue of being with Professor Halward in the Muggle Studies Laboratory for most of the night, as she said? As Clue 8 was proven to be false, no. And since there was but one Irish person in the narrative in the untampered clues, it can only be determined that they corresponded to the one clue pertaining to Irish matters within a page otherwise filled with red herrings... the clue that existed by virtue of actions taken by Viktor Krum.

At least one team, by virtue of their notes, indicated that they determined that at one point Professor Binns mistakenly referred to Seamus Finnegan as O'Flaherty, who in the mythology of Yensid's would be his mother's maiden name. No one was expected to figure this out, of course, but we were nonetheless tickled that at least one team made the connection. The teams who derived the correct answer were relying only on the connection between O'Flaherty, Yensid, the Potato Blight, and Krum's course in Irish cuisine.

Granted, this was the most difficult of any puzzles put to the students of Yensid's, and no mystery put to them will ever be as difficult as this...

But, in all fairness, Scorpius did tell you that the answer was potato.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Recap of Potter Day 2012

So Cal Wizarding Weekend began with the traditional Dashwood House Dinner, held at the Cellar in Fullerton. The students enjoyed participating in the Faculty's start of term bacchanalian revelry. Classes were about to resume at Yensid's School of Sorcery and Necromancy. Things were off to a rosy start.

And then something went horribly wrong.

A perimeter protection spell was triggered - someone had trespassed into Yensid's Chamber of Mysteries and made off with an unknown object. Later, a Dark Mark appeared over Yensid's personal bungalow.

Finally, an unknown dark presence bewitched all the students' course materials to convey a warning of impending doom come Sunday evening. Who this malevolent entity was or how they were accomplishing these heinous deeds remained unclear; they hinted only that one of the Faculty had become their unwitting accomplice.

The students were allowed only six hours to gather clues and decipher who was behind this chicanery - otherwise they would remain unstoppable and the school destroyed.

The students of all four Houses - Grizcom, Dashwood, Rickett and Willowdell - gathered together to present the Faculty with their findings. The school's Chancellor began by addressing the crowd...

"It's time now to find out who is behind these dark - "

"Has anyone called the French girl's parole officer?" interrupted Professor Malfoy.

"I didn't do it!" protested Professor Gabrielle Delacour, recently released from Disney Gaol for the birdslaughter of Tiki Room performer Rosita.

"I have to put it to the students," the Chancellor continued, "so, what dark wizard is responsible for all this?"

"Karkaroff!" the students answered in unity.

"Karkaroff was killed in 1996," replied the Chancellor, confused.

"Ah, but what if he is transferring soul before he is killed?" offered Professor Krum, piquing the suspicion of the rest of the Faculty.

"Well then, what form of magic is Karkaroff using to transfer his soul?" asked the Chancellor.

"A horcrux!" answered the students.

"Then which member of the Faculty is this horcrux controlling?"

"LOCKHART!" erupted the students. Professor Lockhart stood aghast.

"Well then, what was the horcrux?" wondered Professor Tonks.

"His hat!" declared the students, indicating Lockhart's fedora.

Reanimated Professor Bartemius Crouch Junior reached into his pocket and produced a peculiar wand with a glowing tip he later described as some sort of screwdriver and pointed it at Lockhart's hat.

"I'm sorry," said Crouch, "I'm so, so sorry. It's a horcrux."

"Of course!" cried Professor Granger. "Karkaroff created a horcrux using R. S. Yensid's favorite hat before he was killed, which was placed in the Chamber of Mysteries. Then Lockhart took it for its aesthetic value alone, not knowing it was a horcrux!"

This was too much for Professor Malfoy, who began prancing about stating "I'm Hermione Granger! I'm a mudblood who makes up for it by being an insufferable know-it-all!!"

Tonks restrained Granger from assaulting Malfoy and tried to return to the topic at hand: "So is that why he's been growing out that ridiculous moustache?"

"THERE IS NOTHING RIDICULOUS ABOUT MY MOUSTACHE!!" bellowed Lockhart in a suddenly Bulgarian accent. "It is Yensid's that is ridiculous! Yensid's is more ridiculous than Hogwarts! Everyone knows Durmstrang is best school! DURMSTRANG!"

To this Krum could not help but join in, chanting "DURMSTRANG! DURMSTRANG! DURMSTRANG!" before Professor Weasley pulled him aside and calmed him down.

Karkaroff continued using Lockhart as a meat puppet: "Yensid's is travesty of school! It is - "

But then Professor Lovegood stepped forward and removed the cursed hat from Lockhart's head. He looked around as if awoken from slumber, confused, and asked "... do you all live here?"

An all-too amused Malfoy indicated that his father would definitely hear about this.

Professor Lovegood suggested that the accursed hat belonged in a museum, but was instructed to place it back in Yensid's Chamber of Mysteries where it would never pose a threat to anyone ever again.

The crisis and threat averted, it was now time to award prizes to the cleverest of students who helped us avert disaster and bestow the coveted House Cup.

This year, the title of Magic Kingdom Champions was awarded to "The Totally Awesome Supermegafoxyawesomehot Cornish Pixies of Doom" of Grizcom House.

And the esteem of the House Cup this year went to... Dashwood House!

Here they can be seen displaying what, in Muggle parlance, is referred to as a 'gang sign.'

Happily, the students of all four Houses have formed their own social media pages - click on the names to join either Rickett, Grizcom, Dashwood or Willowdell's pages. (And be sure to get it together for this year, Rickett and Grizcom.)

Naturally, there are countless persons who contributed their time, effort and finances into pulling this year together, but one who stands out for her contributions is our Helena Ravenclaw. I would list and display all the stunning materials she assembled for us, such as the First Year students' certificates, but this website hasn't the space. I'll just display, for your envious enjoyment, the scarf she made for the Chancellor using all the Yensid's House colors. It's good to be the Chancellor.

Anyway, we can't wait to see you all on November 3rd for the 7th annual (unofficial) Harry Potter Day at Disneyland!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Our History In Video!

In 2009 we began making videos to spread the word about, and then later document, Potter Day. We began with this humorous romp...

Things took a dramatic turn in 2010 with our new game/puzzle: "The Horcrux Hunt." Several of our cast - then referred to as 'The Inquisitorial Squad' - prepared the scene with some foreboding warnings. (The parts of Tonks and Lupin were depicted by different volunteers back then.)

And because we really can't stop ourselves from gravitating towards silliness...

The next year, 2011, saw the creation of our own mythology: Yensid's School of Sorcery and Necromancy. Participants were from this moment forward sorted into the Houses of Dashwood, Willowdell, Rickett, and Grizcom. This was the beginning of an ongoing story that lasted until the conclusion of Potter Day itself. This was also the year that the nature of our game shifted into the genre of 'whodunit.'

Videographer S.G. Cunningham was present and created this magnificent video of the day's festivities and the big reveal at the end of the day:

No video (that we know of) captured the game or reveal in 2012. However the Horcrux Hunters of Willowdell House were good enough to create this fantastic video of Potter Day in 2013: (The mystery reveal begins around the 7 minute mark.)

Because we hadn't shot anything ourselves in a while, we made this video to spread the word that our story was reaching its climax in 2014:

This video, also created by S.G. Cunningham, was made after the final Potter Day so that everyone could see how the story of Yensid's resolves, and allowed us to say a fond farewell to the friends we had made over the years:

Lastly, here's another video taken by the Horcrux Hunters as tribute and thanks to the 30+ volunteers, "The Faculty," who made Potter Day what it was.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Yensid's Founders

Ryder Grizcom was born to Scottish immigrant parents in 1838. He became a hippogryph rancher in Oklahoma until his family was killed in a raid by W'nahawka Warriors in 1859.

Grizcom lived in isolation for a time, wandering the wilderness for years until eventually joining the Shadow Riders First Battalion. It was with the Shadow Riders that he fought in the legendary Unicorn Wars (1867 - 1871) against the infamous N'ahtaehalla tribe, otherwise known as The Mounted Phantoms. Grizcom sustained so many injurious curses during the Unicorn Wars that he was forced to retire from the military, and utilized his notoriety and wartime valor to launch a career in local governance.

It was on a tour of the Golden State that Grizcom met R. S. Yensid, who proposed to him the prospect of a school of magical learning that would fill the void of formal magical education in the United States.

The agrarian prosperity of the Southland owes its efflorescence to Grizcom's contribution: the orange. Shortly after Yensid altered the topography and climate of California, Grizcom was quoted as having said "Professor Yensid has said to me that a new land carries with it new dreams, new hopes, and must flower in a new color. I have therefore bestowed upon this newly hallowed ground the gift of citrus, that this golden state may flower with golden fields forever more." Grizcom thereby fostered the state's first orange groves in a veritable forest surrounding Yensid's campus.

Grizcom remained an instructor at Yensid's until his death in 1913.

Phoebe Jane Willowdell (ca. 1860 - 1920) was born in North Star, Ohio. Her family was killed when her village was plagued by an outbreak of malignalitaloptereosis. Phoebe survived by taking any work she could find until finally becoming a scout for the Third Battalion Shadow Riders Brigade. During this time she became the ward of Lieutenant Colonel Dartolomus Darke, who fostered her magical education and taught her the art of precision wand marksmanship. Willowdell petitioned to join but was denied enlistment in the Shadow Riders, and never fought during the Unicorn Wars.

Willowdell began working as a magician's assistant to a Muggle by the name of "Professor" Emelius Browne. Willowdell used her magical abilities to simulate the effects that performance conjurors created by illusion, such as levitation and vanishing. Browne in fact had neither magical ability nor slight of hand skills, and belabored under the inebriated impression that he was a talented conjuror. This ended when Browne, a notorious sot, accepted a barroom challenge to demonstrate his ability to catch a bullet with his teeth. Willowdell was not present; Browne was killed.

Willowdell joined the traveling caravan of a snake oil salesman named Tobias Pirelli, using her modest talent with Potions to improve the quality of Pirelli's elixirs, which had previously consisted mostly of waste water and ink. She also used her marksmanship skills on stage after joining Pachyderm Perry's Magnificent Exhibition. It was during a tour in San Francisco that she was approached by R. S. Yensid, who offered her a teaching position at his still-developing school. She taught Potions and Defensive Arts for 28 years.

Takeri Rickett is the anglicized form of a name lost to a dialect not known to have been spoken in nearly a century, and had no written codification.

Less is known about Rickett than any other Yensid's founder.

Franklin Dashwood is known to have been Headmaster Pro Tem from 1892 to 1894, at which time Yensid's movements are unknown but likely include visitation to New Mexico, where the magical tribe of the W'nakeh Etamosa (They Who Walk Between Winds) were held on a reservation, and from whose tribe Rickett belonged.

When Yensid returned in 1894 he brought with him the fourth and final House Founder. Rickett held a long-standing animosity towards Ryder Grizcom, whose Shadow Riders were responsible for slaughtering half of her tribe and displacing the survivors. Grizcom maintained personal innocence as neither his battalion nor he was involved in any campain against They Who Walk Between Winds. It fell repeatedly to Phoebe Jane Willowdell to foster reconciliation between the two founders and convince Rickett to remain at Yensid's.

Takeri Rickett is the last documented practitioner and instructor in the now-lost art of Wind Walking (as it is sometimes codified), a form of trance magic practiced by the W'nakeh Etamosa. The continuity of Wind Walking's oral tradition as an academic practice reaches terminus at Rickett's departure from Yensid's (owing not to diminishing interest but lack of qualified instructors). Takeri Rickett is also best known as one of the legendary "Three Feathers," the oftentimes apocryphal tales about whom have become woven into the fabric of western lore. 

Takeri Rickett was the first founder to leave the school in 1908.

Sir Franklin Dashwood (May 1708 - ca. 1993) was an English aristocrat, rake, alchemist, and one-time Grand Master of the Order of Five Angels.

Dashwood joined the Order in 1735. It was within the ranks of the order that he met Nicholas Flamel, creator of the Philosopher's Stone and pioneer of the Elixir of Life; Flamel was already 405 years old when he accepted Dashwood as an apprentice. It was under Flamel's tutelage that Dashwood learned the secrets of abnormally long life and vitality, and their continued collaboration and correspondence allowed the two to remain alive until (circa) 1993, shortly after the Philosopher's Stone had been destroyed.

Dashwood ascended to the rank of Grand Master of the Order in 1745. Former Grand Masters have included Pythagoras of Samos, Galileo Galilei, and Aleister Crowley. Many of the Order's studies included mathematics, philosophy, alchemy and haberdashery, but the secret society remains most notoriously associated with their revelries, which ranged in degree from bacchanalian to heretical. Much of the Order's infamous reputation is owed to allegations laid by the clergy, such as demonology, which was patently untrue and absent even from the most aberrant of the Order's practices; nevertheless, some of the Order's notorious reputation is founded in fact and practices which are unsuitable for printing in scholastic materials.

The headquarters of the Order of Five Angels in West Wycombe was purged and burned in 1762 by the Knights of Walpurgis at the order of King George IV. The Order went underground, its members scattered, splintered into factions, and Dashwood fled to the Americas, assuming the pseudonym Phinneus Pogue.

Dashwood became an author and printer, continually changing identities, residences and association so as to not bring attention to his abnormally long lifespan and conspicuous lack of decrepitude.

His association with R.S. Yensid began in 1860, which eventually lead to the creation of Yensid's School of Sorcery and Necromancy, at which he taught arithmancy and alchemy for the better part of the next century.

Much of R. S. Yensid's past is either elusive or now considered apocryphal, and some elements of his past cannot actually be conveyed or recorded; everlasting spells cast by the legendary wizard are still known to render certain sections of his past into recipes for hors d'oevres and physical depictions of his appearance into images of his favorite foods. Magical scholars do agree, however, on the plausibility of many elements of his reputed history.

Yensid, along with the nobility and clergy of England, was summoned to court by Henry I in 1110 to discuss the appearance of John Uskglass and his fairy host northwest of Newcastle. Yensid and the King's army were defeated by the Daoine Sidhe during the short battle that occurred at Newark on the Trent River. King Henry was suffered to retain rule over the southern half of England. Yensid was banished from the realm, but whether by the northern or southern King is unclear.

Several centuries of ambiguous activity later, in which time it is speculated Yensid may have been residing on the dwarf planet of Pluto, he reappears in Ireland, believed to have been his country of origin. Yensid was the most favored subject of King Brian of Knocknasheega up until the King's ongoing tete-a-tete with a Muggle by the name of Darby O'Gill, the only mortal known to have ridden thCóiste Bodhar twice. Yensid openly criticized Brian for divesting so much time in an amicable feud, which lead to their well-documented quarrel, which lead to Yensid departing Knocknasheega in 1845, casting a blighting curse on King Brian's favorite vegetable, the potato.

Yensid appeared in California three years later seeking resources by which to test his theories of reverse alchemy, in which gold is transformed into baser materials, such as lead. Gold was, of course, in much shorter supply than popularly reputed, leading to a period where Yensid, despondent, wandered the Southland until his contemporary Ratavericus the Terrible introduced him to émigré and fellow alchemist Franklin Dashwood, former Grand Master of the Order of Five Angels.

In 1890, Yensid and Dashwood minced four ounces of salmon fillet combined with olive oil, lemon oil, chives, shallots and kosher salt. Sprinkle black sesame seeds over the rounds of batter and bake on a Silpat for four to six minutes. Shape the batter around the 4 1/2 inch cornet mold, arrange seam side down, and bake for three to four minutes. Fill the top 1/2 inch with red onion crème fraiche. Spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salmon tartare over the onion cream and lay a chive tip against one side to garnish.

R.S. Yensid is still considered the Headmaster of said eponymous institution, and although it is not known whether the span of his absence will be counted in decades or centuries, he is expected to return.