By JEFF MAYSH
He is the real-life wizard headmaster giving Harry Potter’s Dumbledore a run for his money.
Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, 68, has dedicated his life to studying the Dark Arts - even doing the shopping in his wizard costume and wand.
Now the magic master has opened the world’s only registered wizard academy, the Grey School of Wizardry, as he prepares to make Hogwarts and the world of Harry Potter a reality.
'If you've ever read Harry Potter and wondered if wizards really do walk among us, perhaps behind a secret train platform, or in secret communities, I can tell you that we are absolutely real,' says O0beron, from Catoti, California.
Today, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart’s Grey School of Wizardry is the first wizard school to be officially recognized as an academic establishment.
Like Hogwarts, the Grey School teaches 16 departments, including Alchemy, Beastmastery, Horse-whispering, wand-making and spell casting.
Pupils who attend s unique ‘conclave’ magic schools are split into four ancient houses - Winds, Undines, Gnomes and Salamanders, and like Potter, students study a defence against the deadly Dark Arts.
'In the magic community I’m referred to as the real Dumbledore,' admits Oberon. 'But before Harry Potter, people just called me Merlin, or Gandalf.'
The former teacher and counselor was teaching spells to aspiring wizards long before JK Rowling even dreamed up Harry Potter.
Oberon rose to fame in the early 1980s as an eccentric who claimed to have created the world’s first unicorn. Unbelievably, the self-proclaimed 'master of wizardry' created a single-horned creature, using minor surgery on a goat, that made front page news in America.
The creature later toured America with a famous circus. 'It’s every wizard’s dream to have a unicorn, and we achieved that,' says Oberon, who lives with his wife, Morning Glory, 63, a witch. In 1985, he organized a diving expedition in Australia and New Guinea to investigate the age-old mystery of the mermaid.
The Grey School boasts 735 students, of which Oberon claims 100 are under-18 ‘trainee Harry Potters.’ For now, it is an online college with regular physical wizard camps, where muggles can study seven years to graduate with a journeyman degree in Wizardry.
'It’s a serious qualification,' insists the wizard. 'We teach advanced ‘Mathemagicks’, Quantum entanglement, Cosmology & Metaphysics, Lore, Wortcunning [herbal medicine] and all the ancient sciences.' But remarkably, Oberon is bidding on a giant castle in St Helena, Montana, to run a full-time educational facility, just like Hogwarts.
'We hold regular conclave summer camps for young wizards, and we are soon hoping to achieve some graduates in our four-year Master’s degree in magic.'
Oberon is also a published author, having written many textbooks believed by the wizard community to be the ‘bibles of Wizardry.’
His recent books include, 'Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard,' and the 'Companion for the Apprentice Wizard', while he publishes the first wizard magazine to reach a mass audience, called 'Green Egg.'
Oberon met his wife, Morning Glory, at a pagan festival in 1973, where he was a keynote speaker. They married less than a year later.
'She is my soulmate,' Oberon admits, 'We have everything in common. Wizards believe we are all made of the same matter, and I have never felt more connected to a human being than Morning Glory.'
It was a love story straight from Harry Potter, as the young wizard fell for his sweetheart as they learned witchcraft and wand skills. Together they founded the mystical Ecosophical Research Association in 1977, before creating a unicorn, called Bedevere, using minor surgery to the horn buds of a goat.
The animal has long since died, but Oberon keeps the remarkable skull as a prop, in his bizarre home just north of San Francisco.
There he lives with Morning Glory, and a small bearded dragon who lives on his shoulder all day. He drinks a herbal drink he calls a 'Pengalactic garglegaster'.
'Other so-called wizard schools are rip-offs and they don’t allow children,' says Oberon. 'I want to help the next breed of Harry Potters learn wizardry.' Membership is £18 and Oberon promises he can teach any student, old or young, the basics of Wizardry.
The seventh and final Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is in post-production and Internet hype has already whipped Potter fans into a frenzy.
Oberon says the Potter-buzz has increased enrolment in his school: 'Of course I love Harry Potter,' admits Oberon. 'He has increased the interest in wizardry 1000 fold, as if by magic.'