If you want to belly up to a bar to watch a Quidditch match or see what the Slytherins have been up to on the nightly news, you'll be hard-pressed to find one with a more magical atmosphere than in Jason Reed's basement.
The Lowell resident and his family friend, Russ Francis, built an elaborate Harry Potter-themed bar in Reed's home that has its own Instagram account. The Riddikulus Potter Bar — named after a spell that turns terrors into something the spell-caster finds humorous in J.K. Rowling's series about a boy magician — serves as a lavishly decorated tribute to the books, with butter beer, spell books and a wooden sign pointing one in the direction of landmarks like Hogwarts, The Leaky Cauldron and the Forbidden Forest.
"We kind of drew it up on the 20th anniversary of the first book," Reed said. "It's private in my basement. We dedicated a whole area to Harry Potter. We're big fans. It was such a craze, and a lot of my friends are fans. I just like the fun of it. The magic makes you think outside the box. It's a different reality."
Reed, 38, started out as a fan of the books and later got into the films, which he now watches at the bar with his children.
"There's a lot of fun stuff in the book that inspired me to bring it to life," he said. "We've got all sort of things from the books: chocolate frogs, non-alcoholic butter beer, invisibility cloaks and Honeydukes candy."
Reed and Francis hand-built the bar, shelves and many fixtures over a period of six months. The bar itself is made with wood from an old barn in Winfield.
"We wanted to put a bar in the basement and I wanted it to have a theme so it was more than just coming down and drinking," he said. "I thought Harry Potter was a fun theme with the butter beer. I remember all the hype and excitement around the books and can go down there and do stuff with the kids as a family. I enjoy craft beer and the Cubs and things like that, but this seemed like a more fun and exciting theme."
The bar can be illuminated with flickering lanterns to add more ambiance, such as for family screenings of the films. Reed has continued to add more and more decorations over time, including many acquired from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.
"All of the decorations can be removed," he said. "They're not permanent so it can be turned back into a regular bar if we ever need to sell the house."
Reed, a NIPSCO employee, has read all the Harry Potter books and seen all the films. He considers Ron Weasley his favorite character and the "Prisoner of Azkaban" his favorite book.
"I've always been creative," Reed said. "I'm always writing and designing. I kind of came up with it in my head and built the whole thing piece by piece."
Visitors have been impressed by the extensive decorations that include coats of arms, Funko Pop figures and a Daily Prophet newspaper with headlines like "Dumbledore's dark secrets revealed" and "Aurors killed by mysterious poisoning."
"When people come down, like when I was getting work done on my air conditioner, they're in complete awe," he said. "Once I started I knew it was going to be an inspiration to people. There's an awe factor. Harry Potter fans enjoy coming down here, but there's also almost like a sense of anxiety relief. If you're in a crappy mood or having a bad day, you can go down to this space and it turns your day around."
Reed shares photos of the bar to the Instagram account @riddikuluspotterbar, including of parties and a dinner with food from the Harry Potter Cookbook.
"People get excited, asking how I came up with the idea," he said. "I'm going to Orlando soon and will continue to get more items to add and change out. It will never be completed."