Brighton Heights man the picture of Harry Potter obsession


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There are fans and there are superfans. And then there's Steve Petrick of Brighton Heights.

He has been crowned the world's biggest Harry Potter fan -- and think how tough the competition for that title had to be. Mr. Petrick, 22, won the honors last fall in an online competition sponsored by the website Moviefone.

He has filled three rooms in his house with Potter memorabilia and collectibles and filled his head with trivia on potions, spells and creatures. He has read the books over and over, has a massive wardrobe of Potter clothing -- he can go three months without wearing the same item twice -- and a growing collection of Potter tattoos.

He was supposed to go to Sydney, Australia, for the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" premiere there earlier this week to judge a competition for Australia's biggest fan. But since the competition wasn't sanctioned by "Potter" producer Warner Bros., the trip didn't happen. Instead, the world's biggest fan will hit the opening day showings today like everybody else.

His "World's Biggest Harry Potter Fan" video, posted on YouTube, has more than 1.5 million views and has netted him TV and radio guest spots.

Plenty of people in Mr. Petrick's generation are captivated -- OK, obsessed -- by Harry and friends. But few have built elaborate, over-the-top shrines to author J. K. Rowling's creation.

"I love to surround myself with a world that taught me how to be comfortable in my own skin," he said in an interview this week. "I like to feel like I'm collecting artifacts from a rare and mysterious world."

Much of his massive collection consists of gifts from family members. There's an autographed copy of the British version of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," a Final Challenge chess set and a printing proof and embossing plate used to publish "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." And at least 15 wands.

Mr. Petrick was born in DuBois, Clearfield County, and grew up here. He'll be a sophomore fine arts major, with a concentration in drawing and double major in animation, at Kent State University next year.

He caught the Potter-mania bug in sixth grade. He failed English that year and his parents grounded him from all activities except for reading and homework.

"My grandma, both feeling bad and knowing how to manipulate me, handed me a package when I visited for Thanksgiving. She told me if I accepted the gift, my grades had to come up." The gift was "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," the first book in the seven-book series.

"As soon as I was done reading it, I immediately wanted the next one," he said.

He claims to have re-read each volume in the series 100 times. "I re-read them every time a new book came out, every time I didn't have anything else to read, and basically whenever the teacher wasn't looking."

For Mr. Petrick, the films are second to the books, and his collection is a by-product of his love for the books.

In 2006, he went to New York to see J.K. Rowling do a charity book reading. "I was only 17 at the time and asked my parents 'If Jo Rowling signs my arm, can I get it tattooed there?' Thinking there was a snowball's chance . . . [they] said yes."

He was able to get a book -- and his arm -- autographed, however, and now Rowling's signature is one of several Potter-themed tattoos he has. Others include the Hogwarts' crest, the symbol of the Deathly Hallows and Sirius Black's prison numbers on the back of his neck. "Mischief Managed" on his chest is a recent addition. He plans to get more -- good guys on the right arm, bad guys on the left, a lightning bolt scar in UV-reactive ink on his forehead and "I must not tell lies" in white ink on the back of his right hand (a reference from the fifth book in the series, "The Order of the Phoenix.")

Of all his treasures, the Rowling autograph/tattoo is his favorite. "The one on my arm is probably worthless, seeing as it has no resale value, but to me it's the most valuable."

Mr. Petrick is writing his own books and designing their covers. "Most are of the fantasy genre but some are romance, some are ... stretched reality." He'd like to work on a Harry Potter graphic novel some day. "I'd love to tell the story completely true to its word and illustrate some of the things we haven't had the chance to see in the movies."

The premiere of "Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" is bittersweet for Potter fans because it means the end of a magical era. But Mr. Petrick says that he and all other Potter fans have plenty to look forward to, including spin-off projects such as the fall launch of Pottermore, an interactive online experience based on the book series.

And he plans to keep expanding his own collection of Potter artifacts. "I want my own little museum eventually."


Adrian McCoy: amccoy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1865.


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