Reality show to feature Witch School

HOOPESTON — The witch school that moved into Hoopeston’s elephant building three years ago may soon be the site of a reality TV show on the Sci-Fi channel.

“We’re pretty excited even though we don’t know that much about it yet,” said Don Lewis, who is the Witch School’s chancellor.

“We’ve been talking with them about it for quite a long time,” said Lewis, who only learned that a program is being developed this week. “We found out that they might go ahead just a little bit ahead of everybody else.”

A spokeswoman for the network confirmed that a reality series to be filmed in Hoopeston is in development.

“We don’t have a production timetable as of yet, nor do we have additional information on the details of the production,” Adrienne D’Amato wrote in an e-mail.

A press release from the network says, “Harry Potter has nothing on this real-life Witch School! While resembling your typical classroom experience — note passing, overachievers, students who forget their homework, field trips and the dreaded pop-quiz — some elements of this education are less traditional. Perhaps last night’s homework involved communicating with a deceased relative, a field trip could involve spending the night in a ‘haunted’ forest and that pop-quiz might involve a literal plague of frogs.”

Lewis said the TV people approached the school with the idea, but he said he didn’t know any of the details about how they will film, whom they will feature or when they will begin. He assumes the show will feature the school’s faculty and classes, but has not been told by netwok executives of their plans.

If people are curious about the Witch School and what it offers, they can attend an open house from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 10.

Witchcraft/Wicca

Witchcraft, or Wicca, is a form of neo-Paganism. It is officially recognized as a religion by the U.S. government.

This is a diverse movement that knows no central authority. Practitioners do not all have the same views, beliefs and practices.

While all witches are pagans, not all pagans are witches. Likewise, while all Wiccans are witches, not all witches are Wiccans.

Note: The Witchcraft news tracker includes news items about a wide variety of diverse movements reported in the media as ‘witchcraft.’

“We’re having a class — ‘So you want to be a witch?’ — that basically is an overview of the Wicca movement,” he said. “And we’re planning free ESP testing and various demonstrations.” The school is at 112 W. Main St. in Hoopeston.

Lewis said the Witch School offers mostly online courses, but does have some live events.

“We teach Wicca and other metaphysical systems — things like tarot cards, astrology and palmistry,” Lewis said. “We have courses on Kabbalah and ancient cultures of various different types —there’s a wide range of different spiritual disciplines.

“Our original focus is with Wicca, but it’s not our only focus,” he said.

The school has been open in Hoopeston since 2003. He said it moved from Chicago to get away from the high cost of living and rent.

“Plus, we’re kind of coming back to our roots,” Lewis said. “A number of our people are from this area — notably me. I grew up in Danville.”

He said the term “witch” means different things to different people, but the school uses it to refer to different pagan and native religions.

“For many people, it implies magic, and that’s more of what came to be associated with Wicca,” he said.

When the Witch School first moved into Hoopeston, many residents complained. But Lewis said there have been no incidents.

Shannon Ruh, the economic development director at Hoopeston, agreed that the controversy over the school seems to have settled down. She’s not heard any complaints lately.

And though she doesn’t know what the proposed reality TV show will be like, she thinks the potential is good.

“If the show is done, it’s going to bring attention to the community,” she said. “And getting Hoopeston’s name out there is a positive thing.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday February 1, 2007.
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