Proud lions, slithering serpents, forbidding forests, and a giant squid abound in one of the most venerated places on earth. And no, it’s not Hogwarts—it’s the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
That’s where children and adults alike can join the new Wizard School Scavenger Hunt 2: The School of Magical History. Just like the popular Wizard School Scavenger Hunt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this new adventure sends you on a hunt for artifacts, creatures, and exhibits reminiscent of characters and events from the Harry Potter books and films. Not sure how wizard-y the Museum of Natural History can be? Here are 10 magical facts and exhibits from the museum.
Skele-Gro vs. Engorgio: The Titanosaur is huge even by dinosaur standards, and it may well be the largest creature ever to walk the earth. But even this big-boned beast isn’t the undisputed biggest on the planet—or even in the museum! At 122 feet long, the Titanosaur is almost 30 feet longer than the museum’s famous blue whale. But a blue whale can weigh as much as 200 tons, or almost three times as much as the Titanosaur.
Way Worse than Wormtail: A harmless-looking little rodent in the Hall of New York State Mammals hides a dark family secret. His close relative, the Norway Rat, wiped out countless gazillions of humans by spreading the Bubonic Plague.
Misuse of Muggle Artifacts: Eagle-eyed visitors will notice something unusual hovering above an otherwise accurate depiction of the Iranian city of Isfahan. Yep, that’s a flying carpet in a natural history museum.
Don’t Tell Hagrid: In the Hall of Human Origins, an enormous hyena stalks a prehistoric human. That “cave man’s” fossil was found in an actual cave—in Dragon Bone Hill. Hopefully no actual dragons were harmed in the naming of that hill.
Won’t Find This on the Knight Bus: Remember Dre Head, the wise-cracking shrunken head that hangs from the rearview mirror on the Knight Bus in the Prisoner of Azkaban movie? Well in the Hall of South American Peoples, you can find genuine examples of shrunken heads—except one’s a fake! While two heads are human, one belonged to a sloth. Selling counterfeit shrunken heads to tourists was big business, especially after Amazonian governments outlawed the practice of shrinking human heads.
Gryffindor Roar: The symbols of Godric Gryffindor pop up throughout the museum, especially in the Hall of African Mammals. But do you know what other African creature can impersonate a lion’s roar as convincingly as Luna Lovegood’s roaring lion hat? Amazingly, it’s the ostrich!
Deep in the Great Lake: The Giant Squid is almost as popular at the museum as it is at Hogwarts, only the former isn’t saving any drowning first years any time soon. In fact, the diorama of the squid fighting the whale is a complete fabrication. No one had ever observed a giant squid in the wild before 2004, and certainly no one has witnessed one fighting a sperm whale! The diorama is pure conjecture, based largely on the fact that sperm whales have been seen with sucker-shaped scars on them and pieces of squid in their bellies.
Thestrals for Days: The Hall of Advanced Mammals has a whole parade of skeletal horses, which are basically just flightless Thestrals. (Except you can see them because they died, not because you saw someone else die, which is good!) Amazingly, horses that lived 2 million years ago, like Equus simplicidens, were almost identical to today’s horses. The only difference is in the enamel of some of their molars. How’s that for getting it right the first time?
Avada Kedavra: If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself face-to-face with a little shrine of a skinny Thai man in the Hall of Asian Peoples. The museum must have found this trinket in Borgin & Burkes, because all he has to do is smile…and you’re dead!
Into the Forbidden Forest: In the Hall of Biodiversity lies a dark rainforest full of dangerous beasts, including a deadly viper and a powerful gorilla. You can also find a…well, an ugly cousin to Hermione’s Patronus, the Giant Otter Shrew. Something the museum doesn’t tell you, though? These animals are almost as elusive as a true Patronus: capture one, and it will waste away and die in as little as a single day.
Get in the Game
Enroll in the Wizard School Scavenger Hunt 2: The Museum of Magical History, which debuts Saturday, Nov. 18.