Given what we know about the Wizarding World from Harry Potter, it stands to reason quite a few famous people even Muggles have heard of were, in actuality, wizards. This is a post I wrote for fun (I am not delusional enough to think we have real wizards and witches among us) on my soon-to-be-defunct Harry Potter blog. Enjoy! Tell me which folks you suspect are or were secretly witches and wizards in the comments.
Wizards have lived among us since the dawn of man, apparently. Being Muggles, however, and figuring in the precept that the Wizarding World is hidden from Muggles, we may not always have been aware of the supernatural status of said wizards.
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, we were introduced to Famous Wizards cards found in Chocolate Frogs candy through Ron Weasley: “Chocolate Frogs have cards inside them, you know, to collect—famous witches and wizards. I’ve got about five hundred, but I haven’t got Agrippa or Ptolemy” (102). Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa and Ptolemy are real historical figures. The books also mention Paracelsus. EA Games’ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone game has vampire cards that include Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad Ţepeş (The Impaler). Strictly speaking, however, vampires are not wizards, but part-human dark creatures. It also bears mentioning that Vlad Ţepeş was not a vampire, just a rather bad person to have as your enemy, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula was not based on Ţepeş. Our alchemist friend Nicolas Flamel is mentioned on Dumbledore’s card, but it is not clear whether he appears on his own card.
Which historical figures were really wizards? Just for fun, I came up with some likely prospects. Witches and wizards are not presented in any sort of chronological order, because that would be stifling to my creative process (and take forever). Please be aware this is tongue-in-cheek, and I’m not saying I believe all of the “remarkable” feats attributed to these historical figures. I am staying away from biblical figures. I do not include other historical religious figures, such as Mohammed, because I don’t want to offend others, and finally, I do not include any mythological figures (however, as legendary figures are usually based on a grain of historical truth, some of them may be included). Dark Wizards are indicated by the Dark Mark icon:
A Short List of Famous Historical Wizards Known to Muggles
Nostradamus: Noted French seer credited with predicting the rise of Dark Wizard Adolf Hitler (see entry below), the French Revolution, the assassination of Famous Wizard Abraham Lincoln (see below), and the invention of the atom bomb.
Nikola Tesla: Physicist, inventor, and electrical engineer. He disputed Marconi’s patent on the radio, claiming he actually invented it. Muggles have unfortunately misunderstood some of his so-called “oddities” and labeled him an eccentric.
Jimmy Page: Guitarist and leader of the 1970s rock group Led Zeppelin. He successfully bewitched the other members of the Yardbirds, his previous group, into signing over all rights to their group’s name to him. He is infamous for aligning himself with dark magic forces to secure popular and financial success for Led Zeppelin.
Isaac Newton: Alchemist, mathematician, astronomer, scientist, and philosopher credited with discovering the laws of gravity and developing differential calculus.
William Shakespeare: Arguably the greatest writer in the English language, he remains so mysterious that some folks still debate whether “Shakespeare the author” ever existed.
Adolf Hitler: Leader of Nazi Germany and executor of one of the largest genocides in world history, he was also known in the Wizarding World as one of Grindelwald’s chief lieutenants in carrying out Muggle genocide and committed suicide following Grindelwald’s defeat by Albus Dumbledore in 1945.
David Blaine: Famed illusionist known for entertaining Muggles with ordinary and rather basic spells. Blaine is often pursued by Ministry of Magic officials, who attempted to imprison him in a perspex box suspended 30 feet in the air near Tower Bridge in London until he could be taken to Azkaban. He revealed his imprisonment to Muggles as a “publicity stunt.” Ministry of Magic officials were unable to get him down for 44 days. He represents the greatest threat to the exposure of the Wizarding World.
Abraham Lincoln: Sixteenth president of the United States and emancipator of African-American slaves, Lincoln was assassinated by Muggle John Wilkes Booth and was unable to obtain magical medical care before he bled to death. His ghost currently haunts the White House.
Mata Hari: Enchantress executed as a spy during World War I. Part veela, she frequently bewitched men with her exotic dances. Members of her firing squad were blindfolded so as to prevent them from succumbing to her charms.
Edgar Cayce: Ordinary wizard revered by some Muggles for his average abilities in magical arts and sciences such as diagnosing and healing people at a distance (sight unseen), making diagnoses through “astral projection” (apparating, floo powder, or fireplace communication), and prophesying.
Khufu: Pharoah of Ancient Egypt, he is best known for his magical construction of the Great Pyramids of Giza.
Niccolò Paganini: Virtuoso violinist and composer best known for bewitching audiences, he acquired his skill with the violin through aligning himself with dark magic forces.
Richard Feynman: Physicist and music lover, he received a Nobel Prize for his work with quantum electrodynamics.
Aleister Crowley: Professor of the Dark Arts at Durmstrang Institute. He delighted in regaling Muggles and Dark Wizard followers with his theories and Dark magic practices.
George Sand: Pen name of the French writer Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin, Baroness Dudevant. She is regarded as one of the earliest transvestites. She bewitched her lover Frédéric Chopin, enabling him to produce magical compositions for piano.
James Randi: Also known as “the Amazing Randi.” He is a high-ranking Ministry of Magic official in the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes. He works primarily with Obliviator Headquarters and the Invisibility Task Force. He was awarded Order of Merlin, Third Class for his successful debunking of bungling wizard Uri Geller, who threatened to expose the Wizarding World in the 1970s.
The Count of St. Germain: Alchemist. While Nicolas Flamel is the only known maker of the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone, some believe that St. Germain was also successful in his alchemical experiments. There are occasional sightings, but much like the Muggle notion that Elvis is still alive, the belief that St. Germain escaped death has not been proven. While not, strictly speaking, a Dark Wizard, he nevertheless has acquired a somewhat shady reputation, largely due to Muggle legends that surround him.
“Koko”: Animagus form of the witch Proserpina Patterson. Patterson prefers to live as a gorilla; she enjoys amusing Muggles who marvel at her advanced “human-like” skills.
J.K. Rowling: Chronicler of the adventures of Wizarding World hero and legendary defeater of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Harry Potter. Rowling’s books were “found” by Muggles, who believe them to be fiction. Rowling admirably maintains the charade.
There are others. Tell me which ones you suspect. Maybe I’ll add them to the list. And thank you to my husband, Steve, for giving me the idea. It was a cool one.
Note: The Harry Potter Lexicon believes Rowling refers to Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, but this has not been verified (to my knowledge) by Rowling herself. There are many historical figures named “Agrippa,” several of whom are also likely candidates. I think the primary evidence used to support this choice comes from the Harry Potter PC games. I do not hold with the HPL on Hengist of Woodcroft being the Saxon king Hengest. The dates are wrong, as are the identifying details (Hengist of Woodcroft was the founder of Hogsmeade, having been driven away from his home by Muggle persecutors).