His Hogwarts Express Magic Art Car is a haunted cart ride, theme park ride, and theater experience all rolled into one

Meet Rob Green, a saxophonist, sound engineer, event producer and puppeteer who transformed his Jeep Wrangler into a magical Hogwarts Express art car, with an immersive 40-minute ride called “Escape the Forbidden Forest”.

On his car: “I want my guests to experience an emotional roller coaster adventure that transports them out of where they are.”

On himself: “I’m such a silly weirdo. If readers are wondering if I’ve lost my mind, you bet!

In the middle of our third lap around the parking lot of a North Philly storage facility one night this month, as I stood with eight strangers in the back of a flatbed trailer pulled by a Jeep Wrangler, I started asking myself “How did I get here?” and, more importantly, “How the hell did the guy driving us get here?”

Not only Rob “Potter” Green, creator of the Hogwarts Express Magic Art Caroperating his 40-minute immersive Harry Potter ride called “Escape the Forbidden Forest” with lights, sound, fog, projections and puppets on his own, he did it by spinning us in circles and three-point around other cars in the parking deck.

Safety restraints were in place, but it was foam pool noodles and it was unclear how long they would hold.

I had gone to the warehouse expecting to see Green’s art car, having missed a ride he had organized earlier this month in the Pine Barrens. But instead, to my surprise, I was treated to his amusement park ride experience with eight of his friends.

Turns out, surprises are kind of Green’s thing.

“When you get on the art car, you have no idea what’s going to hit you and that’s what I like,” he said. “People get stuck in their daily routines and I like to mix it up, ring their skulls a bit and say ‘Look what you can do with your imagination and a little ingenuity.'”

Green, 36, from Queen Village, has been creating and perfecting his magical Hogwarts Express art car for nearly a decade. Inspired by his love of Harry Potter, the theme park rides and mutant vehicles he saw at gatherings like burning man (think a giant box of motorized spam or a moving dragon that shoots flames), Green has transformed his car, a 2015 Jeep Wrangler two-door sport, and accompanying flatbed trailer, into a fun ride. he calls “an interdisciplinary collaboration of every art form I have ever studied.

A graduate of Pennsbury High School and the University of the Arts, where he majored in performing arts with minors in education and audio engineering, Green is a saxophonist by trade, who has worked as a teacher, musician in pit and touring artist.

He is also a curator Philadelphia Visionary Arts Gallery at Queen Village and does audio engineering, soundtrack, event production, video editing, and puppet work (“There’s a life-size T. rex puppet on a tension wire running through my living room,” he said).

But what really drives Green’s life are the 10 Principles of Burning Man, a nine-day gathering of artists, musicians, creators and like-minded people in the Nevada desert, where no money is exchanged. Among the principles of Burning Man are radical inclusion and self-expression.

“It’s the closest I have to a religion,” he said.

Green – who bears a striking resemblance to Harry Potter, if Harry Potter had dreadlocks, nipple rings and roller trainers – has been to Burning Man twice, the first time in 2012, but he attends other small gatherings with other “burners” all summer long. It was by attending these gatherings where vehicles of all shapes and sizes are modified by their owners into moving works of art that Green was first inspired to create his magical Hogwarts Express art car.

“It rolled into my fully formed head. I said ‘Oh my God, would it be fun to have the Hogwarts Express and take witches and wizards to Hogwarts?’ “, did he declare. “I designed it to be something that I myself would be unable to contain if I saw it pass.”

Green studied Broadway theatrical techniques and the work of Disney’s Imaginers to create his ride, which is currently in its fourth iteration. While he has panels and a fake chimney that he can affix to the Jeep and trailer to make it look more like a train, his art car is much more experiential than visual.

On board he has a 3,000 watt generator, subwoofer, mixer, left and right speakers for surround sound, a fog machine and strobe lights, which he uses to momentarily mess up drivers’ night vision when he parks the car and jumps. with a giant inflatable spider or a Dementor made of a fishing net and pieces of black cloth.

Mounted to the front of the Jeep is a projector that projects a 40-minute video created by Green onto tree trunks, flat surfaces or, in the case of my ride, the roof of a parking lot.

As the video of the train leaving the station begins, Green presses the accelerator pedal of the Jeep in time to the sound of the purring locomotive, creating the feeling of being on a real train. And when a giant ogre is about to smash the train as it passes through the Forbidden Forest, it quickly accelerates the car to escape its clutches, sending the passengers unexpectedly flying backwards.

“It’s not just driving, it’s almost a kind of ballet,” Green said. “I actually never go over 20 miles per hour, but I feel like I’m going 100.”

The experience – which feels like a haunted wagon ride, a theme park ride and a theatrical performance all rolled into one – is an exhilarating mix of humor, horror and how-d’he-did. -this marvel that transports those who dare to jump on board their daily lives.

“Nothing else matters but the here and now when you’re on that ride,” Green said. “I try to provide a fully immersive experience, but what holds it all together, the glue, is your imagination.”

Green has taken his ride to regional burn rallies, music festivals, campgrounds and even backyard parties. Those interested in contacting Green can reach him via his Hogwarts Express Magic Art Car Facebook Page.

“Basically whoever gets me, I’m here,” he said.

Green can also change the theme of his ride. For an upcoming four-day live performance and camping event in New Jersey, he’s transforming his art car into “The Kinetic Science Mobile,” a futuristic teleportation vehicle that will take riders on a journey through time. , space, and the Pine Barrens, where they can just bump into the New Jersey Devil.

“It’s about the illusion of pulling people out of existence and transporting them to another world,” Green said. “That natural rush of ecstasy and adrenaline is what I live for. I’m still chasing that dragon.

Know someone in the Philadelphia area whose story is worth telling, or someone whose story you would like to know? Send suggestions for We the People profiles to Stephanie Farr at [email protected] or call her at 215-854-4225. Send tips via Twitter to @FarFarrAway.

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