Witch School Opens Doors in Midwestern Town [Excerpts]
[In] the unlikeliest of places, a real witch school [opened] its doors to the public in a place known as the Sweet Corn Capital of the World.
After almost five years of existence on the Internet, Witch School is expected to operate under normal business hours in the town of Hoopeston, Ill., about 100 miles south of Chicago.
The school is dedicated to educating the public in Wicca, a neo-Pagan religion that incorporates nature and magic into its theology. Until now the school has existed almost entirely on the Internet.
Ed Hubbard, the school's CEO and director, was lured to Hoopeston by what have been considered to be some of the lowest real estate prices in the country.
The town is known primarily for its annual Sweet Corn Festival; its high school mascot known as the Cornjerker; and the National Sweetheart Pageant, which has produced eight Miss America winners.
The town could soon be known as a Pagan colony, after Witch School starts letting visitors utilize its ritual space, view the studio where it produces videos for the Internet, and peruse its library of religious, metaphysical and historical texts.
It's a humble beginning, Hubbard says. The school is adorned with a "Witch School" sign and has maintained a quiet presence since moving to Hoopeston in 2003. He says that with an estimated 30 new students to 50 new students registering on the Web site every day, the "cyberministry" is rapidly growing.
The school has roughly 120,000 active students who enroll in Witch School's Internet courses, which range from Druid and Celtic history to crystal and gem magic, Hubbard says. Students then take at least one test a month to stay active and can eventually become an accredited member of the clergy.
"We're really getting to be a functional community," Hubbard said of the increasing presence of Witch School online. The school is also increasing its visibility in Hoopeston.
(Dawson, ABC News, 6/30/06)