Harry, make them all disappear

As Harry Potter hysteria peaks, so, too, does the number of news releases and articles linking the lad -- by even a gossamer thread -- to a health issue. (Time, after all, is running out to mine this lode.) A week or so back, headache specialists announced they'd diagnosed young Harry with migraines. Read on for more.

• Harry Potter fans may be addicts. Such is the hypothesis of Muhlenberg College psychology professor Jeff Rudski. He and coworkers are tracking the behavior of hard-core Potter fans around the time of the final book's release -- specifically to see if fans exhibit telltale signs of withdrawal, such as irritability, trouble sleeping, malaise, appetite disturbances and short temper. (The researchers have already probed the kids for symptoms of craving during the countdown to the final book's release.)

"It's more like caffeine withdrawal than something like a heroin withdrawal," Rudski reassures in a press release.

• Because many children are going to miss the series once it's over, and beloved characters may die, the final Harry Potter book presents a "valuable opportunity for parents to discuss such an important topic as death and dying," according to a University of Kentucky clinical social worker. Fun!

• A four-year study concluded that Harry Potter books do not lure children into a world of devil worship, animal sacrifice and a penchant for uttering dark incantations at midnight while standing in the center of a pentagram.

"Specific questions about magic, as well as interview notes and follow-ups found no evidence that reading the Harry Potter books was leading the children to the occult or confusing them about the use of magic," conclude three researchers at St. Joseph College in Connecticut of their work, which was published in the Journal of Research in Character Education.

• Many will feel grief because there won't be a book No. 8, says Dr. Mel Borins, a grief counselor at the University of Toronto in an article in the Toronto Star. His recommendation: To deal with the feelings of loss, find another book to read.

-- Rosie Mestel

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