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Harry Potter fans haunt Dursley house: When fan tourism goes wrong

From Harry Potter and The Beach to Breaking Bad and Downton Abbey - superfans can cause chaos when they visit the locations where their favourite screen characters 'lived'.

4 Privet Drive in Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter
Harry Potter fans make pilgrimages to a house in Berkshire that was used as No 4 Privet Drive in the films. (Alamy)

The owners of a house used as a location in the Harry Potter films are preparing for an onslaught of visitors to their home as the summer holidays approach.

The house has actually been replicated at the Harry Potter Studio Tour complex in Leavesden and is open to the public.

But dedicated fans make a special pilgrimage to the original house and even knock on the door asking to see the cupboard under the stairs that doubled as wizard Harry's bedroom.

Read more: Harry Potter TV show: Plot, cast and everything we know about the spin-off series

The owner admitted it is "weird" and they haven't got used to it. And they are not alone.

There are many filming locations that have become hampered, and even physically ruined, by visiting fans.

Here is what can happen When Fan Tourism Goes Bad....

Harry Potter Privet Drive

An exterior view shows at left, the house for sale that starred onscreen as Harry Potter's childhood home in the town of Bracknell, England, just over 30 miles (50 kms) west of central London, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016. Fans of the boy wizard will recognize it as the fictional address of 4 Privet Drive, home of Harry's dastardly aunt and uncle, the Dursleys, who made him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. The 3-bedroom house is being sold by real estate agent Chancellors with an asking price of 475,000 pounds ($616,000). (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
This house in Bracknell was used as 4 Privet Drive in the Harry Potter films and fans visit all the time. (AP)

The house in a cul-de-sac in Bracknell, Berkshire was used to film scenes for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone as 4 Privet Drive, in the fictional town of Little Whinging in Surrey, where boy wizard Harry lives with his Uncle and Aunt The Dursleys.

The house went on the market in 2016 for £475k and the anonymous owner has told The Sun they experience a "constant" stream of visitors to the house, in the form of Harry Potter fans wanting to take a photo.

They said: "We've had people in floods of tears. It's bizarre. The kids, you get it. But obviously the adults. They dress up sometimes in full gear and recreate scenes.

Richard Griffiths, Harry Melling, and Fiona Shaw as the Dursleys in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. (Warner Bros.)
Richard Griffiths, Harry Melling, and Fiona Shaw as the Dursleys in Harry Potter. (Warner Bros.)

"There was one time somebody tried to climb the fence. That was when we were like 'Oh my God, don't do that!'"

The owner said they are accommodating to fans and have even moved their car so they can take a photo on the drive.

They said: "It's quite mad... We knew what house we were buying except they didn't really tell us. They didn't tell us they are here all day, every day. It's constant... Ten is the maximum we've had but people come in groups. People come in cars and it's all day and sometimes at night. The school holidays are the worst."

Breaking Bad - Walter White's House

Walter White's House (Breaking Bad TV Series), 3828 Piermont Drive, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87112, USA near Route 66, taken 2015
Walter White's House in Albuquerque, New Mexico from hit TV series Breaking Bad. (Alamy)

Breaking Bad fans who visited the location of Walter White's house bore the brunt of the owner's frustration recently. The house was used as the family home of the science teacher who turned to drug dealing to leave a nest egg for his family when he was diagnosed with cancer in the hit show.

A video shared on TikTok in January 2023 showed the real-life owner shouting "Get out, you Mexican trash!" at a visiting fan.

She allowed Breaking Bad to film there in 2008, and described it as "six years of fun with the nicest people she has ever met."

Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad. (AMC/Sky)
Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad. (AMC/Sky)

But she is now plagued by up to 200 visitors passing by the house per day, and has installed a fence and security cameras after some had attempted to trespass, or reenact a scene in which White threw a pizza onto to his garage roof.

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan has asked fans to leave her alone, saying: "There is nothing original, or funny, or cool, about throwing a pizza on this lady's roof."

Harry Potter - Dobby's Grave

Harry Potter fans leave tributes including old socks to Dobby at Freshwater West Beach in Pemrokshire, Wales. (lamshootspics)
Harry Potter fans leave tributes including old socks to Dobby at Freshwater West Beach in Pemrokshire, Wales. (lamshootspics)

Harry Potter fans are leaving tributes to Dobby the house elf, 13 years after the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One, in which he was buried on the beach.

Dobby was buried outside Shell Cottage, which is meant to be in Cornwall, but the film was shot at Freshwater West beach in Pembrokshire, Wales.

Fans still visit and leave socks - as Dobby was set free by Harry when he gave him a sock as an item of clothing - as well as piling painted pebbles on the sand dunes.

Dobby character in the city bookstore in Muenster. One of the characters in the Harry Potter books and movies.
Dobby the house elf was buried on a beach in scenes filmed in West Wales. (Alamy)

A concerned local resident told Yahoo UK: "The litter and the piles of painted stones are damaging the ecosystem.

"It has only got worse since the film was made - over the years tonnes of rocks have been shifted. And people clog the roads looking for the spot.

"A local volunteer comes and cleans up the rubbish sometimes, but they keep coming back."

National Trust Wales has appealed to fans to stop leaving painted rocks as the paint chips could enter the marine environment and food chain and damage wildlife.

Downton Abbey

General view of Bampton Vilage in Oxfordshire. Bampton is changed into the fictional village of Downton a few weeks a year when filming of Downton Abbey takes place   (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
Bampton Village in Oxfordshire is used as the fictional village of Downton for the hit period drama. (Getty Images)

Residents of the picturesque village of Bampton in Oxfordshire may love their 200 year old cottages, but they are not quite so keen on the crowds of Downton Abbey fans that peer in their windows and take pictures.

The site was used for the fictional village of Downton in the hit ITV period drama and spin-off movies.

One resident said: "I get fed up with the Downton Abbey lot.

Is the Downton Abbey movie moving forward? What we know so far...
Downton Abbey was filmed at locations around the UK. (Focus Features)

"They are a pain, walking around with their head-sets on and peeping into your windows. They make me feel like I am living in a zoo."

And residents in Lacock, Wiltshire have a similar problem. Scenes fro Downton Abbey were filmed outside the 300 year old cottages as well as several Harry Potter films, Pride and Prejudice, Wolf Hall and the Other Boleyn Girl. As a result it has become a tourist hotspot, crowded with traffic and people taking pictures.

Garden produce stall and street in the village of Lacock, Wiltshire, England, UK. (Photo by:  Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
The village of Lacock in Wiltshire was use in Downton Abbey and some Harry Potter films. (Getty Images)

Abbey Road

Jon Bon Jovi (L) and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (R) along with members of the Invictus Games Choir recreate the iconic Beatles 'Abbey Road' album cover photograph on the zebra crossing outside the Abbey Road Studios where the Invictus Games Choir are recording a special single in aid of the Invictus Games Foundation on February 28, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Jon Bon Jovi and Prince Harry, along with members of the Invictus Games Choir recreate the Beatles Abbey Road album cover. (Getty Images)

Since The Beatles posed on the zebra crossing on London's Abbey Road, the crossing has become a top tourist destination.

Traffic is always congested as fans are standing in the middle of the road, trying to recreate the famous Abbey Road album cover.

Cars are so fed up of waiting for tourists to cross the road it seems, that Beatle Sir Paul McCartney was almost run over on the crossing filming a documentary for Disney +.

His daughter Mary McCartney said: "The bit where the car nearly ran him over on the zebra crossing, that was so funny. As we were leaving (the studio), I said, 'I'll film you (on the crossing),' and he went over and this car totally didn't stop for him."

As a result the crossing is constantly wearing away and having to be repainted.

Love Actually

Pink, blue and grey painted houses in St Lukes mews, Notting Hill, West London, England
The colourful painted houses in St Lukes mews, Notting Hill featured in Love Actually. (Alamy)

These colourful mews houses in Notting Hill, West London, came to the attention of fans after they were used for the home of Keira Knightley's character in rom com Love Actually, where Andrew Lincoln visits to tell her he loves her by holding up cue cards.

Since being painted pink the house has become such an Instagram sensation that tourists visit to have their photo taken in front of it, without even being aware of which film it featured in.

Andrew Lincoln in the most notorious scene from 'Love Actually'. (Credit: Universal)
Andrew Lincoln on St Luke's Mews in the notorious scene from 'Love Actually'. (Credit: Universal)

The owner said in 2020: "I had no idea this house was in the film when I bought it before the Instagram craze and now I am living under a blanket of selfies, tour guides, and a queue of tourists lining up to take photos on weekends."

The street has become so crowded the local council has started highlighting the nearby Portobello Road area, which featured in the Paddington movie, for tourists to visit instead.

Joker

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker
Joaquin Phoenix in Joker (Warner Bros)

Since Joaquin Phoenix famously danced down these steps in the Bronx, New York City to Gary Glitter's Rock and Roll Part 2 in Joker, they have become crowded with fans wanting to do the same.

Frustrated local residents have found the steps congested with tourists wanting to take photos and videos, blocking the way while they try to go about their daily business.

Read more: Gary Glitter will not receive royalties for Joker soundtrack

They even put up fliers saying: “It is disrespectful to treat our community and residents as a photo opportunity."

The Beach

MAYA BAY, THAILAND - NOVEMBER 12, 2014: Crowds of sunbathing visitors enjoy a day trip at the iconic beach at Maya Bay.
Maya Bay in Thailand has become crowded with tourists since it featured in the film. (Alamy)

Danny Boyle's 2000 film The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, based on Alex Garland's novel, was about a deserted paradise.

But after the location of Maya Bay in Thailand was used for the film, it became crowded and over popular - attracting 5,000 visitors a day.

THE BEACH (2000) LEONARDO DICAPRIO BECH 048
Leonardo Di Caprio in The Beach. (Alamy)

The damage to the local ecosystem and coral population was so bad that in 2018 Thailand's National Parks department temporarily shut down the beach, in a bid to protect the once unspoilt idyll.

Watch: Inside the Harry Potter Studio Tour