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"The liquid has now turned to a black bubbling death potion. It rises up, surrounding Tina on her chair, almost engulfing her."
— Description[src]

This potion was a black potion contained within the Death Cell at the Magical Congress of the United States of America. It was used to carry out executions in the 1920s, especially in 1926 with the failed death sentence of Porpentina Goldstein.[1]


Prisoners were taken into the Death Cell and had their memories extracted by an executioner, which were subsequently placed into the potion. The potion had the ability to replay the memories in a manner similar to a Pensieve, with the added effect of keeping the condemned mesmerised and susceptible to suggestion.[1]

Once the condemned was placed in the chair, it would hover over the potion, allowing them to see their happiest memories for a final time.[1]

Once a wand, either that of the condemned or the executioner, (presumably as well as any other object) was added to the potion, the potion would become agitated and begin to rise up towards the condemned, while the chair would begin to lower into it.[1]

The potion was highly corrosive and would burn through both the chair and the person on it.[1]


In 1926, Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein were sentenced to be executed in this fashion by Gellert Grindelwald (disguised as Percival Graves) for violating the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy. Tina was nearly swallowed by the potion but was saved thanks to Newt and his Swooping Evil.[1]


Behind the scenes

  • The visual effect of the potion is based on an artistic display by Richard Wilson at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Named 20:50, it consists of several rooms filled with a still, black oil that perfectly mirrors the room above it.
  • Though it is not stated explicitly why this method is utilised by MACUSA, as opposed to the Killing Curse, it could be seen as an artistic representation of corporal punishment and its surrounding themes. Keeping the condemned happily mesmerised with their happiest memories could be seen as a merciful death. The use of a system to execute a person, as opposed to another person directly committing the act, removes the burden of guilt from the executioner(s). Additionally, this was an opportunity to reference the types of corporal punishment used throughout American history, against both witches and others.
  • The image of dropping a prisoner into a pool, while bound to a chair, may derive from legends of 'Witch trials', in which the suspect, as in the film, was bound to a chair and dropped into deep water, and later drawn out again. If the suspect showed no signs of discomfort, (s)he was deemed to be a witch, and put to death; if the suspect drowned, or came near to drowning, it was deemed innocent.
  • The potion shares similarities with the Draught of Living Death as it was portrayed in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, due to both being able to disintegrate objects on contact, and in the later instance, Horace Slughorn stated that Harry Potter's version of it was "So perfect, I dare say that one drop would kill us all.", implying that the film version of it was capable of killing or that he was exaggerating his statement.


Notes and references