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"A ghost, as I trust that you are all aware by now, is the imprint of a departed soul left upon the earth..."
Professor Severus Snape[src]

A ghost was the imprint of the soul of a once-living wizard or witch, and as such, a type of spirit.[6] These fleshless spirits were either afraid of death or had some extraordinarily strong connection to the locations they haunt.[7]

Ghosts were visible, and appeared as a greyish-silver apparition of their former (living) selves. However, they were unable to have much physical influence; they passed through solid objects without damaging themselves or the material, but created disturbances in water, fire and air. The temperature dropped in the immediate vicinity of a ghost. Their presence could also turn flames blue.[1]

Muggles could not become ghosts, nor could they see ghosts clearly.[1]

In some instances, animals may have also become ghosts upon death.[2]


"Wizards can leave an imprint of themselves upon the earth, to walk palely where their living selves once trod... But very few wizards choose that path."
Sir Nicholas discussing ghosts with Harry Potter[src]

A ghost was the transparent, three-dimensional imprint of a deceased witch or wizard, which continued to exist in the mortal world. Muggles cannot come back as ghosts, and the wisest witches and wizards chose not to.[1] It was those with "unfinished business", whether in the form of fear, guilt, regrets or overt attachment to the material world who refused to move on to the next dimension.[1] As a result, ghosts knew nothing about the afterlife and some later came to regret that they became ghosts instead of moving on.[7]

Having chosen a feeble simulacrum of mortal life, ghosts were limited in what they could experience. Without a body, no physical pleasure remained to them, and their knowledge and outlook remained at the level it had attained during life, so that old resentments (for instance, at having an incompletely severed neck) continued to rankle after several centuries.[1] For this reason, ghosts tended to be poor company, on the whole. They were especially disappointing on the one subject that fascinated most people: ghosts couldn't return a very sensible answer on what it was like to die, because they had chosen an impoverished version of life instead.[1]

Ghosts were known for gravitating around a specific area, often the location of their death. In such a case, it is said that the ghost "haunted" that location. They appeared to have a particular connection to that location, as it was apparently possible to bind them there magically. Such was apparently done to Myrtle Warren in the 1940s, although it is plausible that she was simply coerced by other means into staying in the bathroom in question. It is possible that ghosts might be bound into a mirror, producing an item known as a haunted mirror.

A ghost's form reflected the condition of their body from the moment of their death. For example, if someone died from being beheaded, then their ghost's head would be detachable. Some ghosts, such as the members of the Headless Hunt, took advantage of this condition for their own amusement.

Ghosts could be repelled by magical light, and therefore would retreat from a Wand-Lighting Charm.[8][9] Ghosts could also be frightened away with a Skurge Charm, which would also clean up any ectoplasm that they had precipitated.[10]

Depending on the conditions of the person's soul, they might have been unable to return, as Tom Riddle's self-mutilated soul was trapped in limbo for eternity and couldn't become a ghost.[11]

According to Rubeus Hagrid, many ghosts liked lily flowers.[12]


Since ghosts were already dead, they couldn't die a second time or be destroyed (not to be confused with Immortality). For example, a person would have died if they met the gaze of a Basilisk, but since ghosts couldn't die again, they would have been petrified instead. This could be reversed by a Mandrake Restorative Draught, although the method of administration is unclear.


A ghost's weightlessness allows them to glide in any direction

In addition, ghosts were also weightless and could fly in any direction.

Due to not having a physical form, ghosts were totally untouchable and could not be pushed physically. However, they could be moved with air and water currents.[13][14] In passing through a living creature, ghosts gave the sensation of plunging into ice-cold water.[3]

Ghosts also secreted ectoplasm over time in places that they frequented.[10] They also had the ability to "almost" taste things, which was amplified with the use of pungent, rotting food.[15]

Goblin ghosts[]

Unlike the ghosts of human witches and wizards, the ghosts of goblins, such as Ragnuk, were still able to use magic.

Ghosts in the wizarding world[]

"And then she saw my body... ooooh, she didn't forget it until her dying day, I made sure of that... followed her around and reminded her, I did. I remember at her brother's wedding — and then, of course, she went to the Ministry of Magic to stop me stalking her, so I had to come back here and live in my toilet."
— The British Ministry stopped Myrtle Warren from stalking her old classmate[src]

Witches and wizards were much more susceptible to what Muggles call paranormal activity, and would see (and hear) ghosts plainly where a Muggle might only feel that a haunted place is cold or "creepy".[1] Muggles who insist that they see ghosts in perfect focus are either a) lying or b) wizards showing off — and in flagrant breach of the International Statute of Secrecy.[1]

Burdock Muldoon made the first attempt to create a proper definition of Being, "any creature that walks on two legs"; ghosts were originally ineligible to be classified as Beings under this definition, since they glided instead of walked. Muldoon's successor, Elfrida Clagg, attempted to redefine Beings as "any creature capable of speaking human language". Ghosts were eligible for Being status under this revised definition. However, the Wizards' Council that existed at the time shamelessly emphasised the matters of the living over the matters of the dead. In 1811, Minister for Magic Grogan Stump revised the definition of Being to "any creature intelligent enough to understand the law". Ghosts were eligible for Being status under this definition, but felt that it was insensitive to classify them as "Beings" when they were clearly "has-beens". Because of this, the Spirit category was established, along with the Spirit Division of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.[16]

The Ministry of Magic seemed to have at least a degree of power and jurisdiction over ghosts, as Moaning Myrtle was forced to return to her place of death, which was Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, when she disrupted the wedding of the brother of Olive Hornby.[17] The Spirit Division was the division of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures that dealt with ghost welfare.[5][18]

Deathday Party Pottermore

Nearly Headless Nick's deathday party

Ghosts also appeared to celebrate their deathday, as Nearly Headless Nick did so on 31 October in 1992. They tended to be very sensitive concerning the circumstances of their death, often showing great hesitancy when asked by others how they had died. What seemed to be a typical Deathday Party entailed a candlelit dinner of rancid, mouldy food, the smell of which would cause a normal living creature to gag. Normally, only people who were no longer living were invited to a Deathday Party.[15]

Ghosts could also send each other letters that were transparent to the living, but readable to ghosts.[15]

House ghosts[]

"About twenty ghosts had just streamed through the back wall. Pearly-white and slightly transparent, they glided across the room talking to one another and hardly glancing at the first-years."
— Harry's first experience viewing ghosts at Hogwarts[src]
Ghosts of Hogwarts

The ghosts of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Many ghosts took up residence within Hogwarts Castle and each House at Hogwarts had a patron ghost. Each of these ghosts once belonged to their corresponding House. They apparently served as a representative to their House, as well as serving the role of messenger or guide to those who were still unfamiliar with the House they were sorted into.[4][3] Hogwarts Castle was the most haunted building in Great Britain.[4] It is unknown for how long they might have retained this title.

They also seemed to enjoy a certain level of authority, as Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington apparently outranked the Caretaker at the school, bidding Argus Filch to award Jacob's sibling ten house points before ordering him to leave the Potions Classroom, where they were caught snooping while, unbeknownst to Filch, researching the Cursed Vaults despite not being allowed to.[19]

Gryffindor House[]

"I know nothing of the secrets of death, Harry, for I chose my feeble imitation of life instead..."
Sir Nicholas[src]
Nearly headless nick

Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington

The Gryffindor House ghost was Nearly Headless Nick.[3] He was known as a friendly ghost who was beheaded, but the job was poorly executed, leaving a small strand of flesh keeping his head attached, which was how he obtained the nickname of "Nearly Headless Nick". He preferred to be addressed as "Sir Nicholas".[3]

His real name was Sir Nicholas De Mimsy-Porpington. Something of a snob, and a less accomplished wizard than he believed, Sir Nicholas lounged around the court of Henry VII in life. He was sentenced to death after he failed to cast a beautification spell on a woman in the court and accidentally gave her tusks instead.[4]

Hufflepuff House[]

"The table on the right cheered and clapped as Hannah went to sit down at the Hufflepuff table. Harry saw the ghost of the Fat Friar waving merrily at her."
— Harry Potter describing the Fat Friar[src]
Friar Feast

Fat Friar

The Hufflepuff House ghost was the Fat Friar, who was executed because senior churchmen had grown suspicious of his ability to cure the pox merely by poking peasants with a stick, and his ill-advised habit of pulling rabbits out of the communion cup. Though a genial character in general, the Fat Friar still resented the fact that he was never made a cardinal.[4]

He also frequently suggested to the other Hogwarts ghosts that Peeves should have had a second chance, whether or not he deserved it.[15]

Ravenclaw House[]

"Oh yes, our house ghost is the Grey Lady. The rest of the school thinks she never speaks, but she'll talk to Ravenclaws. She's particularly useful if you're lost, or you've mislaid something."
Robert Hilliard regarding the Grey Lady[src]
Start of term feast grey lady

Helena Ravenclaw

The Ravenclaw House ghost was the Grey Lady, also known as Helena Ravenclaw.[20] The least talkative of the house ghosts, she was long-haired and beautiful.[4] She was the daughter of Hogwarts founder Rowena Ravenclaw, making her the only house ghost to be directly related to one of the four Hogwarts founders.[20]

She was murdered by the man now known as the Bloody Baron, who was enraged by her rejection of his affection. She was renowned for being instrumental in assisting Harry Potter in the search for the Horcruxes.[20]

Slytherin House[]

"The Bloody Baron was the Slytherin ghost, a gaunt and silent spectre covered in silver bloodstains."
— Harry Potter's description of the Bloody Baron[src]
Harry-potter1-bloody baron

Bloody Baron

The Slytherin House ghost was the Bloody Baron. He was well known for being extremely unsocial and many students, including those of his own House, were known to be slightly afraid of him.[4] The Baron was also the only one known to be able to control Peeves.[3][21]

The Bloody Baron committed suicide out of remorse for murdering Helena Ravenclaw, taking his own life with the same weapon he used on her. He wore robes covered in silver bloodstains, which was how he obtained the nickname of "The Bloody Baron", and he had been remorseful of the murder ever since and carried heavy chains as a sign of penance. He was known for having a highly volatile temper when he was alive.[20]

Known ghosts[]

"I was afraid of death. I chose to remain behind. I sometimes wonder whether I oughtn't to have... Well, that is neither here nor there..."
— Nearly Headless Nick reflecting on his choice to become a ghost[src]

See also[]

Behind the scenes[]

  • Professor Amberose Swott may have become a ghost after death as he appeared in a portrait at Hogwarts, but also on the Marauder's Map.
  • According to W.O.M.B.A.T., ghosts may have had the ability to move liquid or gas.[36]
  • The ghosts Edmund Grubb, the Black Knight and The Toad were cut from final drafts.[4]
  • It is possible that while ghosts might be silver-greyish to the living, it is possible that through their eyes, they see themselves and each other the way they looked alive, as Nearly Headless Nick was able to read a Ghost letter that appeared to be transparent to Harry, meaning that he could not see any written text on it, even if Sir Nicholas could.
  • Although murder rips the soul, true remorse can heal it again. One example would be the case of The Bloody Baron as he killed Helena Ravenclaw, but felt remorse over her death, thus he was able to come back as a ghost.
  • The house ghosts are known to have died in different time periods. The Grey Lady and the Bloody Baron both died shortly after the founding of Hogwarts. Sir Nicholas died in 1492. The Friar also died in the founders' time. Thus, it's not known at which point in Hogwarts history the house ghost position was created or if other ghosts ever held this title.
  • On Pottermore, there is a feature called "The 6 best-loved ghosts (and one poltergeist) at Hogwarts" and an archive called "Hogwarts Ghosts".
  • The presence of a ghost turns flames blue, according to Pottermore. Normally, a blue flame is the hottest variety of fire. Ghosts are, however, described as making the environment cold, possibly meaning the flames they influence turn cold as well.
  • Unlike other ghosts in the films, the Grey Lady is able to turn into an wispy ball of light. Also, while other ghosts were white or blue in colour while being otherwise transparent, she was grey and shadows could be cast over her. She is one of the few ghosts seen walking on the ground rather than simply flying.
  • It is unknown if the House ghost position also exists at other wizarding schools.
  • It is implied that those who chose to become ghosts could not change their mind later. However, it is not actually known whether they were really trapped as ghosts forever, or if there was some way they could eventually move on.

Author's comments[]

"The inspiration for Moaning Myrtle was the frequent presence of a crying girl in communal bathrooms, especially at the parties and discos of my youth. This does not seem to happen in male bathrooms, so I enjoyed placing Harry and Ron in such uncomfortable and unfamiliar territory in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

The most productive ghost at Hogwarts is, of course, Professor Binns, the old History of Magic teacher who fell asleep in front of the staff-room fire one day and simply got up to give his next class, leaving his body behind. There is some debate as to whether or not Professor Binns realises he is dead. While his entrance to lessons through the blackboard is vaguely amusing the first time students see it, he is not the most stimulating teacher.

The inspiration for Professor Binns was an old professor at my university, who gave every lecture with his eyes closed, rocking backwards and forwards slightly on his toes. While he was a brilliant man, who disgorged an immense amount of valuable information at every lecture, his disconnect with his students was total. Professor Binns is only dimly aware of his living students, and is astonished when they begin asking him questions.

In the very earliest list of ghosts I ever wrote for Hogwarts, I included Myrtle (initially named 'Wailing Wanda'), Professor Binns, the Grey Lady (then called 'the Whispering Lady') and the Bloody Baron. There was also a Black Knight, The Toad (which left ectoplasm all over its classroom), and a ghost I rather regret not using: his name was Edmund Grubb, and the notes beside his name say: Expired in the doorway of the Dining Hall. Sometimes stops people getting in, out of spite. Fat Victorian ghost. (Ate poisonous berries)."[4]


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External links[]

Notes and references[]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Ghosts" at Wizarding World
  2. 2.0 2.1 Pottermore - Animal Ghosts of Britain
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 7 (The Sorting Hat)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Hogwarts Ghosts" at Wizarding World
  5. 5.0 5.1 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 21 (The Unknowable Room)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 38 (The Second War Begins)
  8. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game) - Console versions
  9. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game) - PS2 version
  10. 10.0 10.1 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game) - PC version
  11. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35 (King's Cross)
  12. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game) - GBC version
  13. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 11 (The Duelling Club)
  14. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 26 (The Second Task)
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 15.6 15.7 15.8 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 8 (The Deathday Party)
  16. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Introduction
  17. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 25 (The Egg and the Eye)
  18. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 7 (The Ministry of Magic)
  19. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 3, Side Quest "Nearly Headless Nick"
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 31 (The Battle of Hogwarts)
  21. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 16 (Through the Trapdoor)
  22. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 3, Side Quest "Secrets of Godric's Hollow"
  23. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 2, "DUELLING DEATHDAY PARTIES" Achievement - Part 1, Side Quest "A Deathday to Remember"
  24. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film)
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 The Art and Making of Hogwarts Legacy
  26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 8 (The Potions Master)
  27. Harry Potter: Magic Awakened
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 28.4 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
  29. Harry Potter: Magic Awakened, Beaters, Bludgers, & Broomsticks, Chapter IV: Gossiping with Ghosts
  30. Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup
  31. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 4, Quidditch Season 3, Chapter 9 (THE LEGENDARY SNITCH OF HOGSMEADE)
  32. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 5, Chapter 6 (The Ghosts of Hogwarts)
  33. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 5, Chapter 7 (The Life and Death of Duncan Ashe)
  34. Fantastic Beasts: Cases from the Wizarding World, Case 9: Cloke and Dagger
  35. 35.0 35.1 LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
  36. J. K. Rowling's official site
Defence Against the Dark Arts (D.A.D.A.)
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