- "The name 'poltergeist' is German in origin, and roughly translates as 'noisy ghost', although it is not, strictly speaking, a ghost at all. The poltergeist is an invisible entity that moves objects, slams doors and creates other audible, kinetic disturbances. It has been reported in many cultures and there is a strong association with the places where young people, especially adolescents, are living. Explanations for the phenomenon vary all the way from supernatural to scientific."
A poltergeist is an "indestructible spirit of chaos". They haunt one specific location at time, generally those inhabited by a large number of adolescents, and either "[came] with the building", or chose to enter it at some point. They occasionally haunt the homes of Muggles. They are among the creatures classed as Non-Human Spiritous Apparitions, and as such, they are amortal.
Poltergeists generally do not have a physical form, with one notable exception being Peeves, the poltergeist that haunts Hogwarts Castle. He is considered "the most notorious and troublesome poltergeist in British history".
Poltergeists can fly and delight in vandalism, malicious mischief, and the general aggravation and embarrassment of living persons. They could unscrew chandeliers, write rude words on chalkboards, throw water balloons at people, throw walking sticks at people, stuff keyholes with chewing gum and other such acts, simply for their amusement.
Poltergeists are notably unruly and have developed a misconception that there is no way to get rid of a poltergeist once it has moved into a location. More destructive poltergeists who have inhabited a location for a longer period of time are harder to expel, but it is not impossible to do. In more serious cases, some people (notably Albus Dumbledore and the Bloody Baron) could get the poltergeist to settle down for a while, though it would inevitably start acting up again. Dolores Umbridge claimed that the Minister for Magic could sign an order banning a poltergeist, and once threatened Peeves with this action. However, her statement may reflect her belief in the superiority of wizards in general and the Ministry of Magic in particular, rather than specific knowledge of the nature of poltergeists, and that her efforts would be wasted. Peeves is likely the only known exception to this course of action.
Comparison to ghosts
Whilst similar, poltergeists differ from ghosts in a number of ways. Firstly, ghosts are incorporeal, whereas the poltergeist, despite not normally having a physical form, is solid enough to move objects with physical force. Poltergeists have never once been living humans either. The latter trait indicates amortality, the condition of never having died and being unable to die, as one was never alive to start. Poltergeists with form have enough physicality that they can have gum fly up their noses, and they are vulnerable to some of the same jinxes as humans, including Langlock  and Waddiwasi. It is also possible that they can feel pain, but still not be physically injured.
"Poltergeist" comes from German poltern, which means "to make (loud) noise", and geist, meaning "ghost" or "spirit." The German plural form is "Poltergeister."
Behind the scenes
- It may be possible that poltergeists form from (and consequently feed on) the chaos of an area. If so then it may also be possible that - if their home were to be left desolate for long enough - a poltergeist would not die but simply cease to exist, at least until the locale became more active again.
- Fleur Delacour once stated that if a poltergeist was ever discovered in the Palace of Beauxbatons, it would be immediately expelled. This is impossible, however, as J. K. Rowling has stated a poltergeist cannot be driven by any means, from a location it has decided to haunt. As such, Dolores Umbridge's request to Cornelius Fudge to sign an Order for the Expulsion of Peeves from Hogwarts was also a complete waste of effort on her part.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film) (Cut from final edit (Peeves))
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game) (Peeves is mentioned)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Peeves is mentioned)
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (play) (Peeves is mentioned)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Building the Magical World
- LEGO Harry Potter: Characters of the Magical World
- The Queen's Handbag (Peeves is mentioned)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (DS/PSP versions only)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- LEGO Dimensions (Peeves is mentioned)
- LEGO Harry Potter
- Wizarding World
- J. K. Rowling's official site
- Harry Potter: The Character Vault
- Harry Potter Trading Card Game
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery
- Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
Notes and references
- Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Remus Lupin" at Wizarding World - "Lyall Lupin was a very clever, rather shy young man who, by the time he was thirty, had become a world-renowned authority on Non-Human Spiritous Apparitions. These include poltergeists, Boggarts and other strange creatures that, while sometimes ghostlike in appearance and behaviour, have never been truly alive and remain something of a mystery even to the wizarding world."
- Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Boggart" at Wizarding World - "Like a poltergeist, a Boggart is not and never has been truly alive. It is one of the strange non-beings that populate the magical world, for which there is no equivalent in the Muggle realm."
- F.A.Q. question on J. K. Rowling's official site
- Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Peeves" at Wizarding World
- 2005 Leaky Cauldron interview with J. K. Rowling
- 2007 Bloomsbury Live Chat with J. K. Rowling
- Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Remus Lupin" at Wizarding World
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 30 (Grawp)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 9 (The Midnight Duel)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 12 (The Triwizard Tournament)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 7 (The Sorting Hat)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 7 (The Boggart in the Wardrobe)
- Second W.O.M.B.A.T. test
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 19 (Elf Tails)
- "Poltergeist" on the Online Etymology Dictionary