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Murder of the Riddle family

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Riddle House
Murder of the Riddle family
Event information

Riddle House, Little Hangleton, England, Great Britain


Summer 1943

"Voldemort Stupefied his uncle, took his wand, and proceeded across the valley to 'the big house over the way.' There he murdered the Muggle man who had abandoned his witch mother, and, for good measure, his Muggle grandparents, thus obliterating the last of the unworthy Riddle line and revenging himself upon the father who never wanted him."
—Description of the Riddle murders[src]

The Murder of the Riddle family was committed by the future Lord Voldemort in 1943, when Riddle ventured to his parents' hometown of Little Hangleton in order to learn more about his heritage. When Riddle learned from his maternal uncle Morfin Gaunt that the former's father was a Muggle, the younger Riddle proceeded to the Riddle House and murdered his father, paternal grandfather, and grandmother with the Killing Curse. The next morning, the rest of the villagers were genuinely stunned by the murders, despite their general disgust with the Riddle family. The local police were baffled by the murders, though Frank Bryce was initially blamed. The Ministry of Magic, however, immediately recognised that the crime had been committed by a wizard, but arrested Morfin Gaunt, who had a history of abusing magic to torment Muggles for his own amusement, for the crimes.

This massacre turned out to be a pivotal event in Wizarding history, as this was the first known murder that Riddle had committed. In addition, the deaths of the elder generations of the Riddle family would become the prelude of the anti-Muggle campaign that the youngest Riddle would lead as Lord Voldemort. Finally, this would lead to the creation of his second the second Horcrux.



"All he had to go upon was the single name 'Marvolo,' which he knew from those who ran the orphanage had been his mother's father's name. Finally, after painstaking research, through old books of Wizarding families, he discovered the existence of Slytherin's surviving line. In the summer of his sixteenth year, he left the orphanage to which he returned annually and set off to find his Gaunt relatives."
—Voldemort's quest to find his relatives[src]

Around 1925, Merope Gaunt, the mother of the younger Tom Riddle began to have romantic feelings for a man named Thomas Riddle, a Muggle who lived across town in the Riddle House. When Merope's father and brother discovered this, Morfin cursed Riddle with hives to make him less appealing to his (Morfin's) sister. Marvolo reacted by proceeding to choke his daughter for her lack of allegiance to the Gaunt family beliefs about Muggles.

For these and other crimes, the Gaunt men were arrested by the Ministry and were sentenced to Azkaban. Afterwards, Merope seduced Riddle with Love Potion and married him. When Merope became pregnant with their son, she ceased giving the elder Riddle the Love Potions out of a vain belief that Tom would genuinely love her. Upon regaining his free will, the elder Riddle abandoned his pregnant wife and returned to his family home. Merope, however, managed to find an Wool's Orphanage, where she gave birth to their son. Shortly thereafter, Merope died, due to the heartbreak of her husband's abandonment.

The younger Riddle then spent the first eleven years of his life in the orphanage, completely unaware of the existence of the Wizarding world. In 1938, Riddle's future enemy Albus Dumbledore visited the orphanage to inform Riddle of the latter's acceptance into Hogwarts. Immediately after this, Riddle became convinced that his father was a Wizard and that his mother was a Muggle out of the belief that the latter could not have died if she was a witch. Upon entering the school, Riddle became concerned about learning about his heritage. After learning of his descent from Hogwarts co-founder Salazar Slytherin, Riddle became interested in pure-blood supremacy and the Dark Arts. In particular, Riddle became obsessed with the creation of Horcruxes. In addition, Riddle began painstaking research on his father's name before eventually accepting that he had never set foot in Hogwarts. With only his middle name, "Marvolo", to go on, which he knew from the orphanage was his maternal grandfather's name. After researching through old book of wizarding families, Riddle learned of the surviving Gaunt line and in the summer of his sixteenth year, set out for Little Hangleton to find his relatives. This would provide an unstable mixture for Riddle's adult personality and led to terrible events.


"Meanwhile, in the village of Little Hangleton, a maid was running along the High Street, screaming that there were three bodies lying in the drawing room of the big house: Tom Riddle Senior and his mother and father."
—After a mid finds the bodies of the Riddle family[src]

Morfin Gaunt telling his nephew the truth about the former's heritage.

In the summer of 1943, Tom Riddle visited the village of Little Hangleton after tracing the source of his middle name. He first stopped at the Gaunt shack, only to find his maternal uncle Morfin Gaunt, who had long been released from Azkaban. Morfin, upon seeing his nephew, threatened him with a knife and wand, believing the boy to be his father. Even though Riddle did not disclose his identity during this meeting, Riddle spoke Parseltongue to calm Morfin down. The two then discussed the whereabouts of Marvolo Gaunt (who had died years before), the elder Riddle, and Merope Gaunt. When Morfin revealed to Riddle that his (Riddle's) father was a Muggle, Riddle Stupefied his uncle and stole his wand and the Gaunt ring.

Riddle then proceeded to the Riddle House and found his father, grandfather, and grandmother in the drawing room. It is unknown if there were any words exchanged with the Riddles, but the youngest Riddle used his uncle's wand to cast the Killing Curse on his father and grandparents. Riddle then returned to the Gaunt shack and altered Morfin's memory, causing Gaunt to believe himself to be the murderer.


"You stand, Harry Potter, upon the remains of my late father. A Muggle and a fool... very like your dear mother. But they both had their uses, did they not? Your mother died to defend you as a child... and I killed my father, and see how useful he has proved himself in death [...] "
—Lord Voldemort on the murder of his father[src]
After the attack, the Riddles' maid ran across the town, screaming about the corpses of the Riddle family. The Muggle police were confused about the deaths of the Riddles, since there were no visible signs of damage on any of the bodies. The deaths of the Riddle family greatly shocked the other denizens of Little Hangleton, despite the fact that most of the villagers resented the Riddles for their arrogance and wealth. The Riddles were later interned in the town cemetery. Since it was unknown that Tom Riddle, Sr. had sired a son, the Riddle House was purchased by a succession of owners, none of whom ever physically occupied the House. In addition, the police at the nearby town suspected Frank Bryce, the Riddle family's gardener, of being the murderer. Bryce remembered seeing "a dark-haired and pale" teenage boy climbing the hill on the night of the murders, which the police did not believe at first. Even though the police dropped the charges due to lack of evidence, the cloud of suspicion hovered about Bryce for the rest of the life until he himself was murdered by the same teenage boy (by then known as Voldemort), decades later.

However, the Ministry instantly deduced that a wizard must have murdered the Riddles. The Ministry's first suspect was Morfin Gaunt, who had cursed the younger Riddle nearly eighteen years before. Upon being interrogated, the Ministry did not bother to use Legilimency or Veritaserum. Morfin, still under the effects of the False memory charm, confessed himself to be the murderer and willingly allowed himself to be arrested. All that had bothered him was the fact that he lost his father's ring, which were said to be his last words. Morfin then spent the rest of his life locked up in Azkaban. Meanwhile, Tom Riddle began to wear the Gaunt ring as a trophy around Hogwarts. He would later use the ring as one of his Horcruxes, and hid it away in the Gaunt shack.

Little Hangleton graveyard Pottermore

Little Hangleton graveyard

Over half a century later, Riddle, by then known publicly as Lord Voldemort returned to the Riddle House while being tended to by his servant Peter Pettigrew while discussing the former's return. When Voldemort's plan came into fruition roughly a year later, Pettigrew used some of the bones of Tom Riddle, Sr. as part of an ancient potion that returned the Dark Lord to his former glory. Immediately afterwards, Voldemort told Harry Potter, who was kidnapped as part of the same ritual, about how he killed his (Voldemort's) father and paternal grandparents.

Before the 1996-1997 school year, Albus Dumbledore, while researching possible locations for Voldemort's Horcruxes, decided that a good hiding spot would be the abandoned Gaunt shack. Dumbledore was correct, as he had found the Ring Horcrux, which also contained the Resurrection Stone. During the course of that year, Harry and Dumbledore discussed the Riddle's family murder and other areas about Voldemort's past in order to learn about the Horcruxes.


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