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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 is the disembodied spirit of a once-living wizard or witch. Only magical beings can become ghosts. Many ghosts take up residence within Hogwarts Castle. These fleshless spirits were either afraid of death or have some extraordinarily strong connection to the locations they haunt.


Physical appearance

In their paranormal state, ghosts are unable to have much physical influence. They are visible, and appear as a greyish-silver apparition of their former (living) selves. They pass through solid objects without damaging themselves or the material, but create disturbances in water, fire and air. The temperature drops in the immediate vicinity of a ghost. Their appearance can also turn flames blue.[1]


"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 is the transparent, three-dimensional imprint of a deceased witch or wizard, which continues to exist in the mortal world. Muggles cannot come back as ghosts, and the wisest witches and wizards choose not to.[1] It is those with 'unfinished business', whether in the form of fear, guilt, regrets or overt attachment to the material world who refuse to move on to the next dimension.[1]

Having chosen a feeble simulacrum of mortal life, ghosts are limited in what they can experience. No physical pleasure remains to them, and their knowledge and outlook remains at the level it had attained during life, so that old resentments (for instance, at having an incompletely severed neck) continue to rankle after several centuries.[1] For this reason, ghosts tend to be poor company, on the whole. They are especially disappointing on the one subject that fascinates most people: ghosts cannot return a very sensible answer on what it is like to die, because they have chosen an impoverished version of life instead.[1]

Depending on the conditions of the person's soul, they may not be able to return, as Tom Riddle's self-mutilated soul is trapped in limbo for eternity and cannot become a ghost.


In passing through an object, they may impart a sensation of icy coldness. However, they are apparently moved by gusts of wind, as demonstrated when a petrified Nearly Headless Nick was wafted to the Hospital Wing by a large fan, although this may have been possible due to his petrified state. Ghosts are either capable of, or pretend to be capable of, almost being able to taste rotten food.

They are also weightless and may fly in any direction. Ghosts cannot be destroyed, however, they may be petrified with the gaze of a Basilisk. This can be reversed by a Mandrake Restorative Draught, although the method of administration is unclear. Ghosts may also be repelled by magical light, and therefore will retreat from a Wand-Lighting Charm.[2][3] Ghosts can also be frightened and retreat from a Skurge Charm, which will also clean up any ectoplasm that they have precipitated.[4]

Ghosts in the wizarding world

Witches and wizards are much more susceptible to what Muggles call paranormal activity, and will 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]

The Ministry of Magic seems 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. The Spirit Division is the division of the Department for Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures deals with ghost welfare.

Deathday Party Pottermore

Nearly Headless Nick's deathday party

Ghosts also appear to celebrate their deathday, as Nearly Headless Nick did so on October 31st in 1992. They tend to be very sensitive concerning the circumstances of their death, often showing great hesitancy when asked by others how they died. What seems to be a typical deathday Party entails a candlelit dinner of rancid, mouldy food, the smell of which would cause a normal living creature to gag. The only people normally invited to a deathday party are no longer living,

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

Hogwarts ghosts (left to right): Slytherin House Ghost, Bloody Baron; Hufflepuff House Ghost, Fat Friar; Gryffindor House Ghost, Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington; Ravenclaw House Ghost, Helena Ravenclaw

Each House at Hogwarts has a patron ghost. Each of these ghosts once belonged to their corresponding House. They apparently serve as a representative to their House, as well as serving the role of messenger or guide to those who are still unfamiliar with the House they were sorted into. It is unknown for how long they may retain this title.

Gryffindor House

"I know nothing of the secrets of death, Harry, for I chose my feeble imitation of life instead..."
Sir Nicholas
The Gryffindor House ghost is Nearly Headless Nick. He is known as a friendly ghost who was nearly beheaded, but the job was poorly executed, which was how he obtained the nickname of "Nearly Headless Nick". He prefers to be addressed as "Sir Nicholas". His real name is 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.[5]

Hufflepuff House

The Hufflepuff House is haunted by the Fat Friar, who was executed because senior churchmen grew 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.[6] Though a genial character in general, the Fat Friar still resents the fact that he was never made a cardinal.[7] He also frequently suggests that Peeves should have a second chance, whether or not he deserves it.

Ravenclaw House

The Ravenclaw House ghost is the Grey Lady, also known as Helena Ravenclaw. The least talkative of the house ghosts the Grey Lady, who is long-haired and beautiful.[8] She was the daughter of Rowena Ravenclaw, making her the only house ghost to be directly related to one of the four Hogwarts founders. She is renowned for being instrumental in assisting Harry Potter in the search for the Horcruxes.

Slytherin House

The Slytherin House ghost is the Bloody Baron. He is well known for being extremely unsocial and many students, including those of his own House, are known to be slightly afraid of him. The Baron is also the only one known to be able to control Peeves. The Bloody Baron is responsible for the death of Helena Ravenclaw as well. He was a hot-tempered man when he was alive.

Known ghosts

Behind the scenes

Screenshot 898
  • In the video game Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup, a ghost named Edgar Clogg haunts the Quidditch pitch and provides coaching.
  • Professor Amberose Swott may have become a ghost after death as he appears in a portrait at Hogwarts, but also on the Marauder's Map.
  • According to W.O.M.B.A.T., ghosts may have the ability to move liquid or gas.
  • The ghosts Edmund Grubb, the Black Knight and The Toad were cut from final drafts.[9]
  • 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 Killing 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. It's unknown when the Friar died. 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."
  • According to Rubeus Hagrid, many ghosts like lily flowers.
  • According to Pottermore, ghosts exist worldwide. Most ghosts reside in Great Britain. And the most haunted place in Great Britain is Hogwarts Castle.
  • The presence of a ghost turns flames blue, according to Pottermore. In the muggle world, a blue flame is very hot, hotter than yellow ones. Ghosts are, however, described as making the environment cold.
  • Unlike other ghosts in the films, the Grey Lady is able to turn into an wispy ball of light.

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)."


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