What Are Ghosts? – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 8

Happy Halloween, Muggles and Mocha!

Okay, I know it’s not Halloween here, but it is in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets! Halloween is one of my favorite holidays in the Harry Potter universe because we get feasts (of course), floating pumpkins, ghosts… all the spooky stuff! And luckily, this chapter gives me the opportunity to talk about one of these fun topics: GHOSTS.

First, as always, this article and video will be full of *SPOILERS.*

Today, in honor of Halloween—and Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington’s 500th Deathday, of course—we’re going to focus on ghosts in the wizarding world. What ghosts are, why people become ghosts, what their lives (or existences) are like now… and more!

Before we begin, as fun as it would be to recount the history of ghosts in our culture(s), the information out there is VAST. So we’re only going to concentrate on the ghost culture in Harry Potter.

Check out the video for this week below. It includes actual musical saws… for real. Who knew?

In chapter eight of this book, Harry and the gang get the opportunity to attend Nearly Headless Nick’s Deathday Party. Along with introducing us to characters like Moaning Myrtle, this scene also does some world building for us, teaching us more about the wizarding world and how it operates. While we’ve been briefly introduced to ghosts and learned a little about them from the first book, this is the first time we really dive into “their world” and see them in action.

While Harry, Ron, and Hermione are at the party, they have a less than enjoyable time, to say the least. They’re confronted with rotten food, horrible music, a freezing temperature (one of my least favorite things), and more. What gives? Before we can take all this apart and learn what this scene teaches us about the world of ghosts, we have some questions to address…

What is a ghost? How does one become a ghost?

In extra reading about the Harry Potter books, we learn that ghosts are “three-dimensional imprints of a deceased witch or wizard.” This means these ghosts are exact copies, both physically and in their personalities, of the person who died. However, this also means ghosts are kind of “stuck.” They aren’t like a living being in that they don’t have the ability to grow or change. It’s as if someone took a wizard picture of someone then somehow took them out of the photograph and let them walk around.

Because of this, the ghosts we see in the wizarding world are fixed in the same emotional states as when they died. While they can experience emotions and even relationships in some ways, they constantly come back to the same emotions or character traits, no matter how many years it’s been since they passed. Two prominent examples of this we get in the books are Moaning Myrtle and the Bloody Baron.

As we’ll discover in this book, Myrtle died after she ran away, crying, from bullies into the bathroom. Even now, she continues to be known to cry and cry and constantly accuses people of bullying her. For the Bloody Baron, he’s silent, grim, and honestly horrifying. But the story of his death is so tragic, it’s not difficult to imagine why, especially with what we’re learning about ghosts being in such a fixed state. He murdered his fiancée then committed suicide out of remorse for what he’d done. As we can see, this is something that will haunt him for the rest of his haunting days.

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Next, how do people become ghosts? 

In the books and extra articles about the series, we learn this can happen due to a couple of reasons. People come back as ghosts because of “unfinished business,” whether it be fear, guilt, regret, an extreme attachment to the material world, or a refusal to move on to the next life. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if there’s some sort of spell you can also use to ensure this or if it’s something that just naturally happens in the face of these factors. As with Horcruxes, it’s something that’s never fully explained.

This brings us to a bit of a sadder topic—Sirius Black. One of the only times we get a deeper insight into ghosts in the books is in Order of the Phoenix, when Harry chases down Nearly Headless Nick to ask him if Sirius will come back as a ghost. On a sidenote, this is one of my absolute favorite scenes in the entire series. Nick tries to explain to Harry that not very many people choose to come back as a ghost because it’s a cheap imitation of life… and that Sirius would have “gone on.” So perhaps it’s like when Harry “died,” and was confronted with Dumbledore at Kings Cross Station—maybe some decide to stay but don’t have the chance to inhabit their physical body, as Harry did. These people become ghosts.

Of course, this is all just speculation.

On another note, this is really comforting concerning Sirius. Like Nick seems to be, I’m glad he didn’t become a ghost. This means he died without these things: without fear, guilt, regret, or unfinished business. He died and was ready to move forward to whatever was next in Rowling’s world.

Photo by Heather Miller on Unsplash

That’s all I’m going to say about that for now, but know this—THIS TOPIC WILL BE DISCUSSED. Thoroughly. Especially since it’s one of my favorite subjects. There are articles and articles worth of material I could write about it, and maybe I will. We’ll see!

At the Deathday Party, we see people haunted by their past lives. They’re left wishing for the mortal world, and at first glance, they almost seem to be taking part in it.


But they’re separate, drifting, never able to truly be in the world. This is why we see the rotten food and terrible music. The things they used to take pleasure in have to be distorted extremely for them to even be able to experience it a little bit. They glide through rancid meat hoping to taste what they remember… but just like life, they can only almost taste it. They search for meaning but don’t have the means to grow and change, to actually experience life. It’s gone. And now they’re just hanging in some strange in-between.

Ghosts in Harry Potter are such a fascinating topic, even if it is a bit depressing. HOWEVER, this was still a fun article, and I’m so glad ghosts make up the fun characters of the Harry Potter universe. They make the cast even more colorful and, dare I say it… lively.

I know, I know. Cheesy.

That’s about all I have. Thanks for stopping by! The video for today was really fun also, so don’t forget to check it out. I talk about ghosts a little bit more, and Squibs, too! Also, you’ll see I ask an important question about Halloween festivities—please let me know if that’s something you’d be interested in!

Bye, Muggles! See you next week with chapter nine, “The Writing on the Wall.” It’s getting real in this sequel…

Disclaimer: I do not own any element of the Harry Potter series.


3 Replies to “What Are Ghosts? – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 8”

  1. I would pay SO MUCH MONEY to see Bishop shave his head and paint the blue arrow on his head! Let’s make this happen 😂

    I want to start out by saying that some Halloween festivities sounds fun! I doubt I’ll be dressing up this year, but if we can submit childhood costume photos then I might participate in a “costume contest” lol.

    I love the info you provided about ghosts in the Potter universe! I hadn’t heard that before, but it makes complete sense. It also emphasizes the partiality of that sort of life – it would never be one I’d choose for myself, and I’m also very glad that Sirius moved on! This also makes me feel (mostly) bad for all of those who did choose to come back as ghosts. This is pure conjecture, but I got to thinking about other characters who I could image coming back as ghosts and Gilderoy Lockhart came to mind. Whether he ever regained his memories or not, I think he’d be a perfect candidate for “ghosthood” – he either has crazy amounts of unfinished business (because he lost his memories) or he is so desperate to cling to this world for the fame that he stays. Either way, some might argue that that would be a fitting end for dear Mr. Lockhart.

    As for the Deathly party scene, I don’t particularly miss it in the movies. I think your points about it being very tangential and not essential to the plot are valid. This would have been “fluff” that unnecessarily extended the length of the movie. That being said, I do love having that level of detail in the books! It also makes meeting Moaning Myrtle a little easier for the gang, and allows you to “simmer” in the idea that she leads a pretty tortured afterlife.

    You mentioned something in passing in the video that I wanted to discuss/ask about: Peeves! I don’t know if this was said by mistake or not, but you indicated that Peeves is a ghost too. Actually our favorite (?) trouble-maker is a poltergeist, which means he isn’t a ghost! Apparently, poltergeists were never living humans, thus they can’t be classified as ghosts. Maybe this would be a good side topic for Halloween – I’d love to know more about what Peeves is and how he came to be! Assuming there’s enough material out there about him of course. I know that my mind was blown when I learned that he was never a real person…

    I don’t have too much to say about the end of the chapter, besides how ANXIOUS it makes me to reread it! I can’t imagine being caught looking so guilty when you haven’t even done anything wrong! Of course it was those three who it happened to… And right after Harry narrowly escaped Filch’s wrath also – we’re about to see that Filch isn’t going to be so “generous” this time around…

    One more thing before I go: Draco Malfoy is absolute garbage. I find it alarming that he responds in this way – his level of actual excitement and glee makes my stomach turn. Also notice that he immediately grasps what’s going on, and what the implications of that are. He has obviously heard about this plan from his father and find joy in both “being in the know” and in the idea that those without pure blood have been put on notice. Like I said, garbage.

    Excited for next week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my, I have to tell Bishop you said that. Maybe it will convince him, because I haven’t succeeded yet.

      Lockhart would DEFINITELY be a ghost! That’s a pretty fun game to play… who would be a ghost? I’m going to have to brainstorm some more.

      For Peeves, I just meant he was a character they talked to, not that he’s a ghost. I apologize if I misspoke! I’ve never studied up on poltergeists in this universe, but they do seem so interesting! That would be so fun for Halloween!

      Draco Malfoy IS garbage. I totally agree, haha! It’s kind of scary that he’s only twelve years old, too…

      See you next week!


  2. This was an informative chapter on ghosts. I agree, that it was no big loss that the death day party was left out of the movies. I really hated that Harry and his friends had to miss the Halloween feast.

    Liked by 1 person

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