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.
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.
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.