As I understand, those places are not in some kind of alternate space/dimension, but physically in the real world, and the only protection is that if muggles get close, they feel an urge to go elsewhere and forget about what they've seen.

As the wizarding world has little or no ideas how computers work, how can they prevent automatic tools, like drones, satellites, etc. from seeing them, if they don't even know they exist? To make spells that effect computers and wipe specific pixels out of images would require a very good understanding of the highest muggle technology.

Or am I wrong, and there are other protections besides wiping the memory of muggles who wonder by? (like bending light, other dimensions - like how the knight express does it, etc?)

  • Nice question.. but, I think, if they made light approach impossible, then satellite cam will not work too.. – Baby Yoda Feb 5 '12 at 11:36
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    Well, I do not believe Google Maps existed yet during the time covered in the books, besides Deathly Hallows's epilogue, which was also written when Google Maps existed, but Rowling probably didn't think too much about it anyway. – trysis May 21 '14 at 18:52

I don't think that it matters (in other words, they didn't really need to make Hogwarts not visible on satellite view).

Hogwarts is in Scotland, which has a gazillion of old castles - I can't tell you how much because I didn't want to wait for pages-long Wiki page to load :)

So Hogwarts wouldn't exactly stick out.

And there's no discrepancy between having an old castle on a satellite image and having an old ruin up close that says it's unsafe.

Q: Can Muggles see Hogwarts ? (Melinda, 11, CA)
A: ... When they look towards it, as a safety precaution, they see a ruin with a sign saying it's unsafe. . .they mustn't enter. They can't see it as it really is.
("World Exclusive Interview with J K Rowling," South West News Service, 8 July 2000)

In addition, the events at Hogwarts preced wide availability of consumer grade satellite views (Google maps was started in 2005, and IIRC Satellite View wasn't there till 2007) - Harry was at Hogwarts 1991-1998

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    +1 for the last sentence! However, Hogwarts is still there, training the next generation ;) – ykombinator Feb 5 '12 at 13:36
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    @ykombinator - no it isn't. I got noticed by a couple of bored RAF sattelite technicians and was bombed into the ground :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 5 '12 at 13:51
  • Really, last sentence has point... impressive.. – Baby Yoda Feb 5 '12 at 18:18
  • +1 for both the quote and the last sentence remark. The world is indeed changing fast... – Ilari Kajaste Feb 5 '12 at 21:22
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    Makes sense. As we know that the muggle Prime Minister does know about wizards, maybe the Secret Service cooperates at least a little in keeping up the masquerade, to avoid creating panic. – vsz Feb 6 '12 at 5:44

Hogwarts is unplottable, so it can't be put on a map. Therefore, it can't appear on Google Maps or the like.

GoF ch.11, Aboard the Hogwarts Express:

"There's traditionally been a lot of rivalry between all the magic schools. Durmstrang and Beauxbatons like to conceal their whereabouts so nobody can steal their secrets," said Hermione matter-of-factly.

"Come off it," said Ron, starting to laugh. "Durmstrang's got to be about the same size as Hogwarts — how are you going to hide a great big castle?:

"But Hogwarts is hidden," said Hermione, ...


"And to keep foreign wizards from finding it, they'll have made it [Durmstrang] unplottable —"

Though only Durmstrang is explicitly called out as (most likely) unplottable, it's only reasonable to assume Hogwarts is similarly enchanted.

  • And what exactly forbids it? Do wizards know what magic spell to cast, to manipulate exactly those electrons that form exactly those pixels which should contain an image of Hogwarts? What if it has a jpeg compression? Does the spell understand it? It might be unplottable on a paper map, because a human who wants to draw it would be compelled not to draw it, (just like when they tried to move closer to it, they would feel an irresistible urge to go away), but unplottability on a map has nothing to do with photons reaching an electrical equipment outside the the range of the spell. – vsz Feb 6 '12 at 5:41
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    @vsz Magic forbids it. Wizards don't need to know how to manipulate the electrons, if necessary the magic does it. How does the magic "know" what to do? Magic, that's what magic is. Perhaps the photons going to the camera scatter and come from all different directions, or maybe they miss the satellite entirely. Perhaps Hogwarts (and anything else unplottable is simply in a void that doesn't exist in the space a map can map. There's no reason to suppose the way unplottability works will only work on people drawing maps. And most other maps are "outside the range of the spell". – Kevin Feb 6 '12 at 15:30
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    @Kevin: Magic does not work that way in the Harry Potter universe. It's not the Ring, where someone can know who watched a video no matter the format. And it's not in a pocket dimension, because even the author said that if a muggle looks that way from the distance, he'll see a ruined old castle, and his curiosity will be magically dampened to not go near to investigate. Even if magic would be controlled by a hyper-intelligent being, how do you define the word "map"? An aerial photograph is surely not a "map". It's more likely as DVK answered, it's disguised as an old lifeless ruin, that's it. – vsz Feb 7 '12 at 16:08
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    @vsz Why do you think magic doesn't work that way? The aerial view is overlaid by a map, so if it were in the photograph, it would appear on a map, and so not be unplottable. My guess is it sort of squeezes into and out of existence as you get further away, like the Leaky Cauldron, 12 Grimmauld Place, etc. – Kevin Feb 7 '12 at 16:35
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    Marauder's map is not a map then? – Zikato Jun 7 '15 at 19:26

If you pay attention Google already does alter some images or makes the pixels so low you cannot see it. Many rural areas uses default imagery which is very crap so likely Hogwarts would only be a tiny dot you wonder what it is when trying to zoom in.

The magic wards would not effect machines because machines will not have the urges humans have to go away especially since the aerial photography is out of range for the magic wards to produce any effects. Even if the aerial photography using drones were within range they still would not stop any drones since the spells only effect human emotions. ' Automatic drones do not think so therefore they CAN NOT have that urge to go the other way and if the onboard computer chips are well protected by the outside frame the magic EMF currents will not mess them up.

For fun a street view tour of Hogwarts would be exciting if they let someone with one of the Google 360 degree backpack cameras to hike around the castle taking in the pictures when no students are there such as in the summer time.

Maybe do it two times where one visit is in the daytime and the other at night with all the lights on showing all the common rooms empty of kids and classrooms.

  • I guess the Prime Minister has the authority to forbid Google from making high-resolution images from particular areas, because of "national security". This is why we see military installations or other secret stuff heavily blurred. – vsz Feb 7 '15 at 11:42

Very good thoughts, so I'll only add that it was stated somewhere that technical stuff tends to malfunction in the presence of magic. It works not only for Hogwarts, but the other 'paranormal' sites as well.

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    Fair point, but that effect seems to be related to proximity; like how microwaves interfere with wifi. If satellites in geostationary orbit are close enough for their circuits to be scrambled by magic, that must be an enormous area of effect – Jason Baker Jun 7 '15 at 17:01
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    @JasonBaker - I wouldn't make any sense. We see electronics operating mere feet from the 'unplottable' Grimmauld Place. – Valorum Jun 7 '15 at 17:46

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