He clearly has a sense of sight, he responds to auditory stimuli so he has a sense of hearing, but does he ever react to a smell? Does his beheading being the method of death affect any of his senses?

  • 1
    I think you mean, nearly beheading
    – Adeptus
    Jan 28, 2016 at 5:55

2 Answers 2


I shall answer for ghosts in general, as there is no reason to believe that any one ghost's ability to smell is different from another's.

The one example of ghosts detecting odors that comes to mind is at Nick's deathday party:

Harry watched, amazed, as a portly ghost approached the table, crouched low, and walked through it, his mouth held wide so that it passed through one of the stinking salmon. "Can you taste it if you walk through it?" Harry asked him. "Almost," said the ghost sadly, and he drifted away. "I expect they've let it rot to give it a stronger flavor," said Hermione knowledgeably, pinching her nose and leaning closer to look at the putrid haggis. (from Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 8)

This does not give us a definitive answer, but it would seem to imply that ghosts do lack the sense of taste, yet are able to simulate that sense by appealing to their sense of smell instead. This is logical, as smell and taste are closely related senses.

Thus it would seem that ghosts do have the ability to smell. As the ghosts do not seem to react as aversely to the aroma as the trio does, however, it may be that the sense is somewhat subdued compared to the sense of smell in a human — or perhaps they are simply so desperate for another taste of food that they are more willing to tolerate the smell.

  • 1
    Good citation. I think that passage is strongly suggestive of ghosts having a sense of smell, albeit with two comments: that they don't use the language of I smell to quantify a smell (i.e. it's implied by taste+smell link, which I agree with) and that Nearly-Headless Nick is, well, decapitated (nearly) which I wonder if affects any of his senses.
    – Dave
    Jan 28, 2016 at 4:37
  • Well, Nick is certainly able to see and hear fine, so I don't see why his sense of smell would be affected. I concede that ghosts may not actually be smelling anything and are in fact "sensing" the food's flavor in a different way, but you can still call whatever they're doing smelling. Jan 28, 2016 at 4:44
  • It also occurred to me that smelling is also kinda tied in with breathing, which... I mean, do they, really? Surely they make motions to breathe and sigh but does the air actually move, I wonder.
    – Dave
    Jan 28, 2016 at 4:47
  • Well, we know that ghosts are able to manipulate air from the Pottermore article on them. And even for humans, smelling doesn't require breathing, per se, merely the movement of air; we smell when we inhale and molecules from whatever we're smelling stimulate neurons at the back of our nose, but those molecules don't have to go all the way to our lungs for us to detect them. As long as the air gets to the ghosts somehow and they are able to feel it, they could potentially be able to smell it. Jan 28, 2016 at 4:56
  • Right, exactly. I think the ability to manipulate air, a blunted sense of taste, and Hermione's comment all correlate to suggest at least a blunted sense of smell.
    – Dave
    Jan 28, 2016 at 5:05

The Pottermore article on Ghosts says that they can not experience physical pleasure:

Having chosen a feeble simulacrum of mortal life, ghosts are limited in what they can experience. No physical pleasure remains to them

Although the Deathday Party in Book two does kind of imply that Ghosts can somewhat experience smell.

I expect they've let it rot to give it a stronger flavor.

  • I wonder if an unpleasurable smell would trigger the same response as a pleasurable one.
    – Dave
    Jan 28, 2016 at 4:40

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