In the wizarding world, it's possible to come back as a ghost, and remain in the world we know. Since ghosts are rare, it can be deduced that most people wouldn't choose to become one, but some of the Death Eaters might have feared death enough to consider it. In addition, the Death Eaters who died all died before the Dark Lord himself did, so why didn't the more devoted ones decide to come back to help him?

  • 3
    What can ghosts do?
    – CHEESE
    Apr 25, 2017 at 23:07
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    How do you know they didn't come back as ghosts? The final chapter of book 7 doesn't mention them, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen.
    – Tim
    Apr 25, 2017 at 23:24
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    Ghosts aren't above the law either.
    – ibid
    Apr 25, 2017 at 23:25
  • see also scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/160721/… (it is my similar question, I didn't notice this question when I asked mine, yet it was asked recently -- strange)
    – TGar
    Jun 3, 2017 at 10:29
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    @Tim The burden of proof lies on those claiming something exists and not those who claim it doesn't. So your comment is a logical fallacy. Hermione rightly points this out to Lovegood. And.. of course there's the famous Russell's teapot... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell%27s_teapot
    – Pryftan
    Sep 22, 2018 at 22:54

4 Answers 4


I think there are actually several different possible answers we can formulate based on the evidence presented to us within the books.

TL:DR It's a super big and terrible commitment for some mischief


It’s actually entirely plausible that after his years at Hogwarts Voldemort publicly denounced the ghost ‘life’. His entire life was devoted to increasing his power and finding a way to live forever. I think we can say with utmost certainty that if he regarded life as ghost with any amount of respect he would have chosen to continue on as a ghost himself.

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. Pottermore – Ghosts

I believe the most damning piece of evidence we have towards Voldemorts dislike of the ghost form would be ‘their knowledge and outlook remains at the level it had attained during life’, this alone I believe would be enough to turn Voldemort away from the use of the ghost form.

Now whether or not he publicly denounced them in the presence of the Death Eaters is a different story so lets take a look at a few reasons why they wouldn’t want to regardless of Voldemorts feelings.

Possibility of already feeling ‘Ghostlike’

It’s entirely possible that after their time in Azkaban each of the Death Eaters would feel as if they have already been a ghost. Each of them has seen the Hogwarts ghosts before and even from the outside it is very easy to see similarities between life in Azkaban and life as a ghost.

We know that in Azkaban the prisoners are effectively perpetually tortured through a sort of magic enduced depression . They are alone in their cells but even they can have some form of physical pleasure in the form of food. I’m sure it’s not a five star meal but it’s better than hovering near moldy food like at the deathday party.

The smell was quite disgusting. Large, rotten fish were laid on handsome silver platters; cakes, burned charcoal-black, were heaped on salvers; there was a great maggoty haggis, a slab of cheese covered in furry green mold

Personally the food choices alone would be enough to put me off but that aside I’d certainly be able to draw similarities between my incarcaration in Azkaban and the purely existence driven life of a Ghost. In Azkaban your punishment is living and as a Ghost you have to live with your choice not for the rest of your life but for the rest of, well, ever. For witches and wizards who have grown up with Ghosts for their formative years and spent a large chunk of their life in prison feeling the despair they saw so often on the faces of the resident Ghosts that are fuelled primarily through their own left over resentment. (see earlier quote)

Next I’m just going to cover the general attitude towards Ghosts in the Potterverse.

Ghost racism

The castle is a congenial place for ghosts, because the living inhabitants treat their dead friends with tolerance and even affection, no matter how many times they have heard the same old reminiscences.
Pottermore – Hogwarts Ghosts

From this quote we very much get the impression that life outside the grounds of hogwarts is mostly an unpleasant experience they can only be seen by witches and wizards.

Let’s take a prospective look at how common ghosts are in the world of Harry Potter.

Hogwarts is the most heavily haunted dwelling place in Britain Pottermore – Hogwarts Ghosts

Hogwarts has six ghosts and one poltergeist now other than Hogwarts we actually have no other references to ghosts at any point in the series (Other than the deathday party, onto this later). The oldest of these ghosts would presumably be the Grey Lady daughter of one of the founders of Hogwarts. After One thousand years of existence Hogwarts has only collected six ghosts. This, to me, seems extremely low given its date of inception and its reputation amongst ghosts.

Now in the deathday we have to take this quote as the best answer for the amount of Ghosts currently ‘living’ in Britain.

The dungeon was full of hundreds of pearly-white, translucent people

Presumably in Harry Potter wizards have been around for as long as muggles have been around.

permanent settlements were only established within the last 6,000 years - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/England#History

We will take the 6000 years as a semi-accurate presumption for when the first wizard also appeared.

Now the populations would not have been as large back then but it’s certain that there would be more than a couple hundred ghosts formed over the past 6000 years if not for the clear stigmatism surrounding them and mainly becoming them the witches and wizards of the UK have been growing up with at least one ghost for one thousand years and it’s often stated that no smart person would ever take that route.

Cursed Life

I’m also wondering what they’d be capable of doing other than inflicting a spook upon some pupils and making the more temperature sensitive students flee in a shivering mess. This seems like a pretty small amount of mischief to cause based on the commitment it takes.

  • Can ghosts even eat? I had the impression the food was merely decorative, and potentially left over from a previous party/parties (hence it's mouldiness). Haven't read that bit for a while, I might be wrong... May 31, 2017 at 19:43
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    It was intentionally obtained for the death day party, they cannot eat but they can taste only the most disgusting of food. @macellothearcane May 31, 2017 at 23:13
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    If by with any amount of respect he would have chosen to continue on as a ghost himself you are referring to his final defeat (which would be the only time he would do so) it's because he couldn't. His soul was ripped apart, remember? And Harry even warns him of what he'll become. That's when he suggests to Voldemort for trying for some remorse. That of course outraged Voldemort but Harry had seen what Voldemort would become. So he couldn't return as a ghost even if he wanted to.
    – Pryftan
    Sep 22, 2018 at 22:57

First, being a ghost is vanishingly RARE, given the population of wizards. Hogwarts, with its many ghosts is supposed to be the most haunted place in Britain.

Second, well, frankly if you had failed Voldemort (and if you died, yes, you likely did) how badly would you want to come back and serve him? What's scarier. Death, or coming back to Voldie after having failed him? In a form that he might find a way to torment for an eternity?

Third, most of Voldie's followers were not very loyal, mainly they were out for themselves or afraid. If you're talking Bellatrix--she'd want to stay with Voldie and protect him, but if he's dead, well...no unfinished business, there. Now if you are talking Barty Crouch Jr.--he is actually the BEST candidate for coming back as ghost to serve ol' Vold, however, special circumstances surround Barty's death, if you recall. His soul is sucked out his body in a Dementor's Kiss. Pretty sure there's no ghosting back from that.

Fourth, besides the rarity, most "unfinished business" can be taken care of quickly. Not all of it, certainly, but much. So they might pop back to give Voldie a message and then consider business finished.

Fifth, I am not sure what the rules are on where ghosts can go, how they can travel and how much energy that takes. The question is, how much use CAN they really be in that form? They can no longer use magic, and most can't even pick up a fork. The only thing they actually can do is intelligence, and even then--they frickin' GLOW. As far as wizards are concerned, how much can they do?

Last of course, under how much power do they really have, there is an example of a ghost being chastised by the ministry:

Following her death, Myrtle returned as a ghost so she could haunt student Olive Hornby in revenge for her teasing and insults. Olive went to the Ministry of Magic to restrain Myrtle, who was thereafter obliged to remain at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Moaning Myrtle ghost stalked Olive Hornby but didn't do much else. And the ministry shut it down. We have no evidence of ghosts being able to use the magic they could when living.

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    And if the ministry restrained Myrtle to Hogwarts, why not restrain Death Eaters to Azkaban? May 31, 2017 at 19:45
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    Brilliant pun in the first sentence. Thanks.
    – Pryftan
    Sep 22, 2018 at 23:00

According to J. K. Rowling, to become a ghost, a person must choose to do so:

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.

Even if they did come back, they would be of no use to Voldemort:

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.

In the books, we aren't actually told whether any Death Eaters return or not. It could be assumed that some did, but they would then be harmless, and easily expelled.

So while its likely that most Death Eaters did not become ghosts, some very well may have done.


I don't really think death eaters would come back to help Voldemort. Because they all were terrified of him, and I honestly think they would have been glad to have gone. Take Lucius Malfoy for example. He was just scared of Voldemort. But then again there are people like Lestrange who adored the Dark Lord.. But I think knowing he was dead, she didn't want to come back.

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    Bellatrix's duel with Molly Weasley happened before Voldemort's death. So him being dead couldn't have been her reason.
    – Obsidia
    Jun 11, 2017 at 5:01
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    @Bellatrix That depends on how long it takes to ghost. If she's waiting in "the Kingscross Station" (or whatever her equivalent) and he dies, she might know it. Or she might be in the process of coming back, but then floats into oblivion once she finds out. As far as I can tell it's not instaghost? I don't actually know, but time does pass before the ghost appears. Jun 28, 2017 at 22:15
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    @ErinThursby I don't think it's ever mentioned how long it takes to become a ghost, but I'm not sure. No one ever became a ghost during the seven books (all the ghosts were ghosts before we met them) and I don't think anyone mentioned how long it takes between death and a ghost appearing. Maybe it was mentioned when Harry was waiting for Sirius and hoping he'd return as a ghost, but I don't remember that.
    – Obsidia
    Jun 28, 2017 at 22:20
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    I checked the part of "Order of the Phoenix" where Harry was hoping Sirius would come back as a ghost, and neither Harry nor Nearly Headless Nick mention how long after their death it takes for someone's ghost to appear if they choose to become one.
    – Obsidia
    Jun 28, 2017 at 22:28
  • @Bellatrix I would argue that it would be immediate or almost immediate. When Harry 'dies' in the forest he's taken to the limbo area. He could have gone on but he chose not to. Now I don't know the process of being a ghost nor do I think anyone else does but if we presume (as it's probably likely) that it's as quick as deciding to go on or return (in Harry's case it was different as he wasn't actually dead) they would be back then and there. Something tells me that if Harry was actually dead the way he returned would have turned him into a ghost. And yes Bella died first indeed.
    – Pryftan
    Sep 22, 2018 at 23:03

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