46

It’s obvious in the book that the professors and other wizards searched the school a couple of times, trying to find the Chamber of Secrets. Why didn’t they discover it? I mean, I’m sure they searched in Myrtle’s bathroom, especially because she died there.

88

They didn't speak Parseltongue

Successive headmasters and mistresses, not to mention a number of historians, searched the castle thoroughly many times over the centuries, each time concluding that the chamber was a myth. The reason for their failure was simple: none of them was a Parselmouth.
Pottermore - Chamber of Secrets

  • 7
    If this is what the author herself says, then by fiat it's the right answer. However, it's extremely unsatisfactory for the reasons I spell out in the linked post. It is really out of character for Dumbledore not to be able to get to the bottom of it starting with asking Myrtle. After all, he was able to extract lots of information from various people about Riddle, that nobody else did, that Riddle himself thought remained secret. Myrtle is not the sort of character who would keep secrets if she is informed that what she knows may help to save others' lives. – user21820 Feb 23 '18 at 6:54
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    @user21820 - I think Rowling was more addressing why it wasn't ever found in the hundreds of years before Riddle foolishly opened it. – ibid Feb 23 '18 at 7:13
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    @ibid: If your guess is right, then that quote you cite does not address the question here, which is about why they couldn't find the chamber after Myrtle died, when Dumbledore surely had the capability to. Like I said in my linked post and in other comments there, it would be very difficult to patch this plot hole. – user21820 Feb 23 '18 at 7:22
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    @user21820 - The question here seems to be about both time periods. And Rowling's reason still applies. – ibid Feb 23 '18 at 7:35
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    @ibid: As I said, I've spelt out the reasons why it is a plot hole, word of author notwithstanding. Also, taken literally, her answer cannot be true, because Dumbledore certainly did not conclude that it was a myth after Myrtle died. In Harry's time, he even told the other teachers that the chamber has indeed been reopened, implying that he believed it was real. – user21820 Feb 23 '18 at 8:03
36

Hogwarts was good at hiding secrets.

Dumbledore only found the Room of Requirement after being headmaster at Hogwarts for a long time:

“Oh I would never dream of assuming I know all Hogwarts’ secrets, Igor,” said Dumbledore amicably. “Only this morning, for instance, I took a wrong turning on the way to the bathroom and found myself in a beautifully proportioned room I have never seen before, containing a really rather magnificent collection of chamber pots. When I went back to investigate more closely, I discovered that the room had vanished. But I must keep an eye out for it.
The Yule Ball - Goblet of Fire

Also, the Heir of Slytherin may have been a requirement. The message on the wall was:

"The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware."
The Duelling Club - Chamber Of Secrets

And when Professor Binns explains the finer details of the Chamber, he tells us that:

“Slytherin, according to the legend, sealed the Chamber of Secrets so that none would be able to open it until his own true heir arrived at the school. The heir alone would be able to unseal the Chamber of Secrets, unleash the horror within, and use it to purge the school of all who were unworthy to study magic.”
The Writing On The Wall - Chamber Of Secrets

It may have been necessary for the Heir to be at the school for the Chamber to be accessible, so searching when an heir wasn't there could have been fruitless.

The heir was present the second time through the proxy of Riddle's diary, and the only other known opening of the Chamber was when Riddle himself was there. I'm not sure if Voldemort's family went to Hogwarts, and they don't seem intelligent enough to discover the Chamber. I'm just speculating, but the presence of Slytherin's heir may have been needed for the Chamber to even be accessible.

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    The Gaunt family was able to open the chamber. Also, as demonstrated by Ron in book seven, the only actual requirement was speaking parseltongue. – ibid Feb 21 '18 at 21:13
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    @ibid oh thanks for that reference - is Pottermore considered canonical? Good point about Ron. Although could it have been possible that the fragment of soul in Harry's scar presented enough 'Heir'? – marcellothearcane Feb 21 '18 at 22:00
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    The Pottermore website is currently mostly full of low quality clickbait garbage, but they are the official host of a number of articles JK Rowling wrote as part of a failed encyclopedia project several years ago. (The articles from Rowling are labeled as such on top of the page and in the url.) The cannocity would probably depend on how you regard writing from Rowling outside the seven books. This website generally accepts "Word of God" information, but YMMV. – ibid Feb 21 '18 at 22:11
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    @TylerH Yes, I've wondered about that, too, actually - it seems different than other languages in the sense that you don't actually inherit other languages. You inherit the ability to learn them, but not the ability to actually speak them like you do with Parseltongue. Harry had never heard anyone else speak it, so he didn't learn it; in fact, wasn't even aware that he even spoke it at first and couldn't speak it without looking at a snake (although Voldemort and the Gaunts could apparently speak it consciously, at will, like you would with any other language). – EJS Feb 22 '18 at 15:37
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    @TylerH It is a very interesting question, actually, whether it was "learnable." Strictly speaking, Ron didn't actually learn any Parseltongue, he just imitated Harry's, but the fact that he was even able to do that much in the first place does seem to suggest that you might be able to learn it (at least to some degree). – EJS Feb 22 '18 at 15:39
14

This was briefly alluded to in one of the other answers, but it was evidently magically protected to make it difficult or impossible for anyone other than Slytherin's Heir to find it. (After all, that was the entire point of the Chamber in the first place). For example, given its absence from the Maurauder's Map, it may have been unplottable (although it's admittedly somewhat unclear if the map only showed the parts of the Castle that the Maurauders were actually aware of; apparently, it didn't include the Room of Requirements, either).

When Hermione asked Professor Binns about it, they had the following exchange:

"[The horror within the Chamber of Secrets]... is believed to be some sort of monster, which the Heir of Slytherin alone can control," said Professor Binns in his dry, reedy voice.
The class exchanged nervous looks.
"I tell you, the thing does not exist," said Professor Binns, shuffling his notes. "There is no Chamber and no monster."
"But, sir," said Seamus Finnigan, "if the Chamber can only be opened by Slytherin's true heir, no one else would be able to find it, would they?"
"Nonsense, O'Flaherty," said Professor Binns in an aggravated tone. "If a long succession of Hogwarts headmasters and headmistresses haven't found the thing -"
"But, Professor," piped up Parvati Patil, "you'd probably have to use Dark Magic to open it -"
"Just because a wizard doesn't use Dark Magic doesn't mean he can't, Miss Pennyfeather," snapped Professor Binns. "I repeat, if the likes of Dumbledore -"
"But maybe you've got to be related to Slytherin, so Dumbledore couldn't -" began Dean Thomas, but Professor Binns had had enough.

This was evidently correct - there were apparently magical protections in place such that it couldn't be found by anyone but Slytherin's Heir.

Of course, Harry was able to find it and open it because

he was one of Voldemort's Horcruxes, and Voldemort was Slytherin's Heir.

Ginny was able to open it because she was being possessed by Voldemort's diary when she opened it.

Also, as others have indicated, speaking Parseltongue was a very rare inherited ability that was strongly associated with the Slytherin family. As far as I can recall, the only actual examples in the series of people who could speak Parceltongue were Harry and various descendants of Slytherin. Dumbledore was evidently able to understand it to some degree, but wasn't able to speak it; Ron Weasley managed to open the Chamber of Secrets at one point, but only with a weak imitation of Harry's Parceltongue, and that was only after he already learned where it was and how to open it with assistance from Harry and Hermione - he wouldn't have been able to discover where it was or how to open it without help from a Parcelmouth like Harry.

11

In addition to the answers above, wizards in that universe are often single-minded and very bad at puzzles. In fact, the plot of Philosopher's Stone hinges on that fact. So, if the Chamber is said to be in the castle, it is very possible that they never checked outside or below.

10

They would need a Parselmouth (or somebody who can imitate Parseltongue, if such exist). A tap with just a snake design wouldn't attract much attention otherwise.

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    Parselmouth. Parseltongue is the language, parselmouth is the speaker. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Feb 21 '18 at 22:49
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    @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas though you are right that wording is wrong, Ron opened the chamber by just imitating Parseltongue. – bunyaCloven Feb 22 '18 at 8:25
  • @bunyaCloven well sure, in the same way that saying a few words in Chinese doesn't make me a Chinese speaker. It just means I can say a few words. I'm afraid I don't see your point. I was only commenting on the usage of the word "parseltongue" in the answer. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Feb 22 '18 at 14:27
  • I meant that you are right about the wording in the answer being wrong, and the comment is obsolete anyway since the answer is edited. – bunyaCloven Mar 5 '18 at 9:19
  • (or somebody who can imitate Parseltongue, if such exist) Ron Weasley imitated Parseltongue. No need to say "if such exist". – LincolnMan Mar 17 '18 at 15:24
6

In the "modern" era of the school, there is another part to the answer. If anyone had seriously investigated the death of Moaning Myrtle, learned that she died when a boy entered the bathroom and summoned a monster, it probably would have been found. Hagrid was blamed, but could his spider have killed her the way a basilisk does? Wouldn't she have recognized the step and voice of a half giant? And how would the spider have gotten into the bathroom?

But no one seems to have asked her. The secret was preserved because it was easier to blame the half giant, and no one cared enough about an annoying girl to press for a better answer.

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    This is a good point - it is curious that no one bothered to investigate her death. It's also very odd that Voldemort didn't do more to cover his tracks - after all, all the Trio had to do to find out was ask someone who already liked to talk about her death. Maybe Voldemort didn't expect her to come back as a ghost. – EJS Feb 23 '18 at 14:21
1

To drop another possibility, the Chamber itself was opened by Ginny via the diary. At that point it was then "open", and Harry - and later Ron - merely caused the entrance to be revealed.

Before that point, the entrance was (magically) sealed, presumably following the departure of Riddle from the school.

So even if anyone had looked for the entrance in the bathroom, it wouldn't have been apparent, and most likely even Dumbledore wouldn't have been able to bypass the protective charms laid down by Slytherin himself.

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    The implication in the question is that the teachers should have been magically advanced enough to find a magically hidden entrance. This does not answer the question so much as reiterating the scenario in question. – amflare Feb 23 '18 at 17:03
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    I like this answer as it makes a kind of sense. If the Heir is needed to unlock the chamber and Parseltongue is needed to open it, it would account for the lack of detection when the heir was not in residence and the chamber was locked. – KalleMP Feb 24 '18 at 10:04
0

From my understanding of having read the books, only the descendant of Slytherin or a Parselmouth could open the Chamber of secrets. The Gaunts(the family of Voldemort/Tom Riddle's mother) were the last direct descendants of Slytherin, and Tom the only "heir". Tom Riddle was able to open the chambers, and use the basilisk to do his bidding. Another point to note is that from the time of Tom Riddle to that of Harry Potter, no possible heir of Slytherin came to Hogwarts, since the last heir of Slytherin was Tom, and he had no children. Parseltongue is also equally rare.

From the movie adaptation of(and definitely the books, but I am a bit rusty when it comes to that) Chamber of secrets, since the creation of the room was about 1000 years before the timeline of the series, most adults regarded it as a myth, and hence, didn't go about looking for it,similar to the hallows.

When it comes to Myrtle,she was known to be a gossip, and maybe, her story of what actually killed her was (unjustly and quite wrongfully) thought of as her way to create more rumors, even in death.

Maybe these all together were the reasons why no one looked for the chambers.

  • 1
    Ron opened it and he's basically a nobody. – Valorum Feb 24 '18 at 15:28
  • Also, we learn from the extended writings that parseltongue is a very rare talent, but not one that's unheard-of. – Valorum Feb 24 '18 at 15:29
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    Yes, it is rare, and I have mentioned that. About Ron, he says he imitated Harry and got it right on one of the attempts. For anyone to attempt parseltongue, they would have to be in close contact with one, and since that was rare, maybe no one bothered learning(or imitating) it. While I agree that this is a possible loophole in the story, I just believe that more than being incompetent or unable, the Hogwarts teachers simply believed that it was a myth, and decided to not look for it. – user9388323 Feb 24 '18 at 15:32
  • At best guess there are several, potentially several dozen speakers at the time of the books – Valorum Feb 24 '18 at 15:34
  • Inconveniently, J.K.R. established in an interview that Dumbledore understood Parseltongue (it's implied that he learned it like a foreign language, so unless he's somehow much less capable than Ron Weasley of imitating snake-like sounds, he should have been able to say things in it too). – sumelic Feb 24 '18 at 23:36
-3

The entrance is one of the things that is problematic if everything goes according to canon.

If you assume -like some of fanon does- that there are evil underpinnings then:

  1. The headmasters knew where it was. but <insert excuse here> (ie. they had no desire to tackle a Basilisk. -but also- they could not fathom sealing the door to a restroom... yeah, hmm)

-or-

  1. The headmasters did not know where it was, and two students managed to discover it (Tom Riddle and Harry Potter), plus Ginny with Diary and Ron with unexplained loose end ability. The former two are hero/anti-hero leading roles so we can assume exceptionalism for story plot purposes.

Both have loose ends, 1. is more amusing if you allow for an Evil Dumbledore. 2. works for canon.

Ron opened it because:

  • He was a parseltongue all along. And Ron lied to Harry (and obliviated Hermione?) Ron's character becomes independently problematic inside canon in this case.
  • Dumbledore changed it so it does not require parseltongue, then told Ron how. And Ron lied to Harry (and obliviated Hermione?)
  • Hissing was all it took, the protections were weak and somehow nobody else did any hissing near there. Inside a girl's bathroom. In a school. Indeed.

Maybe I just like fanfiction that twists the plot to fill in the giant plot-holes a bit too much. The HP books are particularly good on having such loose ends, which fanfiction authors love to play with.

The possible canon answer

Other answers partially mentioned this: Tom himself*, Ginny had the Diary*, Harry had a scar* and Ron / Hermione were carrying the cup*. So we may assume that all is well with canon and some form of Soul magic was involved.

In this scenario you would be free to disregard the parseltongue problem. (But Word of God requires it, so..)

Only the heir can enter... or, sigh ...fine! yes, yes, a fragment of their soul will do.

  • 2
    Is there anything to this beyond speculation? Can you provide any canonical evidence for your points? – Edlothiad Mar 16 '18 at 21:17
  • I'm pointing out plot holes, how would this not be speculation? – Μάκης Παλάσης Mar 16 '18 at 21:35
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    You've posted an answer, you should be answering the question, not "pointing out plot holes" – Edlothiad Mar 16 '18 at 21:37
  • Most of what you say here is either wild speculation with absolutely no basis in canon, or is directly contradicted by it. You seem to be saying that if Parseltongue can be emulated by Ron, then any kind of random hissing will do, which is clearly contradicted by canon. Ron knew what Parseltongue sounded like, he knew exactly where the entrance was and how to activate it—he’d actually heard the precise words needed to open it uttered several times by Harry. Even with all that, it still took him quite a few tries before managing to emulate it well enough to get it right. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 16 '18 at 21:57

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