Besides the Basilisk, what kind of Dark Magic can cause someone to be Petrified?

‘She has been Petrified,’ said Dumbledore (‘Ah! I thought so!’ said Lockhart). ‘But how, I cannot say ...’

‘Ask him!’ shrieked Filch, turning his blotched and tear-stained face to Harry.

‘No second-year could have done this,’ said Dumbledore firmly. ‘It would take Dark Magic of the most advanced –

Chamber of Secrets - page 108 - Bloomsbury - chapter 9, The Writing On the Wall

I have always wondered why Dumbledore didn't know immediately that there was a Basilisk within the castle. This is mainly due on my part to the fact that Dumbledore understands Parseltongue, and I (meaning just me -- YMMV) think he should have been able to hear the Basilisk running around in the pipes, hissing about killing and blood and death, and surely would have known a Basilisk causes a person to become Petrified¹. The above passage seems to suggest there are other types of magic aside from a magical creature -- Dark Magic, clearly -- that can cause a person to become Petrified. We have Petrificus Totalus as an example of a body binding charm. Is there any explanation in the books or from J.K. Rowling, or on a credible Harry Potter website, as to what other kinds of magic causes Petrification? A spell or charm? A potion? Eating a certain kind of plant?

¹It does occur to me that perhaps cases where Basilisk victims were petrified, instead of outright killed, had never been documented before, which is why Dumbledore didn't consider a Basilisk immediately. Basilisks are so lethal; the circumstances that caused each of the Basilisk victims in Chamber of Secrets to be only Petrified instead of killed were all very unique: Colin's camera, water reflection, a hand mirror, Nearly Headless Nick, etc.

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    It is a reasonable assumption that if a Death Eater were to conjure a massive volcanic eruption that covered the victim in in ash (6ft or more), in 2 to 10 million years the subject would become completely petrified.
    – John O
    Dec 8, 2012 at 20:06
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    Petrificus Totalus is Dark Magic now? These new MofM regulations are killing us. Dec 8, 2012 at 22:52
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    Hermione's use of a hand mirror indicates to me that the petrification caused by indirect sight must have been documented somewhere for her to find in the Hogwarts library.
    – PeterL
    Jan 14, 2013 at 21:01
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    @PeterL: Not necessarily. At this point, she knew a Basilisk was at play, and that nobody had died by directly looking at it. She may have been able to work out that using a mirror would prevent death when looking at the Basilisk.
    – alexwlchan
    Jun 23, 2014 at 5:39
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    @GabeWillard: I'm quite sure the body-binding curse doesn't Petrify you: when Draco Malfoy casts it on Harry, Harry can still hear what Draco says to him, whereas Madam Pomfrey says there's no point talking to a Petrified victim.
    – b_jonas
    Dec 9, 2014 at 8:28

1 Answer 1


I’m not sure how canonically accepted this is, but the PS3 game Wonderbook: Book of Spells (which does have J.K. Rowling’s approval) suggests that a Gorgon can cause petrification. This is consistent with contemporary mythology; Gorgons cause petrification, the most famous example of which is the Medusa.

Of particular interest is this poem, which describes the adventures of Gormless Morgan:

The Gorgon was fearsome and clever
(Two things that poor Morgan was never).
By staring alone
She could turn men to stone
So they'd have to be statues forever."

— Miranda Goshawk, The Rhyme of Gormless Morgan

Morgan was a hunter who was hired to capture the gorgon, but as the poem describes, he was unsuccessful and ends up turned to stone.

Gorgons are almost never mentioned in the books or the films, except when Hagrid cries “Gallopin’ gorgons” in Chapter 4 of Philosopher’s Stone. (A phrase uttered when he realises that he’s forgotten to send a letter to Dumbledore.) I’m not sure if this qualifies for inclusion in the canon, but perhaps with the game reference the two are enough.

When Mrs. Norris is discovered, Lockhart mentions the Transmogrification Torture. However, it’s clear that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, so the links between this and petrification are dubious at best.

Otherwise petrification isn’t really mentioned, so far as I know. Indirect basilisk stare and direct gorgon sight are the only two canonical sources.

Brief speculation and thoughts on your other comments:

  • At Mrs. Norris’ petrification, Dumbledore is at the Halloween feast. At Hermione’s, he’s on the way to a Quidditch match. Perhaps he never heard the basilisk because he just wasn’t in the vicinity.
  • The second-years learn about Mandrakes, which are apparently used to cure petrification. Why teach that at such an early age if the magic to invoke it is dark and rare?
  • Perhaps Dumbledore’s lack of knowledge about basilisks is just because they’re poorly documented in general. They’d be difficult to study, and illegal to breed. The incidents in Hogwarts could be the first instances of petrification by basilisk. (I’ve read PeterL’s comments. I always read that as Hermione working out how the petrification worked, rather than reading it, but I could be wrong. The copied-out book page we see in the film doesn’t mention it, although I don’t have the book to hand so I don’t know how well it matches.) Although we’re never told what exactly happened when Riddle released the basilisk - were there petrifications then?

Finally, why did nobody ever ask Moaning Myrtle how she died? Knowing that she saw a pair of eyes floating by a sink that never works seems like useful information that could have been really useful in identifying the basilisk. And where were the Hogwarts maintenance staff for ~1000 years?

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    +1 for a well-thought answer. The "Hogwarts maintenance staff" is probably the House Elves, which we see frequently.
    – Kalissar
    Jul 2, 2013 at 12:17
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    I can't believe this answer doesn't have more upvotes! It's great -- thanks. +1 and accept. :) Feb 17, 2015 at 2:16

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