Do we know from the books if there is a limit to the number of victims one can control through the Imperius curse?

In Deathly Hallows, after the defeat of Voldemort, it's implied that all the Imperius victims were under his influence:

The Imperiused up and down the country had come back to themselves

If so is it because Voldemort is an exceptionally powerful wizard or is there no limit? I was thinking maybe the magical numbers (3, 7, 12…) could be the limits.

I'm digressing a bit, but can the Imperius victims be ordered to cast the Imperius curse without losing effectiveness, thus creating a chain reaction? (A sort of “Russian doll” effect)

  • 3
    THis is probably not referring to all the people that Voldemort imperiused himself. In fact, i doublt Voldemort would go all over the country imperiusing people himself. This probably means the victims of his followers. Once the morale of his followers broke, or once they were captured, the people they had imperiused came back to their senses.
    – user13267
    Apr 6, 2014 at 4:06
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    Alternatively, taking that quote as is (because the words around it could imply otherwise) it may be a bit of sarcasm or similar. Mr Malfoy pretended to be Imperiused if I remember rightly during the previous war, and it could be that this is saying those that were helping Voldemort but in a position to get away with it "came back to their senses", as in, "Oh, Minister, what happened? My minds all a blank!"
    – Mac Cooper
    Apr 7, 2014 at 12:06
  • If every person in the chain imperiused two people we would get n people in the structure but it would only take log2 n steps to get from the person on the bottom to the original caster. Such structures are fragile and not as usefull as it seems.
    – Deltharis
    Dec 30, 2014 at 15:20

2 Answers 2


Was Voldemort directly responsible for every Imperius victim?

Just as Voldemort was unlikely to be directly involved in a lot of the murders under his reign, so I think he probably didn’t use the Imperius curse except on really key people. (For example, ranking Ministry officials or members of the Order.)

This is something confirmed in interview by JKR:

Will Lord Voldemort get more “screentime” in the upcoming books?

JKR: You will see him again, but like most evil dictators, he prefers his henchmen to do his dirty work.

Most of the Imperius victims across the country were under the control of Death Eaters on Voldemort’s orders. Many of these Death Eaters would have been killed or injured in the battle of Hogwarts, which could easily break the curse. Those who survived were probably captured or scattered. Either way, the Imperius curses were probably released.

(And anybody under Voldemort’s direct control would have been released when he died.)

How many people can one individual control with Imperius?

I don’t think canon gives particular limits for the curse. It probably depends on the magical ability of the person casting the curse, and the degree of control over/resistance from the victim.

(Speculation follows)

In Goblet of Fire, Barty Crouch Jr (posing as Moody) uses the Imperius curse on many students in quick succession, at no apparent cost. Assuming most magical folk have similarly low levels of resistance, it seems plausible a powerful witch or wizard could curse multiple victims without too much of a mental burden on themselves.

The degree of instruction probably matters as well. Micro-managing a second person’s life is probably quite draining, but keeping them controlled with an instruction of “go about your normal life, act as if nothing is wrong” until further notice probably isn’t.

For example, Malfoy keeps Madam Rosmerta under the curse for several months (at least from October 1996, the cursing of Katie Bell, to June 1997, the eve of Dumbledore’s death). Her instructions were probably fairly mild – poisoning a bottle of mead, attacking a single student, otherwise acting normally. (Although perhaps the curse needed refreshing every so often.)

Finally, I think we can assume that controlling somebody like Harry (an extremely capable wizard who could resist the control of Imperius) would be more of a burden than a more passive victim. I think it unlikely that a single person could control multiple victims who were putting up a good fight.

Could you get a chain of Imperius victims?

Yes. There is (at least) one example in the canon.

As stated above, Madam Rosmerta spends most of Half-Blood Prince under the control of Draco Malfoy. She in turn places the curse on Katie Bell, so we have a chain Malfoy -> Rosmerta -> Bell.

It’s plausible that this was used in other ways, to infiltrate important organisations – for example, curse a single person at the Ministry, and have them curse their colleagues. However, I don’t think this is ever explicitly described in canon.


We heard in The Goblet Of Fire how Barty Crouch lost control over his son over time. I would posit that the amount of people one can control with the Imperios curse is directly proportional to the power of the wizard. Duration of control would also come into play as the longer it goes on the easier it is for the victim to "break free".

I am not sure and cannot think of references to an Imperiused person(A) Imperussing(?)(B) someone else. Questions about this would be whether (A) was in control of (B) or whether (A) & (B) would be controlled by the person controlling (A) at time of cast.

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