Is there any canon information on how Professor Binns is able to keep up with books/papers or grade student's home works? As a ghost - he shouldn't be able to use spells even if he is unable to physically touch stuff. It has been suggested on wikia that he used students to grade the papers for him. But what about end of year exams, OWLS or NEWTS?

  • No canon information. He probably has an assistant. Commented May 9, 2014 at 6:23
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    Burn the papers. He can then handle and grade the ghosts of the assignments. Commented May 9, 2014 at 9:43

2 Answers 2


While I give no credence to the wikia, in addition to what Richard has outlined, in Chamber of Secrets Professor Binns is able to open his notes without assistance:

Today was as boring as ever. Professor Binns opened his notes and began to read in a flat drone like an old vacuum cleaner until nearly everyone in the class was in a deep stupor, occasionally coming round long enough to copy down a name or date, then falling asleep again. He had been speaking for half an hour when something happened that had never happened before. Hermione put up her hand.
Chamber of Secrets - page 113 - Bloomsbury - chapter nine, The Writing On the Wall

If Professor Binns is able to handle his notes by opening them up -- I imagine he opened up a folder of some sort -- I don't see why he wouldn't be able to open a book and turn the pages. Accordingly, Professor Binns would just go about his daily business as any non-ghost would -- this is how he would get things done.

In Chamber of Secrets, chapter eight, The Deathday Party, Nearly Headless Nick "shook his letter open and read furiously" when he was rejected from the Headless Hunt. As well, the Deathday Party has "hundreds of translucent people" including an orchestra of about thirty who are playing musical saws.

And, while not a ghost, but a poltergeist, we all know that Peeves handles object frequently (And with unrelenting malice!).

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    In OOTP - Nick says ghosts are wizards who leave an imprint of themselves to walk palely where their living selves once trod. So I assume the Binns left HIS notes as a part of that imprint. Also in the Deathday party - it is clearly stated that the letter was transparent - sent by the ghost Patrick Delaney-Podmore. I expect a similar imprint was left by the orchestra to have them playing saws. If we can hear them talking it IS safe to assume we can hear them singing/playing instrument
    – mustard
    Commented May 10, 2014 at 6:35
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    I have a feeling JKR never heard a vacuum cleaner. It's significantly louder than any human (or ghost) Commented May 10, 2014 at 13:31
  • @mustard -- Regarding Professor Binns, I don't think we can say with certainty that his notes are an imprint. While he did die in the staff room, it doesn't indicate he was holding his notes when he died: He had simply got up to teach one day and left his body behind him in an armchair in front of the staff-room fire; his routine had not varied in the slightest since. Good points, though. I'll poke around and see if I can find anything more substantial. :) Commented May 10, 2014 at 15:47
  • We do see examples of ghosts not being able to interact with the physical world. Sir Nick requires Peeves’ help to knock over the Vanishing Cabinet, and he floats through the food at his deathday party (rather than picking it up and putting it in his mouth). All the instances you note here seem to me most likely to involve ghostly items which belong to the limbo world rather than the physical world. How those items come to exist (are there bookshops in the limbo world?) is unknown, but they do seem to me to be separate from the physical world. Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 22:29

The short answer is that we don't know.

The image below (from Pottermore) suggests that he's not able to turn book pages since the books on his desk are covered in dust and cobwebs. While there are a few brief references to him shuffling his "notes" in PoA and GoF, there's no reason to imagine that these aren't simply part of his ghostly personae (e.g. like Nearly Headless Nick's various ruffs).

That said, since ghosts are perfectly capable of interacting with solid matter, it's possible that he could mark OWLS and NEWTS (as well as parchment essays) without the assistance of a student helper, prefect or another teacher.

As any teacher knows, the actual teaching of lessons is only one part of a Professor's role. In order for him not to notice that he's dead, he'll need to be nearly drowning in paperwork at all times.

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