In the graveyard scene in Goblet of Fire, when Voldemort's and Harry's wands connect, Priori Incantatem occurs (i.e. Voldemort's wand spits out the last spells it has performed). First, Wormtail's sacrificed hand emerges from the tip of Voldemort's wand, followed in order by Cedric Diggory, Frank Bryce the Riddle House caretaker, Bertha Jorkins, Lily Potter, and James Potter. They are able to converse in present time with Harry, and appear to have thoughts and desires - Cedric wants Harry to take his body back to his parents; Frank Bryce muses that Voldemort actually was a real wizard.

From Goblet of Fire - Chapter 34 - Priori Incantatem - British Hardcover edition:

At once, Voldemort’s wand began to emit echoing screams of pain ... then – Voldemort’s red eyes widened with shock – a dense, smoky hand flew out of the tip of it and vanished ... the ghost of the hand he had made Wormtail ... more shouts of pain ... and then something much larger began to blossom from Voldemort’s wand tip, a great, greyish something that looked as though it was made of the solidest, densest smoke ... it was a head ... now a chest and arms ... the torso of Cedric Diggory.

If ever Harry might have released his wand from shock, it would have been then, but instinct kept him clutching his wand tightly, so that the thread of golden light remained unbroken, even though the thick grey ghost of Cedric Diggory (was it a ghost? It looked so solid) emerged in its entirety from the end of Voldemort’s wand, as though it was squeezing itself out of a very narrow tunnel ... and this shade of Cedric stood up, and looked up and down the golden thread of light, and spoke.

‘Hold on, Harry,’ it said.

In Deathly Hallows when Harry opens the Snitch and accesses the Resurrection Stone, Lily, James, Sirius, and Lupin come to him, but it's made clear in the text that these incarnations of Harry's loved ones are a part of his mind and soul and are not ghosts (to Harry, they most resembled in form Tom Riddle from Tom Riddle's diary Horcrux) Also, it's evident throughout canon that neither James nor Lily remained as ghosts (neither feared death)

Harry had no personal connection to Wormtail's hand (aside from the fact it was used in Voldemort's resurrection potion), Bertha Jorkins, Frank Bryce, or even much of one with Cedric Diggory (they weren't chummy throughout Goblet of Fire, although polite to one another)

So what kind of specters does Priori Incantatum produce? Are they some kind of ghost? If not, what kind of spectral presence would they possibly be?

ETA: 01.07.12 The answer to this question is indeed in Goblet of Fire. I'm leaving this question open, though, for someone to answer if they find the information. Go check Goblet of Fire guys! :)

  • +1 - great catch! Though I'm afraid this one will end up being a mistake on JKR's part. Dec 30, 2011 at 19:59
  • I scoured the text and did find the answer. But I'm going to leave the question as is, to give others the opportunity to answer it, instead of just doing an ETA :) Jan 1, 2012 at 16:48
  • if you mean Harry discussing the difference between PI and RS in HP7 right after they escaped Xenophilius's house and talking whether the Hallows are just a story, I'm not sure that answers it Jan 2, 2012 at 8:25
  • No, that isn't what I'm referring to :) Jan 2, 2012 at 9:10

2 Answers 2


Another type of spectre, in particular, what Dumbledore calls an "echo," something less than a ghost.

Dumbledore explains this phenomenon to Harry and Sirius after Harry escapes from the Little Hangleton graveyard:

"Priori Incantatem", [Dumbledore] muttered.
"Which means ... that some form of Cedric must have reappeared."
Harry nodded again.
"Diggory came back to life?" said Sirius sharply.
"No spell can reawaken the dead," said Dumbledore heavily, "All that would have happened is a kind of reverse echo. A shadow of th living Cedric would have emerged from the wand... am I correct, Harry?"
"He spoke to me," Harry said. He was suddenly shaking again. "The... the ghost of Cedric, or whatever he was, spoke."
"An echo," said Dumbledore, "which retained Cedric's appearance and character..."

Goblet of Fire, p. 697-8, 1st Am. Ed.


I don't think there's a canon answer.

That exact scene had a more glaring blooper (James appearing after Lily Potter in original editions, though she should have been the last one); as well as another problem that I jut noticed: somehow the Priori Incantatum effect ending with Potters instead of producing yet more magic preceding their deaths).

By the way, your question brings up another inconsistency - the Resurrection Stone "spirits" in DH book are clearly stated to be creatures of Harry's mind/soul; whereas the original Bard's tale has the Stone produce an actual feeling creature for a Cadmus Peverell - she was said to have been suffering, so she was more like an unwilling ghost.

As such, I'd stipulate that the only retcon possible is that the mechanism for Priori Incantatum can similar to that of one mode of Resurrection Stone's operation (descibed in Tales), by retrieving part/whole of a person's soul from afterworld - they are both stated to be "more solid than a ghost" - independently of the person's desire. However, the Stone can also create a "simulation" of the person as in HP7.

  • 2
    In the original printing, James appeared before Lily, due to a mistake by the editor. It was fixed in later runs.
    – Izkata
    Dec 31, 2011 at 1:42
  • Nice catch on finding the reverse order ghosts.
    – RichS
    Jul 22, 2017 at 15:45

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