Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Characters/Professor Binns

Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Character
Professor (Cuthbert) Binns
Gender Male
Hair color Pearly grey
Eye color Pearly grey
Related Family Unknown
Loyalty Truth



Professor (Cuthbert) Binns is the History of Magic professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He is the only professor who is a ghost. It is believed that he sat down in front of the staff room fireplace, fell asleep and died; the next day, his spirit simply got up and went to class, leaving his body behind. Initially he was unaware he was dead, though apparently was quite shocked upon learning he was no longer alive.

Role in the Books

Beginner warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

Professor Binns' only function in this book is to teach History of Magic and put the entire class to sleep. That year, Binns taught his first years about historical figures such as Uric the Oddball and Emeric the Evil, which Harry and Ron always managed to confuse.

Hermione convinces Professor Binns to tell the class about the Chamber of Secrets; this upsets him because it is a myth, rather than concrete facts. However, he does explain what the myth says, which is instrumental in the later discovery of the actual chamber.

According to Professor Binns, Hogwarts' four Founders had a falling out. One, Salazar Slytherin, believed the school should only accept students descended from wizard families. The other three Founders strongly disagreed, believing Muggle-borns and Half-bloods should be allowed to study magic. Slytherin then left the school for good, but not before he supposedly created a secret chamber and housed a monster within. Legend claims the Chamber can be opened, and the monster can be controlled, only by Slytherin's true heir. Binns goes on to say that headmaster after headmaster has searched the school, and none found so much as a secret broom closet. Angry at having his lovely historical facts interrupted by this legend, Binns then refuses to speak any more about it, and the class once again subsides into boredom.

Professor Binns' only function in this book is to teach History of Magic and put the entire class to sleep.

Professor Binns' only function in this book is to teach History of Magic and put the entire class to sleep.

Professor Binns' only function in this book is to teach History of Magic and put the entire class to sleep. It is in one of these classes that an injured Hedwig appears at the window; Harry brings her in, excuses himself from class saying that he needs to go to the Hospital Wing, and carries Hedwig off to the Staff Room, where he hands her over to Professor Grubbly-Plank to have her healed.

As neither Harry or Ron received a passing grade on his History of Magic OWL, they no longer attend History of Magic, and Hermione, whether or not she has chosen to drop the subject, never mentions it; thus, Professor Binns has no role in this book.



He manages to put the class to sleep (particularly Harry), very effectively.

He acquired much knowledge during his long lifetime, though he does not seem to have added to that knowledge significantly since his death.



Binns never seems to be particularly aware of his class, or even of the outside world, and what is going on in it. It is uncertain if he has even updated his curriculum since he passed away. Whether this is because he is a ghost or he was also this way in life is unknown. Binns seems to be a particularly ineffective teacher. Harry thinks that the subject material in his class, the Giant Wars, might have been far more exciting if it was taught by a different instructor.

Relationships with Other Characters


Being a ghost, Binns seems relatively detached from flesh-and-blood characters. As there are no references of him appearing among the other ghosts, it seems that he has no special interest in them either. His only interests apparently lie in teaching his classes. Although this requires that he be attentive to his students, his interaction with them appears to end as soon as they leave the classroom. He is even unable to remember his students' names. When Hermione Granger asks about the Chamber of Secrets, he initially does not recall her name, then addresses her as "Miss Grant," calls Seamus Finnigan "O'Flaherty," and addresses Parvati Patil as "Miss Pennyfeather." He also calls Harry Potter "Mr. Perkins" when Harry goes to the Staff Room with injured Hedwig.



Professor Binns, being a ghost, shares many features common to all ghosts mentioned in the series. Significant analysis of ghosts appears on that page.

It would appear that the only book in which Professor Binns is at all important to the plot is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Presumably any character teaching History of Magic could equally serve the purpose here. Professor Binns also has a tiny role in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, where Hedwig's appearance at the classroom window is only noticed because the class itself is so dull.

It is never explained why History of Magic is taught by a ghost; we can only speculate that the author thought it would be an interesting conceit to have an effectively dead subject taught by an effectively dead teacher. There is also no explanation for the confusion of names that Professor Binns displays in his one useful interaction with the class; he does seem to get the initial letter of the student's name right (for instance, Parvati Patil becomes Miss Pennyfeather). It is possible that he is simply recalling the names of students that he taught when he was alive, conflating him with the students he finds in front of him.



Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

  1. The story of Professor Binns' origin does not tally with what Nearly Headless Nick says about the origin of ghosts in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — see Ghost for details. What do you think really happened?
  2. Professor Binns shuffles his notes on several occasions. Ghosts are unable to interact with material objects. Does Professor Binns have ghostly notes as well? How does Professor Binns mark exam papers?
  3. Did Professor Binns choose to become an Earth-bound ghost rather than "moving on"? Explain.

Greater Picture

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

At first glance, there does seem to be some difference between what Nearly Headless Nick says about how ghosts are created, and what we know about Professor Binns. However, there is more similarity than it initially appears. Ghosts are created when a person feared dying or was unprepared for death. They choose to haunt the Earth rather than "go on". Professor Binns was probably not expecting to die at that time. He was a long-time teacher and passed away in the staff room waiting for his next class. His dedication to his vocation caused him to arise as a ghost and carry on as a teacher. Death for him would mean shirking his duties, something unthinkable.

We can also speculate about the notes he seems to be carrying. It may be possible that his notes are part of his ghostly persona. Other ghosts keep their clothing and accessories, and we hear several times that Nearly Headless Nick arranges to change the ruff that he wears, so why should Binns not keep his class notes? The fact that they make noise when handled by Binns is no more strange than hearing ghosts talk and converse. The fact that his "ghost notes" cannot be updated might explain why Hermione once commented that they never learn any History of Magic newer than the late 19th Century; presumably that is when Professor Binns died.