Scary Settings: Harry’s Underground Adventures

It’s the most spookiful time of the year! Harry Potter has some pretty frightening experiences in his time at and away from Hogwarts, and one of the many creepy elements of his escapades is that so many of them involve delving into the deep, dark depths of the earth. In addition to his regular jaunts into the Forbidden Forest, broomstick and Thestral flights miles above the ground, and travels on magical trains and buses, Harry must venture underground in each book, often during the climax or an otherwise high-stakes scene. It is beneath the surface where Harry must face some of his most terrifying challenges. Let’s explore his disturbing and exhilarating expeditions into what lies below…


1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry has two significant underground trips in the first book, which neatly bookend his first year in the wizarding world. First, he visits his vault at Gringotts Bank, as well as Vault 713, where the Sorcerer’s Stone lies, and in the penultimate chapter, he, Ron, and Hermione go “Through the Trapdoor” to save the Stone. The mystery begins and ends with a downward journey. It is under Diagon Alley and Hogwarts that questions are raised and answers are discovered.




2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

It’s another downward spiral, another confrontation with Voldemort, and another victory for Harry when he finally deduces the location of the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. This is a journey to the past as well as the depths of the school, taking Harry back fifty years to the last time the Chamber opened and a thousand years to the founding of the school. And of course, what would a dark, damp underground chamber be without a positively petrifying fanged monster?




3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry goes underground a few times in the third book with the help of the Marauder’s Map. Following Fred and George Weasley’s advice, he follows a tunnel from the statue of a one-eyed, humpbacked witch to the basement of Honeydukes in Hogsmeade. Later, he finds another tunnel connecting the Whomping Willow to the Shrieking Shack. The truth of the last 12 years comes out at the other end with transformations and confrontations.




4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

This time, Harry does not go underground, but underwater during the second task of the Triwizard Tournament, where grindylows and merpeople lurk. Still, the threat of underground lingers during the third task, in which the champions are enclosed within a maze that creates the effect of being trapped within the earth, and during his showdown with Voldemort in the graveyard, surrounded by the corpses buried all around him.




5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Tying in nicely with John Granger’s theory of the ring composition of the series, events begin to repeat in the second half. Parallel to the third book, the fifth book features Harry once again going underground in pursuit of Sirius Black. There is no glorious triumph for Harry in his foolhardy mission to the Department of Mysteries, located underground at the Ministry of Magic. The strange forms of magic hidden within are like the varied hijinks of a haunted house gone rogue, and Harry’s nightmares become reality.




6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The matching continues between Book 2 and Book 6, when Harry ventures into the earth once more because of a Horcrux. This time, it’s into the cave by the sea where Tom Riddle frightened other children from his orphanage and hid Slytherin’s locket, but like in Book 5, the journey is all for naught when the locket turns out to be a fake. As for Halloween, this place has everything: an entrance that only opens with a blood sacrifice, an invisible boat, and a lake full of Inferi waiting to drag you underwater.




7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

One of Harry’s last underground adventures of the series mirrors his first: It’s back to Gringotts! After reading the warning to thieves on his first visit and wondering if there might really be dragons guarding some vaults, Harry’s wildest imaginings come true when he breaks into Gringotts to steal Hufflepuff’s cup from Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault, is nearly buried alive by treasure, and escapes on the back of a dragon! Underground journeys are familiar territory to the trio now, as Ron and Hermione take a trip down to the Chamber of Secrets for basilisk fangs and join Harry for another prowl through the tunnel to the Shrieking Shack, where they witness Snape’s death.




Which of Harry’s underground adventures do you think is the scariest? Where would you want to spend Halloween for the fright of your life?

Laurie Beckoff

My Harry Potter journey began in 2000 when I was six and continued through a bachelor's thesis and master's dissertation on medievalism in the series. I'm a Gryffindor from New York City with a passion for theatre, fantasy, Arthurian legend, and science fiction.