Fact Check

Does a Photograph Show a Dementor-Like Figure in the Sky?

An image purportedly shows a gliding, wraith-like dark creature photographed in the skies over Zambia.

Published Mar 6, 2017

A 'Harry Potter Dementor' figure was photographed above a shopping center in Zambia.

Photographs purportedly showing a gliding, wraith-like, humanoid-shaped figure reminiscent of the "Dementors" from the popular Harry Potter series of books and films were circulated on social media in March 2017:

The photographs were published by the website Zambian Observer in an article reporting that this strange figure had been spotted in the skies above a shopping mall in Zambia. The article asserted that some locals ran away in fear, believing the figure was a manifestation of God, while others stayed to worship it. An alleged eye-witness was even quoted in the account account:

There was drama today in Kitwe at mukuba mall when a strange image that look like a human appeared in the clouds.

According to eye witnesses say the strange image that looked like a human was in the sky for over 30 minutes while looking down at the mall.

This forced people who were shopping scampering in different directions thinking that God had finally come.

“we were shocked to see images that looked like a human in the clouds for close to 30 minutes, others started worshiping but others ran away. It was so strange” said an eye witness.

Tabloid publications such as the UK's Sun and Daily Mail aggregated the story, adding some appeal by stating that the figure resembled a Dementor from the Harry Potter literary franchise:

Despite an "eye witness" account and two (unconvincing) photographs, there was no truth to this story.

The "Dementor" figure in the images appears to be a kite that digitally was added into an otherwise uneventful photograph of a cloudy day at a shopping mall. An photograph of this kite has been circulating online since at least 8 February 2017, nearly a month before it was "spotted" over a mall in Zambia. Although difficult to see, kite strings are visible in the original photograph:

We have not been able to locate the definitive source of the kite photograph, but it appears to be a "Spirit Man" kite designed by Martin Lester:

Floating like a friendly ghost, the Spirit’s legs swim as if it’s propelling itself aloft. A soft kite with nothing to assemble or break, it stuffs into a 8" x 10" sack. Crafted of nylon sailcloth by Martin Lester himself this 20-ft long figure soars gracefully in surprisingly light winds. Great for night flying when its spookiness really comes alive. 2-ft. spinning drogue tail included. Wind range 4 to 24 mph. Use 100-lb. Dacron line.

The news article also stated that this "Dementor" hung in the sky over a shopping mall for nearly 30 minutes. If this were true, we would expect to find additional photographs or videos documenting the sighting, yet only two images purportedly captured the ghostly figure.


The Zambian Observer.   "Strange Images Appear in the Sky in Kitwe."     1 March 2017.

Hargreaves, Fionn.   "Zambian Shoppers Run in Terror When Strange 'Harry Potter Dementor' Figure Appears in Clouds."     The Daily Mail.   4 March 2017.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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