- "Black ghostly horse, cloaked figure with bony white hands… Not a dementor. No. But probably just as foul. A shade, that is. Born from the spirit of a person who dies a terrible death — who dies with hatred and malice in their hearts — who dies with a curse on their lips — that is what is said to give birth to a shade. They're loathsome creatures who feed off of the life of living things. They won't suck your soul out. They won't devour your physical body. No, they generate fright, and kill you with it. The life force of those who die in fright feeds them and makes them stronger. In that way, they're worse than a dementor."
- —Description of a shade[src]
A Shade (known as the North American dementor in Europe) is a non-being and Dark creature, and a possible distant relative of both the dementor and the lethifold. Shades are much like ghosts, in that they are the creation of a human spirit. Unlike ghosts, however, shades are created when a person dies in a fit of hatred and malice — it is also implied that the person dying must be a wizard or witch, as their creation is the result of a terrible curse. They kill by inducing overwhelming fear, which sends their victim into a state of cardiac arrest. A victim who dies in this manner can then have their life force harvested to feed and strengthen the shade.
The Magical Congress of the United States of America actively combats these creatures, containing them to dense woodlands away from large No-Maj populations, however, the occasional wandering shade is capable of escaping Congressional attention and killing both No-Majs and wizards alike. Like their distant cousins, the dementors, shades are also known to affiliate themselves with wizards and witches who practice the Dark Arts, and are highly valued by such dark individuals for the fear they command.
As a type of non-being, shades cannot be killed through conventional methods, though like dementors and lethifolds, they can be held at bay with the Patronus Charm. Their lifespan is dependent upon the strength of the hatred and malice present at the moment of their creation, meaning they do eventually die.
Origins and mythology
Despite being attributed to the North American continent by magihistorian Jacob Kingston, shades might have originally had a much wider range. They bear a great resemblance to the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse in Jewish religion and mythology.
- "Shades — like many creatures who inhabit this land — began with the Native Americans. Born from death, from hatred itself, shades would stalk the nomadic tribes across the land: spreading fear wherever they went. The first European witches and wizards to come to the New World named them after ghostly creatures familiar to them from their own mythology. The Natives, however, refused to give a name to beings of such horror and revulsion — afraid that to create such a name would bring a dreadful Taboo upon them all."
- —Jacob Kingston[src]
Shades first appeared in North America with the arrival of the early Native Americans. They were so feared by the Natives, that they weren't given a name.
It was early European witches and wizards who eventually named them after ghost-like creatures from their own mythology. Oddly enough, they were simply known as the "North American dementor" in Europe proper.
Despite their similar appearances, shades and dementors have several noticeable differences. Whereas dementors are known to have faces, and even mouths, shades do not have a physical body.
They manifest as a dark, hooded figure, and only darkness resides within their hoods. They can also manifest white, skeletal hands from the sleeves of their black cloaks. Because of this manifestation ability, they also take on a humanoid shape, but this shape is restricted to the likeness of their former self (i.e., whomever they were in life). It is notable, however, that while they can resume the form of their living self, this form will appear to be in a state of decay.
Shades have no legs or feet, as they body generally dissolves into a black smoke-like substance towards the extremities. Despite this, they have the unusual ability to ride on spectral horses, known as shadowmares. Unlike dementors, and more like ghosts, they are capable of becoming incorporeal, which allows them to pass through solid structures, such as walls.
Nature and behavior
- "A person traveling in the Black Forest would do well to beware. Sasquatches are far from the worst creature inhabiting these woods. The North American dementor, as the Europeans call them, more commonly known as the Shade, stalks the darkest shadows beneath these trees. If they catch you, make no mistake, you will become fuel for the greatest scourge upon this land."
- —Description of a Shade[src]
Shades can suck the energy out of their immediate surroundings in order to shapeshift or even to manifest themselves to No-Majs, who would usually be unable to see them. Doing so causes the air to become chilled, similar to the effect caused by a dementor, though without the dread-inducing qualities that dementors bring with them. They can soundlessly fly and glide, an action that has been compared to watching smoke drift through the air, at a variety of speeds. They are sentient, carrying with them the intelligence of the person they used to be, though they are incapable of things such as speech. This makes them far more dangerous than a dementor or a lethifold, who are motivated out of greed or hunger.
Though they are not known to be social, nor to form emotional attachments, groups of shades tend to form. Known as "hunting parties" or "packs," these shades will use their numbers to harvest a greater number of lives. It is also more common for these groups to be on horseback, whereas a standalone shade will typically resort to flight and gliding to get wherever they need to go. The reason for this difference is not presently known to the Wizarding community.