Back to Africa Check

Don’t believe images of satanic figures reading to children – ‘Baphomet Book Club’ photos are AI-generated

IN SHORT: Artificial intelligence may lead to exciting innovation, but it also has a dark side. It’s been used to generate images of children taking part in “satanic education rituals” which are spreading on social media in South Africa. But these images don’t show reality.

In May 2023, a series of images were circulated on social media in South Africa appearing to show young children in a library, surrounded by satanic imagery. 

In the images, the children appear on a library floor, sitting around a pentagram, the five-pointed star often associated with the occult, being read to by demonic-looking figures or wearing costumes and horns. 

The scenes, according to some posts, supposedly show the “Baphomet Book Club”. 

The photos were posted to Twitter here, here, here, here and here, with some being viewed thousands of times, including this one with over 19,000 views. 

The photos were also published on Twitter as a TikTok slideshow, some with a narrator speaking about the spread of Satan and calling on people to pray, such as here, here and here

The pictures were also posted on Facebook here, here, here and here

One of the posts warned: “Satan isn’t hiding anymore.” 

Baphomet is the name of an invented idol or deity, often associated with Satanism. 

Another, posted by a member of local political party the African Christian Democratic Party, raised alarm about Satanism in the South African education system. 

“Parents you need to protect your children!” it said. 

But on closer inspection, it’s clear the images are not photographs of children taking part in satanic rituals. Here’s why. 


‘The children are not real, this never happened’ – creator 

Many of the images include a line of text that reads “The Pumpkin Empress”. 

We traced this name back to social media accounts that posted the same photos in early May on Tiktok, Facebook and Instagram. These accounts have also posted similar imagery usually associated with Satanism, often including children.

An edited description of the original Facebook post with the images from 2 May reads: “I created these pics with AI software. The children are not real, this never happened.” 

This was supported in a fact-check by AFP, who contacted the user behind The Pumpkin Empress accounts. They told AFP they had generated the images using Midjourney

Midjourney is one of the most popular tools using artificial intelligence (AI) to create photo-realistic scenes like these. 

With this kind of image generation, the AI tool, which has been trained on a large database of images from the internet, creates an entirely new image based on a piece of text, or “prompt”.

In a 9 May post, to address how widely the images were thought to be real, The Pumpkin Empress explained how they had been generated and included a screenshot to illustrate this. 

The text prompt for one of the images was “children sitting on a carpet with a pentagram in a library”. 

Though AI image generators are likely to make fewer errors as the technology advances, there are, for now, often clues in the images themselves that they are not real. 

Some of these errors in this set of images are especially visible when the images are enlarged or zoomed in on. For example, many of the children shown have varying numbers of fingers like here and here, or have warped or missing body and facial features, such as here

These are clues to the observant social media user that you shouldn’t believe all you see and that these images aren’t proof of “satanic education rituals”.

Republish our content for free

We believe that everyone needs the facts.

You can republish the text of this article free of charge, both online and in print. However, we ask that you pay attention to these simple guidelines. In a nutshell:

1. Do not include images, as in most cases we do not own the copyright.

2. Please do not edit the article.

3. Make sure you credit "Africa Check" in the byline and don't forget to mention that the article was originally published on

For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false

A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”, “altered”, “partly false” or “missing context”. This could have serious consequences. What do you do?

Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check is a partner in Meta's third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.

The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.

You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.