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The Ghost and the Darkness

1996, History/Drama, 1h 49m

What to know

Critics Consensus

The Ghost and the Darkness hits its target as a suspenseful adventure, but it falls into a trap of its own making whenever it reaches for supernatural profundity. Read critic reviews

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Sir Robert Beaumont (Tom Wilkinson) is behind schedule on a railroad in Africa. Enlisting noted engineer John Henry Patterson (Val Kilmer) to right the ship, Beaumont expects results. Everything seems great until the crew discovers the mutilated corpse of the project's foreman (Henry Cele), seemingly killed by a lion. After several more attacks, Patterson calls in famed hunter Charles Remington (Michael Douglas), who has finally met his match in the bloodthirsty lions.

Genre: History, Drama, Adventure

Original Language: English

Director: Stephen Hopkins

Producer: Paul B. Radin , Gale Anne Hurd , A. Kitman Ho

Writer: William Goldman

Release Date (Theaters): Oct 11, 1996  original

Release Date (Streaming): Aug 1, 2013

Box Office (Gross USA): $38.6M

Runtime: 1h 49m

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Production Co: Paramount Pictures

Sound Mix: Surround

Cast & Crew

Michael Douglas

Charles Remington

Col. John Henry Patterson

Tom Wilkinson

Robert Beaumont

Bernard Hill

Dr. David Hawthorne

Brian McCardie

Angus Starling

Emily Mortimer

Helena Patterson

Stephen Hopkins

William Goldman

Executive Producer

Steven Reuther

Paul B. Radin

Gale Anne Hurd

A. Kitman Ho

Jerry Goldsmith

Original Music

Vilmos Zsigmond


Roger Bondelli

Film Editing

Robert Brown

Steve Mirkovich

Mary Selway

Sarah Trevis

Stuart Wurtzel

Production Design

Giles Masters

Art Director

Malcolm Stone

Hilton Rosemarin

Set Decoration

Ellen Mirojnick

Costume Design

News & Interviews for The Ghost and the Darkness

New on Prime Video and Freevee in September 2022

Critic Reviews for The Ghost and the Darkness

Audience reviews for the ghost and the darkness.

Why has this not been mass released on Blu Ray or 4K? Shameful. On paper this would sound like a horror filmmakers dream, and at the time of release, I was a little reluctant to watch the film. I'm happy I did and have since watched it several times. It's quite annoying that the producers haven't transferred it to a decent upgrade as this is a wonderful film to look at. The film is unique and is fun to watch. Val Kilmer was coming off a string of bad press and this film was a much needed breath of fresh air for him. Michael Douglas is solid and gives this film more credibility than it actually deserved. The director has done a solid job and it's a shame to hear of the disagreements with editing for the final cut, it would be interesting to see a DC version now that the dust has settled. 05/01/2020

ghost in the darkness wikipedia

It's an embarrassing failure on all fronts, which is a shame as it squanders a perfectly good (and true) man vs. lion story. I think Kilmer and Douglas had a contest to see who's accent work could be worst (Spoiler alert: Kilmer won).

This movie is unintentionally hilarious with its cheesy lines and horrible acting. Michael Douglas turns in a hilariously bad performance while Val Kilmer is tolerable. The only thing that makes this movie interesting is that it is true (with Hollywood exaggerations of course).

Based on a true story, this is a suspenseful adventure yarn about the Tsavo Manhunters who terrorized laborers working on a railroad in East Africa in 1896. The Tsavo Manhunters are a pair of vicious lions who kill for sport, and seem unafraid of man and fire, and have an almost supernatural ability to sense danger and traps. The native workers name them the Ghost and The Darkness, due to their attack methods. Col. John Henry Patterson is a railroad engineer/big game hunter tasked with killing the lions and getting the railroad built on time. His efforts to succeed continually fail, so a wily American big game hunter named Charles Remington is brought in to help him out. Screenwriter William Goldman was originally wanting to meld Lawrence of Arabia with Jaws. The basic idea of that is onscreen, but unfortunately it isn't taking to the level it could have been. Maybe had a stronger director been attached... The film strays some from the original story, mostly by adding the fictional character of Remington, but still retains the gist and spirit of the actual events. The film is actually rather light on gore, and some of the action scenes are a bit too choppy and frenetic with how they're edited, but somehow the film is still rather suspenseful and gripping. Plus, it's got some good cinematography, and the deeper themes of imperialism and "white man as champion" are touched upon and dealt with somewhat, so that's cool. The music is also appropriately subversive at times, and tense when it needs to be. Val Kilmer is good as Patterson, and I like how they don't treat him as a total wimpy character. Michael Douglas is wildly scenery chewing as Remington, but perhaps a bit too over-the-top and goofy. Still though, his performance is rather fun to watch. A pre-fame Tom Wilkinson is good at the company man who doesn't care about the setbacks, and just wants his damn railroad built, and John Kani is decent as the native sidekick Samuel. All in all, this is a decent enough adventure thriller in the vein of old fashioned adventure serials. It's pretty flawed, and sometimes goofy, but I found myself more pleased with it than not, so give it a go.

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The Ghost and the Darkness

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The Ghost and the Darkness are the titular main antagonists of the 1996 historical adventure film of the same name. The two lions are responsible for the numerous deaths in Tsavo, Kenya during the construction of the Uganda Railway. They are based on the Tsavo Man-Eaters .

They were portrayed by animal actors Ceasar and Bongo, while their vocal sound effects were provided by Martin Lopez.

Biography [ ]

They are a pair of man-eating lions from the Tsavo region, which were responsible for the deaths of a number of construction workers on the Kenya-Uganda railway from March through December, 1898. The lions were unusual both for the number of victims that they claimed and in the manner in which they carried out their attacks.

They were dubbed "The Ghost and the Darkness" by the people of Tsavo, Kenya, because of their hunting methods. Unlike other lions, they were shown to kill their prey and lick up their victim's skin, and drank their blood when it reached the surface. Unlike other male lions, they would hunt together. They were not killing for sustenance, as they often did not consume their victims. The locals believed them to have been demons in lion skin. The total number of their victims may have been about eighty people or more.

As a result of the lion attacks, the construction of the bridge was halted. John Henry Patterson, who had some experience in hunting lions, was appointed to kill the pair. Joining him was a native African named Samuel and a hunter named Charles Remington who was appointed by Sir Robert Beaumont when the construction of the bridge was slowing.

After a few failed attempts, Remington sets up a trap by using Patterson, with a baboon as bait, and thereby manages to kill one of the lions. The following day the remaining lion is revealed to have dragged Remington out of the camp overnight and killed him. Seeking vengeance, Patterson burns the grass surrounding the grass to lure the lion out. This results in them ending up on the unfinished bridge, where Patterson successfully kills the surviving lion. The bridge construction is then completed. Samuel, who had been narrating the movie, says that the carnivorous man-eaters can be found at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois.

Gallery [ ]

The Ghost's evil glare.

  • The Ghost and the Darkness are depicted as having manes and were shown to be fit and healthy. Historically, the Tsavo Man Eaters lacked any manes, like most lions from the Tsavo region. Additionally, autopsies revealed numerous health problems in both lions, which probably explained their attacks on humans.
  • In the film, Remington killed the first lion and Patterson killed the second. In reality, it was Patterson who killed both lions.
  • 1 Kraven the Hunter (Marvel's Spider-Man)
  • 2 Venom (Marvel's Spider-Man)
  • 3 Michael Myers (original)

The Horrifying True Story That Inspired The Ghost and the Darkness

Although the film indulges in a number of liberties, it may have actually downplayed the gruesome events that unfolded over 100 years ago.

In 1996, Paramount Pictures released The Ghost and the Darkness , a historical horror-adventure film directed by Stephen Hopkins. The story is based on the true account of the Tsavo man-eaters, in which two lions - for reasons that are still being debated to this day - mercilessly preyed upon construction workers during the tumultuous build of a significant railway bridge in Kenya, Africa. Over the course of nearly a year, these two lions were reportedly responsible for the death of 135 people.

Screenwriter William Goldman - the famed writer of such classics as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Princess Bride - first heard about the legend of the Tsavo man-eaters while traveling in Africa in 1984, and immediately found the subject engrossing and perfect fodder for the big-screen treatment.

Although the film indulges in a number of liberties in its recounting of this famous tale (as is the case with most Hollywood movies based on true stories ), the movie may have actually downplayed the gruesome events that unfolded over 100 years ago. Let’s take a look at the horrifying true story behind The Ghost and the Darkness .

RELATED: The Best Historical Fiction Horror Movies, Ranked

The Attacks Begin

At the heart of the story is Lt. Colonel John Henry Patterson (played in the film by Val Kilmer), who in 1898 was sent to Africa on behalf of the British government to oversee the construction of an essential railway bridge in the Tsavo region of Kenya, Africa. The building project was a massive operation, employing thousands of workers (most of them brought in from India) and spanning miles of railway track.

Almost immediately after Lt. Patterson's arrival, the pair of lions begin their vicious attacks. Right away these attacks were considered highly unusual; not only is it incredibly uncommon for lions to hunt in pairs, the fact that they were both male was even stranger still. Furthermore, unlike typical lions, the Tsavo man-eaters didn’t have any manes (a common attribute for lions in the region). While animal scientists aren’t exactly sure why this is the case, the most prevalent theories suggest that the harsh environment - which is incredibly dry and covered in rough, thorny brush - make manes inefficient at best and debilitating at worst, so lions evolved over time to be born without them.

But more puzzling still is why . It isn’t normal for lions to attack humans without provocation, yet almost every night, workers were literally being dragged out of their tents and feasted upon. They even targeted specific areas of the camp - like the hospital tent - and took advantage of the sprawling size of the area, never attacking the same place twice. And while the lions occasionally engorged themselves on the remains of those they killed, for the most part the man-eaters didn’t eat their victims.

In other words, they were killing for the thrill of it. These were like monsters out of a horror movie.

Since Patterson was in charge of overseeing the bridge project, it was also his responsibility to rid the area of these two lions. It was a massive undertaking, and not an easy one. Most nights, Patterson would spend camping out in a tree, waiting for the lions to strike. But this method quickly proved to be ineffective, as the construction site was so large that it would be impossible for him to know what section the lions would target.

Patterson also tried to take the defensive, but his efforts were in vain. He and the workers set up bomas - or barricades made up of thorny brush - around the perimeter of the campsite, but the lions would easily circumvent these obstacles. Small fires were ignited around camp in a bid to scare the lions off, but they were unbothered. Strict curfews were instituted, but this didn’t make much of a difference when workers were being killed in their tents. Patterson even moved the hospital tent - a hot-bed of attacks - but the lions quickly sniffed the new location out.

As the bodies continued to pile up, the workers began to revolt, threatening to stop production until the monstrous lions were killed. Since many of these workers were brought in from India (the country was under British rule at the time) and weren’t native to the region, they had no idea how to properly defend themselves from these beasts. And even if they did, these lions proved far more cunning than the typical big cats that even the locals were familiar with.

Legend quickly began to spread around camp, claiming these were no ordinary lions, but vengeful ghosts defending their territory from the railway system and, in effect, the encroaching British Empire. The workers named them “Ghost” and “Darkness” (hence the title of the film).

RELATED: The Best Westerns Based on True Stories, Ranked

Fighting Back

With the workers threatening to cease work, and the British government breathing down his neck, Lt. Patterson had to get crafty.

One of his most well-known attempts at capturing these beasts is wonderfully recreated in the film, in which Patterson transforms an abandoned railway cart into a box trap. Three Indians workers (who apparently volunteered for this thankless role), armed with rifles, locked themselves behind steel bars within the box trap and baited the lion with animal remains. Surprisingly, the trap worked; one of the lions was drawn into the car, triggering the trap doors and locking it inside with the workers.

Immediately the lion panicked and began lunging at the steel bars, which started to give under the massive size of the beast. The frightened and overwhelmed workers desperately unloaded on the lion with their rifles, but somehow missed every shot. One of their bullets connected with the cage door, opening the trap and allowing the lion to escape.

Around this point in the movie, the audience is introduced to Charles Remington, a famous big-game hunter who is played by Michael Douglas . But this character is a creation of William Goldman’s and didn’t actually exist. In reality, Patterson requested British troops to help take down the lions - that’s how much of a problem they became. While Britain was hesitant to send troops (out of fear that it might make them appear weak), they did send in a small squadron of Indian soldiers - known at the time as Sepoys.

It’s around this point that things finally started to turn around. Patterson built a scaffold in the middle of an area where the big cats were known to stalk and used it as a hunting stand. Using the remains of a dead donkey to lure the lions out of hiding, Patterson sat atop his hastily-assembled hunting stand and waited. But he didn’t have to wait long, as that night the first lion emerged from the brush. Patterson managed to shoot the beast a few times, but it escaped. A few nights later, the lion returned and Patterson - with the help of a much more powerful rifle - was able to take it down.

With one lion dead, morale started to shift. But hunting the second lion wouldn’t be as easy.

Things started off well-enough for Patterson, who utilized the same technique to lure the lion out of hiding. Much like the first time around, it worked, but again Patterson was unable to kill the beast.

What followed was a multi-week hunt for the injured lion. For close to two weeks, the lion was untraceable. But eventually Patterson and troops tracked it down and managed to shoot it a few more times. Somehow, the lion still managed to get away - but not for long. The next day, Patterson took down the second and last lion, finally putting an end to the months-long ordeal.

RELATED: The Best Cat Movies of All Time, Ranked

The End of a Nightmare

With the lions neutralized, work on the railway was soon completed. Soon after, Patterson returned to his home in London with the bodies of the two lions in his possession, and recounted the events in his semi-autobiographical book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo , which William Goldman drew heavily from when writing The Ghost and the Darkness .

Despite the dark shadow of brutal colonialism looming heavy over this entire story, it’s nevertheless a nail-biting tale. To this day, scientists are unsure what the cause of these attacks were. The bodies of the lions - which Patterson later donated to the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History - were studied by scientists, who concluded that bad teeth may actually be to blame for the lions’ unusual behavior. Allegedly their teeth were “soft” - much like a zoo lion - and thus unable to catch prey and tear through bone. One of the lions also had what appeared to be an infected root, which most likely made hunting incredibly painful. In short, these lions targeted humans because they were easier prey.

The actual death toll is debated as well. While Patterson claimed 135 people were killed by these lions, official records put the real number somewhere in the vicinity of 30-40. However, we’ll never be sure: Great Britain had reason to undermine these numbers to maintain their image, and Patterson could have exaggerated the number of dead to further bolster his own status and ego.

Although we’ll probably never get the “full truth” about what happened, one thing is for certain: it made for one hell of a terrifying movie.

The Ghost and the Darkness

The Ghost and the Darkness is a 1996 historical thriller based on the non-fiction book The Man-eaters of Tsavo written by John Henry Patterson (portrayed by Val Kilmer in the film) and which chronicles the true story of lions that terrorized railroad construction workers in 19th century Africa. Directed by Stephen Hopkins ( Blown Away , Predator 2 ), the movie takes place in Kenya along the Tsavo River during the year 1898. When railroad workers are found slaughtered by what appears to be a lion, Col. Patterson is assigned to hunt down and kill the predators. On later hunts, Patterson is accompanied by professional hunter Remington ( Michael Douglas ). Though the film ventures somewhat away from the actual details of the hunt, it is an exciting adventure movie with a well-written script by William Goldman (who also wrote the screenplays for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid , Maverick , All the President's Men and Marathon Man ). It is also notable for featuring multiple British firearms, some of which almost never appear in American productions such as the Lee-Speed Sporter rifle used by Patterson ( Val Kilmer ), a Howdah Pistol and a Farquharson Rifle . The movie was filmed in South Africa in 1995.

The following weapons were used in the film The Ghost and the Darkness :

  • 1 Lee-Speed Sporter
  • 2 Farquharson rifle
  • 3 Double Rifle
  • 4 Martini-Henry rifle
  • 5 Snider Enfield Mk.II* Artillery Carbine
  • 6 Howdah Pistol
  • 7 12 Gauge Double Barreled Shotgun
  • 8 Ghost and Darkness Trio


Lee-Speed Sporter

The Lee-Speed Sporter rifle is used by Patterson ( Val Kilmer ) throughout much of the movie. It appears to have a 26" barrel and is probably chambered for .303 British though the BSA was available in different calibers. The Lee-Speed was popular with British officers and other hunters who wanted a fine rifle but couldn't afford the expensive double barrel rifles made by Purdy and others. The Lee-Speeds were also popular because they fired the British service round and had the same action as the Lee-Enfield bolt action rifle. In the primitive conditions of Africa in the late 19th and early 20th century, the British Army was often a source of supply for hunters and colonists, which would have included spare parts and ammo. There were not many Cabelas sitting around on the grasslands of Kenya.

ghost in the darkness wikipedia

Farquharson rifle

The Farquharson Rifle is used by Doctor Hawthorne ( Bernard Hill ) and Patterson ( Val Kilmer ). A popular design in the late 19th century with British hunters. The Farquharson Rifle design is still in use. Most notably the Ruger No. 1 single shot rifle.

ghost in the darkness wikipedia

Double Rifle

Though it is unknown which company (or gunsmith) manufactured the double barreled rifle used by Remington ( Michael Douglas ) and later Patterson ( Val Kilmer ) it appears to be a hammerless model. Given the time it is probably supposed to be a Westley - Richards, Purdey, Rigby or Holland & Holland Double Rifle . It would likely be in 450 3.25" Nitro Express or 500/450 3.25" Nitro Express since those were the premier Nitro calibers at the end of the 19th century.

ghost in the darkness wikipedia

Martini-Henry rifle

Used by different characters in the movie. Most notably by Angus Starling ( Brian McCardie ) when the two lions invade the camp in the daytime and kill Angus. Historically accurate. By 1898 the British Army was using the Lee - Enfield bolt action rifle in .303 British. The Martini-Henry Mk. III was a black powder rifle and was classified as obsolete. It was available on the surplus gun market and it would have been cheap and plentiful. It fired a powerful round (.577/.450 Martini-Henry) and was considered effective against lions and other dangerous game.

ghost in the darkness wikipedia

Snider Enfield Mk.II* Artillery Carbine

Snider Enfield Mk.II* Enfield Artillery Carbine is used by Samuel ( John Kani ) during the first hunt for the lions involving Remington ( Michael Douglas ) in the thicket. It's a nice touch and showed that somebody was thinking. In 1898 the Snider rifles were surplus and would probably have been readily available in Colonial Africa. Samuel is a native and though trusted by the Europeans would not have been a wealthy man. A surplus Snider rifle would have met his needs and been affordable for him. The fact that the rare Artillery Carbine was used also shows a good eye for detail. Easier to carry and maneuver with than the full length infantry rifle version.

ghost in the darkness wikipedia

Howdah Pistol

The Howdah Pistol used in the film was a very powerful double barrel handgun developed by the British hunters in India for close range, last ditch, defense against Tigers and other dangerous game. Though it appears that a Lancaster Howdah Pistol is used in the movie, other makers produced Howdah-style handguns. A Howdah was the basket that hunters rode in on top of elephants in India. Tigers were known to climb up the Elephant to reach the hunters in the Howdah. At such a close range, a long-barreled rifle was less than effective. The Howdah Pistol was perfect. They typically had two or four barrel designs. They were massive, powerful and delivered a hell of a wallop at both ends. However, it was believed that in a life and death situation heavy recoil would not be noticed. The now very collectible handgun is seen in the film used by both Patterson ( Val Kilmer ) and Remington ( Michael Douglas ). In a nice bit of technical realism, the Howdah Pistol is used as a last ditch defense weapon in the movie. The image below is not the same gun seen in the movie. There are rumors that the Howdah pistol carried by Remington ( Michael Douglas ) was actually fabricated by the armorer so that Remington would have a very distinctive pistol. At this time the rumours can be neither verified nor repudiated.

ghost in the darkness wikipedia

12 Gauge Double Barreled Shotgun

It appears that Samuel ( John Kani ) owns both a Snider Enfield Mk.II* Short Rifle and what looks like a hammerless 12 Gauge Double Barreled Shotgun with a box lock action. The gauge or bore (as the British would call it) of the shotgun is just a guess, but doesn't appear to be as big as a 10 Gauge. In one of the screencaps it looks as if Samuel is wearing a bandoleer of shotgun shells. The shells look to be red in color and could be made of paper which would be consistent with the late nineteenth century. Initially, it would seem insane to go after a lion with a shotgun, but many hunters over the decades have used shotguns against lions and other big cats with great success. It also makes sense that Samuel would own both a rifle and a shotgun. The two weapons would give him greater flexibility for different game and situations.

ghost in the darkness wikipedia

Ghost and Darkness Trio

Examples of the three main rifles used in the movie. From top to bottom. A BSA Lee-Speed Sporter, Farqueson falling block single shot rifle and a Holland & Holland double barrel rifle. Just a neat photo from the Nitroexpress.com forum.

ghost in the darkness wikipedia

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Tsavo Man-Eaters: The True Story of the Ghost and the Darkness

Image of Lenny Flank, author

In 1898 two African lions, known locally as "The Ghost" and "The Darkness", killed a number of workers on the East Africa Railroad at the Tsavo River and halted the project until they were hunted down and shot by a British foreman. The incident was described in a book titled The Man-Eaters of Tsavo that became, in 1996, the basis for a movie starring Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer. Today, the mounted taxidermy skins of the two lions are on display in the Field Museum in Chicago. Join me below for the real history of the Ghost and the Darkness.

The Tsavo Man-Eaters, on display at the Field Museum in Chicago.

In 1896, the British decided to construct a railroad in their East African colony, running from the coastal port city of Mombasa, in modern-day Kenya, all the way to Lake Victoria and then on to Uganda. Officially named the Uganda Railroad, it was mocked by critics as "The Lunatic Line" and was said to run "from nowhere to nowhere". The British colonialists hoped that the railroad would encourage people to move into the interior of Africa, and would provide a method of transporting trade products between Africa and Europe. Thousands of laborers (called "coolies") were imported from India to build the railroad, which would cover about 580 miles, cross several rivers and valleys, and take over 30 years to complete, reaching Nairobi in 1899, Kismu on the shore of Lake Victoria in 1901, and Kampala, Uganda in 1928. It was considered a shining symbol of modern British progress in the "civilization" of what was then known as "The Dark Continent".

In February 1898, two years into its construction, the railroad line had reached the Tsavo River in Kenya, 130 miles northwest of Mombasa. A temporary bridge was built to allow the track to cross the river and continue being built on the other side. In March, British Army Colonel John Henry Patterson was brought in from India to oversee the construction of a permanent railroad bridge across the river. The river valley was about 100 yards wide. Patterson began by locating a source of suitable stone about three miles away and building a small tram line to the bridge site. These stones would be used to form foundation piers in the river bed, upon which the bridge pillars would be constructed. Meanwhile, construction of the actual railway continued. Because of this, several thousand workers were scattered in a string of camps along the railroad over a distance of some 20 miles. Patterson was responsible for all of them.

Within just a few days of Patterson's arrival, people began to disappear.

At first, Patterson didn't believe the natives who told him that there was a lion attacking the workers. Quickly, however, reports of lion sightings began coming in, and the remains of dead workers began to be found. It became clear that there were at least two lions involved. Every few days, one of the lions would strike at one of the scattered campsites, then another, attacking horses, donkeys, goats, cattle, and people. The Indian workers constructed protective fences around their camps, known as a boma , made from the thorny branches of Acacia trees, and kept campfires burning all night, but still the lions found their way through. In one incident, one of the lions clawed its way into a tent and attacked a sleeping worker, but in the confusion dragged away the worker's mattress instead--when it realized its mistake, the lion dropped the mattress and ran off.

By April, the railroad rails extended some 40 miles away from Tsavo, and only a few hundred workers remained behind to construct the bridge. They were concentrated into a number of camps at the bridge site, and this is where the lions now began to concentrate their hunts. Patterson spent several nights perched in a tree with his rifle hoping to spot the lions, but couldn't find them. One night, one of the lions broke into the hospital tent and dragged away one of the patients. Patterson decided to move the hospital tent to a different spot, but the next night, the lion returned to the new location and dragged the water-carrier out of the hospital--his head and one of his hands were found the next morning.

Patterson then moved the hospital tent again, and placed a railroad car with some cattle inside at the old location. Accompanied by the camp doctor, he stayed up all night with his rifle, hoping the lion would return. And it did. The lion managed to get into the boxcar and kill one of the cattle, but couldn't figure out how to drag the body out through the boma fence. Instead, it began to stalk Patterson and the doctor. When it attacked, Patterson managed to wound it in the mouth with a rifle shot, breaking off one of the canine teeth.

After that, the lions apparently left the area for a few weeks (Patterson later learned that they had been raiding one of the construction camps at the railroad, which was now many miles away). Assuming they would be back, Patterson constructed a mechanical trap inside the railway car that would drop a set of iron bars if anything entered. For several nights in a row, Patterson himself was the bait, spending the night inside the boxcar to try to lure one of the lions in.

A few weeks later, the lions were back. One of the cats entered a boma and dragged one of the workers out, where he was joined by the second lion. They ate the worker just 30 yards away from the camp. For the next several months, the lions would periodically return to make another kill. On December 1, most of the workers boarded one of the trains and left. Only a small number remained behind to finish the bridge.

Two days later, the Superintendent of Police arrived with 20 men to help hunt down the lions. That night, one of the lions finally entered the boxcar trap, but despite a number of shots being fired at it from close range, was able to get out. The Police Superintendent and his men spent several days looking for the lions, with no success. They left, after providing Patterson with a high-powered hunting rifle.

On December 9, one of the lions killed a donkey and, as it ate, Patterson instructed a group of workers to approach it making as much noise as possible, to drive it into the open. When the lion emerged, Patterson managed to wound it with the rifle. Expecting that the lion would return that night to his kill, Patterson built a wooden platform and waited. The lion indeed returned, but ignored the dead donkey and approached Patterson instead.  Patterson killed it with two rifle shots.

One lion remained, and a few nights later it attacked two goats. Patterson set out three more goats as bait, tying them to a short section of railroad tie, and waited. The lion returned, killed one of the goats, then dragged the entire railroad tie, still attached to the goat, away. Patterson's shots missed. The next morning, Patterson and a group of workers followed the trail and found the lion, which ran off. Patterson built another wooden platform, and when the lion returned that night, wounded it with two shots.

For the next ten days, nothing happened, and Patterson concluded that the lion had died of its wounds. Then, the lion returned and made an unsuccessful attack on a worker sleeping in a tree. That night, Patterson lay in ambush in the same tree, and when the lion returned, wounded it twice more. In the morning, they followed the blood trail and found the lion, which charged at them. Patterson killed it with two more shots. It was December 29, 1898.

Examination of the two dead lions showed that they were both males and were, like most of the lions in the Tsavo region, maneless. Most likely, they were brothers--young male lions without a pride of their own often form small packs or partnerships.

In 1996, Patterson's 1907 book, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo , was adapted into a Hollywood screenplay titled "The Ghost and the Darkness", which starred Val Kilmer as Patterson and Michael Douglas as the fictional big-game hunter character Charles Remington.

For years, there was much debate over just how many people the two lions actually killed over the nine-month period, with estimates running from the railroad company's figure of 28 to Patterson's figure of 135. In 2009, a team of biologists was able to do a chemical analysis on hair and skin samples from the Field Museum specimens, and used isotope ratios to determine the chemical makeup of the proteins in the lion's diet during their last months of life. They concluded that one of the Tsavo lions had eaten around 11 humans, and that the other had eaten around 24. That meant that one of the lions ate mostly herbivores with only about one-third of its diet coming from humans, while the other made up almost two-thirds of its diet with humans.

Patterson kept the skulls from both lions, and used their skins as rugs. In 1924, he sold the remains of the man-eaters to the Field Museum in Chicago, where they were mounted and put on display in 1928. They are still there today.

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Mahina(The Ghost and the Darkness 1996)

Mahina is a supporting character of the 1998 action/adventure/thriller film The Ghost and the Darkness . He was an African native who came to work for the British empire in helping them build a railway in the country, later being assigned to work on a railway bridge in Tsavo.

  • 1 Background
  • 2 The Ghost and the Darkness
  • 4 Personality

Background [ ]

Almost nothing is known of Mahina's past, other than that he was born in Africa, and came to work on the railroad the British were building in Africa. He, at some point, killed a lion with his bare hands, receiving scratch marks on his cheeks from doing so.

The Ghost and the Darkness [ ]

Mahina made his debut in the film at the bridge site, where, as the foreman, Colonel John Henry Patterson gave him and Angus Starling instructions to oversee the building of the bridge's foundation piers. There he announced after Starling brought the subject of Patterson's killed lion, that he also had killed lion, saying with his bare hands when asked. Over the next nine weeks, thanks to Mahina's brilliance largely, the bridge's building progress became way ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, one night, a man-eating lion dragged Mahina from his tent, carried him off, and killed and devoured him with its brother. His death left the camp in terror, as he was so powerful, but could not save himself, and Patterson was deeply saddened by his loss.

Mahina was very skilled in construction work, able to aid Colonel John Henry Patterson in building the bridge, and help get much of the work done way ahead of schedule. As a foreman, he was so skilled that Patterson heavily credited him in a letter written to his wife as a "marvel". Mahina was also, without a doubt, an incredibly strong man, having killed a lion single-handedly with just his bare hands.

Personality [ ]

Mahina was a very charismatic man, as shown when everyone he met grew fond of him easily. He formed a strong friendship with Colonel John Henry Patterson , who was deeply saddened when he was killed by The Ghost and the Darkness . Mahina also shown a sense of humor, laughing easily at Patterson's joke at his debut.

Mahina was actually a real person, but was not Patterson's foreman, but rather a random Indian coolie he chose to be his gunbearer. He was also never killed by the lions at Tsavo.

  • 1 Kurohitsugi
  • 2 Charles Remington
  • 3 Art Hobbes

Dave Schrader

Dave Schrader

  • Birth name David Schrader
  • Dave Schrader is a long time radio show host that delves deep into the realms of the strange, fringe and bizarre in the paranormal field. Dave and co-host Tim Dennis started off with Darkness Radio in 2006, which grew into a widely popular radio show. He became a regular fill-in host for George Noory on Coast to Coast AM that is heard world-wide with millions of listeners. Dave now hosts Midnight In The Desert, formally hosted by the radio legend Art Bell on Dark Matter Digital Network along with Darkness Radio Presents: BEYOND the DARKNESS on PodcastOne and True Crime Tuesday on Patreon. Dave co-wrote the book The Other Side: A Teen's Guide to Ghost Hunting and the Paranormal, was the lead judge on the Travel Channel hit mini-series Paranormal Challenge and has appeared onscreen on Travel Channel's #1 series, Ghost Adventures numerous times, Paranormal State on A&E and Haunted Hospitals. Mr. Schrader also worked behind the scenes on Ghost Adventures for 3 years as a location scout and researcher. Beginning in October 2019 he we be a featured cast member of a new paranormal reality series on Travel Channel. Originally from Illinois, Dave has been a resident of Minnesota since 1988 when he attended Winona State College and fell in love with the beauty and people of this great state. With the growing interest in the world of the unknown on TV, film and literature building each day, Dave decided to bring his unique views and experiences to the radio as the host of Darkness Radio. Dave has had an active interest in the paranormal since early in his childhood when he was visited by the spirit of his deceased grandmother. Continued activity and experiences has kept this passion alive. You can access his paranormal talk radio shows at the following links. Midnight in the Desert Monday thru Friday 11pm to 2am ct www.MidnightInTheDesert.com BEYOND the DARKNESS Saturday and Sundays www.PodcastOne.com/beyond-the-darkness True Crime Tuesday every Tuesday www.Patreon.com/truecrimetuesday - IMDb Mini Biography By: Winifred Schrader
  • Started Darkness Radio in January of 2006 with co-host Tim Dennis.
  • Announced on January 11, 2022, that he will no longer be hosting Darkness Radio with long time Co-Host Tim Denis.

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Man-Eaters of Tsavo

They are perhaps the world’s most notorious wild lions. Their ancestors were vilified more than 100 years ago as the man-eaters of Tsavo

Paul Raffaele

Colonel Patterson first Tsavo Lion

They are perhaps the world’s most notorious wild lions. Their ancestors were vilified more than 100 years ago as the man-eaters of Tsavo, a vast swath of Kenya savanna around the Tsavo River.

Bruce Patterson has spent the past decade studying lions in the Tsavo region, and for several nights I went into the bush with him and a team of volunteers, hoping to glimpse one of the beasts.

We headed out in a truck along narrow red dirt trails through thick scrub. A spotlight threw a slender beam through the darkness. Kudus, huge antelopes with curved horns, skittered away. A herd of elephants passed, their massive bodies silhouetted in the dark.

One evening just after midnight, we came upon three lions resting by a water hole. Patterson identified them as a 4-year-old male he has named Dickens and two unnamed females. The three lions rose and Dickens led the two females into the scrub.

On such forays Patterson has come to better understand the Tsavo lions. Their prides, with up to 10 females and just 1 male, are smaller than Serengeti lion prides, which have up to 20 females and 2 or more males. In Tsavo, male lions do not share power with other males.

Tsavo males look different as well. The most vigorous Serengeti males sport large dark manes, while in Tsavo they have short, thin manes or none at all. “It’s all about water,” Patterson says. Tsavo is hotter and drier than the Serengeti, and a male with a heavy mane “would squander his daily water allowance simply panting under a bush, with none to spare for patrolling his territory, hunting or finding mates.”

But it’s the lions’ reputation for preying on people that attracts attention. “For centuries Arab slave caravans passed through Tsavo on the way to Mombasa,” said Samuel Kasiki, deputy director of Biodiversity Research and Monitoring with the Kenya Wildlife Service. “The death rate was high; it was a bad area for sleeping sickness from the tsetse fly; and the bodies of slaves who died or were dying were left where they dropped. So the lions may have gotten their taste for human flesh by eating the corpses.”

In 1898, two lions terrorized crews constructing a railroad bridge over the Tsavo River, killing—according to some estimates—135 people. “Hundreds of men fell victims to these savage creatures, whose very jaws were steeped in blood,” wrote a worker on the railway, a project of the British colonial government. “Bones, flesh, skin and blood, they devoured all, and left not a trace behind them.”

Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson shot the lions (a 1996 movie, The Ghost and the Darkness , dramatized the story) and sold their bodies for $5,000 to the Field Museum in Chicago, where, stuffed, they greet visitors to this day.

Bruce Patterson (no relation to John), a zoologist with the museum, continues to study those animals. Chemical tests of hair samples recently confirmed that the lions had eaten human flesh in the months before they were killed. Patterson and his colleagues estimate that one lion ate 10 people, and the other about 24—far fewer than the legendary 135 victims, but still horrifying.

When I arrived in Nairobi, word reached the capital that a lion had just killed a woman at Tsavo. A cattle herder had been devoured weeks earlier. “That’s not unusual at Tsavo,” Kasiki said.

Still, today’s Tsavo lions are not innately more bloodthirsty than other lions, Patterson says; they attack people for the same reason their forebears did a century ago: “our encroachment into what was once the territory of lions.” Injured lions are especially dangerous. One of the original man-eaters had severe dental disease that would have made him a poor hunter, Patterson found. Such lions may learn to attack people rather than game, he says, “because we are slower, weaker and more defenseless.”

Paul Raffaele ’s book Among the Great Apes will be published in February.

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  1. The Ghost and the Darkness

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    The Ghost and the Darkness 1996 A bridge engineer and an experienced old hunter begin a hunt for two lions after they start attacking local construction work...

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  15. The Man-eaters of Tsavo

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