Be the most interesting person you know, subscribe to LiveScience.

What Drove Tsavo Lions to Eat People? Century-Old Mystery Solved

ghost in the darkness real story

Their names were "The Ghost" and "The Darkness," and 119 years ago, these two massive, maneless, man-eating lions hunted railway workers in the Tsavo region of Kenya. During a nine-month period in 1898, the lions killed at least 35 people and as many as 135, according to different accounts. And the question of why the lions developed a taste for human flesh remained a subject of much speculation. 

Also known as the Tsavo lions, the pair of beasts ruled the night until they were shot and killed in December 1898 by railway engineer Col. John Henry Patterson. In the decades that followed, audiences were captivated by the story of the ferocious lions, first told in newspaper articles and books (one account was written by Patterson himself in 1907: "The Man-Eaters of Tsavo"), and later in movies.

In the past, it had been suggested that the lions' desperate hunger drove them to eat people. However, a recent analysis of the remains of the two man-eaters, a part of the collection at The Field Museum in Chicago, offers new insight into what led the Tsavo lions to kill and eat people. The findings, described in a new study, suggest a different explanation: that tooth and jaw damage — which would have made it excruciating to hunt their usual large herbivore prey — was to blame. [ Photos: The Biggest Lions on Earth ]

For most lions, humans are typically far from their first choice of prey. The big cats usually feed on large herbivores, such as zebras, wildebeest and antelope. And rather than viewing people as potential meals, lions tend to go out of their way to avoid humans entirely, study co-author Bruce Patterson, curator of mammals at The Field Museum, told Live Science.

But something else convinced the Tsavo lions that humans were fair game , Patterson said.

To unravel the century-old mystery, the study authors examined evidence of the lions' behavior preserved in their teeth. Microscopic wear patterns can tell scientists about an animal's eating habits — particularly during the last weeks of life — and the Tsavo lions' teeth didn't show signs of the wear and tear associated with crunching big, heavy bones, the scientists wrote in the study.

Hypotheses proposed in the past suggested that the lions developed a taste for people through scavenging , perhaps because their usual prey had died off from drought or disease. But if the lions were hunting humans out of desperation, the starving cats would have certainly cracked human bones to get the last bit of nutrition from their grisly meals, Patterson said. And wear patterns on the teeth showed that they left the bones alone, so the Tsavo lions probably weren't motivated by a lack of more suitable prey, he added.

A more likely explanation is that the ominously named The Ghost and The Darkness began hunting humans because infirmities in their mouths hindered their ability to catch bigger and stronger animals, the study authors wrote.

Down in the mouth

Previous findings, first presented to the American Society of Mammalogists in 2000, according to New Scientist , documented that one of the Tsavo lions was missing three lower incisors, and had a broken canine and a sizable abscess in the tissues surrounding another tooth's root. The second lion also had damage in its mouth, with a fractured upper tooth showing exposed pulp. [ The 10 Deadliest Animals on Earth ]

For the first lion in particular, pressure on the abscess would have caused unbearable pain, providing more than enough motivation for the animal to skip large, powerful prey and go after punier people, Patterson said. In fact, chemical analysis conducted in another, earlier study, published in 2009 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , showed that the lion with the abscess consumed more human prey than its partner. Moreover, after the first lion was shot and killed in 1898 — more than two weeks before the second lion was gunned down — the attacks on people ceased, Patterson noted.

Nearly 120 years after the man-eaters ' lives abruptly ended, fascination with their gruesome habits persists. But had it not been for their preserved remains — which John Patterson sold to FMNH as trophy rugs in 1924 — today's explanations for their habits would be no more than speculation, Bruce Patterson told Live Science.

"There would be no way to resolve these questions if it weren't for specimens," he said. "After almost 120 years, we can tell not only what these lions were eating, but we can resolve differences between these lions by interrogating their skins and skulls.

"There's a lot of science you can build on that, all derived from specimens," Patterson added. "I have 230,000 other specimens in the museum collection, and they all have stories to tell."

The findings were published online today (April 19) in the journal Scientific Reports .

Original article on Live Science .

Sign up for the Live Science daily newsletter now

Get the world’s most fascinating discoveries delivered straight to your inbox.

Mindy Weisberger

Mindy Weisberger is an editor at Scholastic and a former Live Science channel editor and senior writer. She has reported on general science, covering climate change, paleontology, biology, and space. Mindy studied film at Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.

Why do lions have manes?

In a first, zoo lion transmits COVID-19 to its keepers

Save $70 on the fantastic AirPods Max at Best Buy

Most Popular

By Brandon Specktor December 28, 2023

By Jamie Carter December 28, 2023

By Lloyd Coombes December 28, 2023

By Elise Poore, Tia Ghose December 28, 2023

By Victoria Atkinson December 28, 2023

By Patrick Pester December 28, 2023

By Tara Haelle December 28, 2023

By Keumars Afifi-Sabet December 27, 2023

By Paul Sutter December 27, 2023

By Tia Ghose December 27, 2023

  • 2 James Webb telescope finds 'vanishing' galaxy from the dawn of the universe
  • 3 Intergalactic 'stream of stars' 10 times longer than the Milky Way is the 1st of its kind ever spotted
  • 4 Temple linked to Hercules and Alexander the Great discovered in ancient megacity in Iraq
  • 5 6 million-year-old 'fossil groundwater pool' discovered deep beneath Sicilian mountains
  • 2 'If you don't have inflammation, then you'll die': How scientists are reprogramming the body's natural superpower
  • 3 How many times has Earth orbited the sun?
  • 4 Clouded leopard: The cat with saber-like teeth that can walk upside down in trees
  • 5 Inflammation is a 'mismatch between our evolutionary history and modern environment,' says immunologist Ruslan Medzhitov

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 .

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.

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.

ghost in the darkness real story

Get the latest Science stories in your inbox.

Paul Raffaele | READ MORE

The Cinemaholic

The Ghost and the Darkness: The True Story Behind The 1996 Thriller Film

Ridham Vashishth of The Ghost and the Darkness: The True Story Behind The 1996 Thriller Film

Directed by the seasoned Stephen Hopkins, ‘The Ghost and the Darkness’ is an adventure thriller film  that paints a vivid picture of Africa’s vast terrains. In the heart of Tsavo, Kenya, during the late 19th century, a railway construction crew is thrown into a whirlwind of fear and uncertainty. Two relentless lions, seemingly with a taste for human flesh, cast a shadow of terror over the workers, turning their daily lives into a suspense-filled survival game.

With the formidable Val Kilmer and the iconic Michael Douglas leading the cast, the intense narrative of the 1996 film and the palpable tension it evokes might make one question its origins. Given the historical backdrop and the raw human emotions on display, it’s easy to wonder if such a tale has roots in actual events. As we venture further, we’ll explore the true essence of ‘The Ghost and the Darkness’ and its connection to reality.

The Ghost and the Darkness is Based on Real-Life Incidents

The film’s narrative draws inspiration from the real-life terror caused by two lions (the Tsavo man-eaters ) in the late 19th century. The screenplay, penned by the talented William Goldman, draws heavily from the book ‘The Man-Eaters of Tsavo’ written by Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson, the very man tasked with eliminating these lions’ threat. Notorious for their man-eating tendencies, these lions were responsible for the deaths of many railway workers in Tsavo, Kenya. In various interviews, director Stephen Hopkins has expressed his fascination with this harrowing tale.

ghost in the darkness real story

Hopkins mentioned how the story’s blend of historical facts and raw primal fear resonated with him. He wanted to capture not just the external threat posed by the lions but also the internal conflicts and fears of the people involved. However, like many films based on true stories, ‘The Ghost and the Darkness’ isn’t without its cinematic liberties. While the essence of the man-eaters’ terror is accurately depicted, certain dramatic elements were added to enhance the film’s suspense and appeal.

For instance, the character Charles Remington (Michael Douglas), is a fictional addition. There’s no historical record of such a character being involved in the hunt for the Tsavo lions. His inclusion served as a narrative tool to heighten the drama and introduce a contrasting perspective to Patterson’s. Another deviation from reality is the exaggerated number of victims. While the film suggests that the lions killed over a hundred workers, historical accounts, including Patterson’s own writings, estimate the number to be closer to 35. Though not entirely accurate, this amplification was likely introduced to underscore the severity of the threat.

Despite these alterations, the film’s core remains true to the events it portrays. The Tsavo man-eaters’ reign of terror, the subsequent hunt, and the psychological impact on the workers and hunters are all depicted with a sense of authenticity. The film does a commendable job of transporting the audience to Tsavo in 1898, making them feel the palpable tension and fear. While ‘The Ghost and the Darkness’ takes certain creative liberties for cinematic enhancement, its foundation is solidly based on the chilling real-life events in Tsavo.

Read More: Best Adventure Movies of All Time


The Cinemaholic Sidebar

  • Movie Explainers
  • TV Explainers
  • About The Cinemaholic
  • Venue Rentals
  • Traveling Exhibitions
  • Sue the T-Rex
  • Gantz Family Collections Center
  • Zoology Collections

Tsavo Lions

Were bad teeth to blame for these man-eaters’ taste for humans?

Four visitors stand together in front of two Lions of Tsavo dioramas. The leftmost visitor takes a picture of two lion skulls displayed on pedestals near the lions inside the diorama case.

Tucked within an arresting collection of taxidermied mammals of Africa in the Rice Gallery, the man-eating lions of Tsavo are two of the Field Museum’s most famous residents—and also the most infamous.

In March 1898, the British started building a railway bridge over the Tsavo (SAH-vo) River in Kenya. But the project took a deadly turn when, over the next nine months, two maneless male lions mysteriously developed a taste for humans and went on a killing spree.

The rise and fall of the Tsavo lions

Crews tried and failed to scare the lions away, forcing people to flee the area and halting construction on the bridge. Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson, the civil engineer at the helm of the railway project, took matters into his own hands so that work could continue on the railway.

The lions’ reign of terror ended when Colonel Patterson (no relation to our current MacArthur Curator of Mammals Bruce Patterson) shot and killed them in late 1898, and the railroad was completed a few months later.

He later told the story of the lions, and the hunt that eventually took them down, in his book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo and Other East African Adventures . Patterson reported that the lions’ feeding frenzy took the lives of 135 railway workers and native Africans. Later research by Field Museum scientists drastically reduced that estimate to 35 (which is still disconcerting!).


The lions’ journey to Chicago

Patterson turned the fearsome felines into trophy rugs from his hunt, and they remained harmless floor ornaments until 1925, when he sold them to the Field Museum during a trip through Chicago.

Museum staff restored the lions to their former glory—minus the appetite—by mounting them as taxidermy specimens and displaying them in a diorama.

In addition to Patterson’s written account, several movies are based on his tale of the man-eating lions, including The Ghost and the Darkness . The 1996 film contained some glaring inaccuracies, including casting lions with manes for the part, but the story captivated moviegoers and increased interest in these infamous lions.

A third man-eating lion from Mfuwe, Zambia, dined on six people in 1991. That specimen is also on display in the museum, on the ground level.

How we study the Tsavo lions

Using archival documents, Assistant Collections Manager Tom Gnoske and Adjunct Curator Julian Kerbis questioned whether the lions had eaten as many people as initially reported. In 2008, a team of scientists including the Field's Bruce Patterson helped discover just how many people they ate. The scientists examined the lions’ skeletons and pelts—specifically, their bone collagen and hair keratin levels—to get a more accurate picture of what the lions had been eating in the months leading up to their death. This research revealed that the lions ate closer to 35 humans—about 100 fewer than Colonel Patterson’s original estimate.

The bigger mystery, though, is why the Tsavo lions got an appetite for people. Was it food scarcity and desperation? A habitual dietary choice made after feasting on the remains of conveniently already-dead railway workers? Or was it the crippling aftereffects of dental injury?


Several researchers—including Bruce Patterson and Larisa DeSantis of Vanderbilt University—have been just as captivated by these lions as the museumgoers who flock to the display. Using state-of-the-art technology to research the lions’ skulls, they found that the wear patterns on their teeth resembled those of zoo lions, which eat soft foods and do not crack bones. Previous X-ray imaging of the lions' remains found that they suffered from severe dental issues, including a root-tip abscess in one lion’s canine.

Researchers now believe the lions of Tsavo—as well as the Mfuwe lion also on display at the Field—switched to humans for practical reasons: they were easier to catch and chew.

Research continues today. After rediscovering the cave deemed the "Man-Eaters' Den" in 1997, Gnoske and Kerbis continue to explore the mysteries of the Tsavo lions, including studying hairs from various prey the lions ate.


The importance of museum collections

The lions of Tsavo drive home the fascination and importance of museum collections. Bruce Patterson says:

"It’s astonishing that, [more than a hundred] years after their death, we can be talking about not only how many people they ate, but differences in the behavior of two animals, all from skins and skulls in a museum collection. When you think of the hundreds of thousands of specimens upstairs and all the stories they have to tell, … the value of museum collections is just astronomical."

Related content, Check this out

Kids in the PlayLab make music (or joyful noise) with instruments from around the world.

The lion-killer who became an Israeli hero

  • Published 30 November 2014

JH Patterson with one of the Tsavo lions

The ashes of a swashbuckling hero of the British Empire are to be reburied in Israel after a service attended by the country's prime minister. John Henry Patterson was a soldier, big-game hunter and writer, whose exploits inspired three Hollywood movies. The BBC's Kevin Connolly explains why he is so admired in Israel.

The man who was to become a hero to Israelis and Britons was not Jewish, and was more Irish than British. Like many servants of the crown in the days of Empire he was an Irishman born in County Longford in 1867 to a Protestant father and Catholic mother. Ireland was then part of the United Kingdom and military service was a popular option for many young Irishmen - partly from a want of other opportunities and partly from a sense of adventure.

In Patterson's case we can assume it was the sense of adventure. By 1898 he'd been commissioned to oversee the construction of a railway bridge over a ravine at Tsavo, in Kenya, but found work was being held up by two man-eating lions who were terrorising the huge camps housing the Indian and African labourers.

Lieutenant Colonel J H Patterson, Q 80054 IWM

It's hard to be sure, but the two lions between them may have killed more than 100 people in all. Patterson wasn't an expert on lions, although he'd shot tigers on military service in India, but to protect his workers and get his bridge finished he resolved to kill the predators.

Man-eating behaviour isn't common among lions - it's possible that the two killers at Tsavo had got the taste for human flesh from the careless disposal of human remains over the years. Over a three-week period Patterson killed both the predators. His workers, who'd been growing fractious, presented him with an inscribed drinking cup to salute his extraordinary nerve. It remained one of his most treasured possessions. Patterson told the whole story in his best-selling book, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo.

The book has inspired no fewer than three Hollywood movies - Bwana Devil (1952), the Killers of Kilimanjaro (1959) and The Ghost and the Darkness (1996). The American hunter Remington, played by Michael Douglas, who appears in The Ghost and The Darkness is a pure invention - in real-life our Irish hero did it all himself. The lions to some extent are the stars of the story and they were exceptional creatures. These animals measured 9ft (2.7m) from the nose to the tip of the tail, and after they'd been shot each of them required a team of eight men to carry them back to the camp. The stuffed carcases are in the Field Museum in Chicago but the taxidermist's art has apparently somewhat diminished their impact... according to legend the original skins had been used as rugs and so when it was decided to stuff and mount them they came out slightly smaller than they had originally been.

The Tsavo lions in Chicago's Field Museum

Nothing ordinary ever seemed to happen to Patterson. Bwana Devil is generally cited as the first full-colour 3-D movie made in English and so is a Hollywood milestone in itself. When you see those old black and white photographs of movie audiences thrilling to the 3-D experience in their cardboard spectacles, there's a good chance they're watching Patterson in action. The film also deserves to be remembered for a slogan designed to reassure audiences that the coming of startling 3-D realism didn't mean the end of old-fashioned romance. "Bwana Devil!", it said. "A Lion in Your Lap; A Lover in Your Arms!"

This video can not be played

To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.

Lt Colonel J H Patterson recorded in the 1940s. Courtesy: The Jabotinsky Institute

Having your life turned into a Hollywood movie isn't always a positive experience. A few years after the events at Tsavo, Patterson was involved in a scandal that made him the talk of big-game hunting high society in Africa. On safari a fellow British soldier, Audley Blyth, died of gunshot wounds in his tent, as ugly rumours swirled that Patterson had been rather too close to Mrs Blyth, who was also a part of the expedition. At one point it's believed that Patterson threatened to sue Winston Churchill for slander as the incident became the talk of fashionable London dinner tables. Ernest Hemingway was intrigued enough to fictionalise the story in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber - and true to form it was eventually turned in to yet another movie, The Macomber Affair (1947).

Big-game hunting is no longer fashionable, of course, but it's worth remembering that hunters tended to see themselves not as despoilers of the natural environment of Africa but as experts in it. Patterson shot an eland in 1906 and had the head mounted. He thought it had some unusual characteristics and when it was eventually seen by a member of faculty at the British Museum in London it turned out to be a sort of unique sub-species that to this day bears Patterson's name, Taurotragus Oryx Pattersonianius.

There was nothing honorary about Lt Col Patterson's military rank. He served with distinction in a British cavalry regiment during the Boer War in South Africa, winning the Distinguished Service Order, and when he was recalled to the colours during World War One he was almost 50 years old.

Troops of the Zion Mule Corps in Palestine, WW1

It was during the Middle East campaign that he found himself in command of the Zion Mule Corps, a group of Jewish volunteers eager to serve the international cause and to advance their own cause of creating a Jewish state at the same time. Patterson became a passionate supporter of Zionism and the ranks of the detachment he commanded included influential heroes of the cause, including Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Joseph Trumpeldor.


Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky (1880-1940)

  • Zionist leader, journalist and orator born in Odessa
  • He founded the militant Zionist Revisionist movement that played an important role in the establishment of the State of Israel
  • Convinced the British government to allow military participation by Jewish refugees from the Ottoman Empire during World War One

Joseph Trumpeldor (1880-1920)

  • Zionist pioneer and former hero of the tsarist army, born in Russia
  • Died at the Tel Hai (Tal-ha in Arabic) former settlement in 1920, in an early battle of the Arab-Israeli conflict

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Patterson took his Jewish volunteers to war around the dangerous beaches of Gallipoli in what history remembers as a doomed British effort to attack the German Empire through the territory of its ally, the Turkish Empire. It's often said that Patterson thus became the first commander to lead Jewish forces on to the field of battle for two millennia making him an important figure in the history of Zionism.

John Henry Patterson (left) with the parents of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told me that his older brother, Yonathan, was named in honour of John Henry Patterson, who had come to know their father when he lived in New York campaigning for the Zionist cause in the mid-1940s.

Benjamin Netanyahu talks to Kevin Connolly about John Henry Patterson

The family still has an engraved goblet given to Yonathan by Patterson to celebrate his birth. Yonathan went on to become an Israeli national hero who died leading the extraordinary raid on Entebbe in Uganda in 1976 in which commandos from Israel's special forces rescued hostages who were being held at an airport by members of the German Baader-Meinhof gang and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Prime Minister Netanyahu told us he regarded Patterson as godfather to the Israeli Army as well as the godfather to his brother and says it's right that Israel should honour him. He's expected to attend the burial of Patterson's ashes on Thursday.

Goblet given to Yonathan Netanyahu

You can hear Kevin Connolly's radio report about John Henry Patterson on BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House , at 09:00 GMT on Sunday 30 November - or afterwards on the BBC iPlayer

Subscribe to the BBC News Magazine's email newsletter to get articles sent to your inbox.

  • Not Exactly Rocket Science

How many people did the man-eating lions of Tsavo actually eat?

In 1898, railway workers in Tsavo, Kenya were terrorised by a pair of man-eating lions , who killed at least 28 people during a 10-month reign of terror. It ended in December when a British officer called Lt. Col. John H. Patterson killed both beasts.  The man-eaters’ notorious exploits have been immortalised in no less than three Hollywood films, including most recently The Ghost and the Darkness. But despite their fame, no one is quite sure how many people they killed. The Ugandan Railway Company said 28; Patterson claimed it was 135.

Both parties had reasons to lie, either playing down or exaggerating the figures for the sake of reputation. But Justin Yeake from the University of California decided to find the truth by going straight to the source – the remains of the man-eaters, currently on display in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History . By studying the chemical composition of the lions’ hair and bones, Yeake estimated that they killed around 35 people, with a possible range of 4 to 72. Either way, Patterson’s claim was wildly exaggerated.

The Tsavo man-eaters at the Chicago Field Museum, taken by Jeffrey Jung

Yeake took samples of the lions’ bone collagen and hair keratin, and measured the ratio of carbon and nitrogen isotopes. Both can tell you about the items on a lion’s menu – bone collagen grows slowly and reflects the lion’s lifetime eating habits, while keratin from fast-growing hairs reveals the nature of its meals over the past three months. 

Yeake compared these ratios to those of modern Tsavo lions, and matched them against those form various prey animals including giraffe, kudu, impala, zebra, buffalo and humans. The human samples came from remains collected by anthropologist Louis Leakey during his East African Archaeological Expedition of 1929.

The results showed that the diet of Tsavo’s modern lions consists almost entirely of grazing animals such as zebra, waterbuck and buffalo. The man-eaters were different. Yeake calculated that one of them probably ate around 11 people in its nine-month hunting spree, but focused mainly on expanding its tastes in herbivores.

His partner switched menus even more dramatically, moving to a diet of browsers (giraffe, kudu and the like) and humans. By winter, a third of his food came from freshly killed humans. This was the animal that caused the lion’s share of deaths among the railway workers, and Yeake estimates that he ate around 24, giving a total kill count of 35. Of course, these are only estimates, but there’s a 95% chance that the true figure falls within the range of 4-72.

These disparate diets make the cooperation between the two males even more astounding. Both specialised on different rare prey and, if anything, their tastes diverged even further from one another over time. And yet, they frequently exposed themselves to danger to kill animals that only one ate. That sort of behaviour had never been seen before or since. Perhaps by working together, they could scatter both humans and game, so that both could be fed? For the moment, we just don’t know.

Nor is it clear why the lions starting eating people in the first place, although Yeake has two theories. For a start, the lion that killed the most people had severe injuries, including diseases of the skull and teeth, skull evinced craniodental, poorly aligned jaws and a fractured tooth. It wasn’t exactly a king among beasts, and it supports the idea that big cats are more likely to prey on humans if they’re ill or impaired. 

The Tsavo killings took place against a backdrop of intense environmental changes. Elephant populations had plummeted and as a result, woodlands were expanding and the savannah’s grazers were being driven away. The remaining herds were thinned by a 13-year drought and a pair of viral epidemics in 1889 and 1898. And just as these walking sirloins dwindled away and the lions started to hunger, a new type of prey arrived in the region – humans, charged with building the Uganda Railway. The rest is history.

The two lions, Lieutenant Patterson (in top-left) and a Taita ancestral shrine.

Reference : PNAS: doi:10.1073/pnas.0905309106

More on lions and isotope analysis:

  • Lions killed by perfect storm of changing climate, virus and parasites
  • Fungi transform depleted uranium into chemically stable minerals
  • What the stomach contents of sperm whales tell us about giant squid and octopuses
  • Corn is everywhere in American fast food

Read This Next

How to survive an encounter with wildlife—from bears to bison, mind-controlling parasite makes hyena cubs more reckless around lions, the moment: serengeti lions, menopause is rare among animals. why do orcas go through it.

  • Environment
  • Paid Content
  • 2023 in Review

History & Culture

  • History & Culture
  • Race in America
  • Mind, Body, Wonder
  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Your US State Privacy Rights
  • Children's Online Privacy Policy
  • Interest-Based Ads
  • About Nielsen Measurement
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information
  • Nat Geo Home
  • Attend a Live Event
  • Book a Trip
  • Inspire Your Kids
  • Shop Nat Geo
  • Visit the D.C. Museum
  • Learn About Our Impact
  • Support Our Mission
  • Advertise With Us
  • Customer Service
  • Renew Subscription
  • Manage Your Subscription
  • Work at Nat Geo
  • Sign Up for Our Newsletters
  • Contribute to Protect the Planet

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society Copyright © 2015-2024 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved

ghost in the darkness real story

  • July 2, 2018
  • Adventure , Drama , Thriller

108: The Ghost and the Darkness

Did you enjoy this episode help support the next one.

  • The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) – IMDb
  • Tsavo Man-Eaters – Wikipedia
  • John Henry Patterson (author) – Wikipedia
  • Man-Eaters of Tsavo | Science | Smithsonian
  • The Savage Tsavo Man-Eaters and the Man Who Stopped Them
  • The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) – Plot Summary – IMDb
  • William Goldman – IMDb
  • The Man-Eaters Of Tsavo And Other East African Adventures: Color Illustrated, Formatted for E-Readers (Unabridged Version) – Kindle edition by John Henry Patterson, Leonardo. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @
  • History of Uganda Railway – Daily Monitor
  • patterson-bryan.pdf
  • The Project Gutenberg E-text of The Man-eaters of Tsavo, by J. H. Patterson

Disclaimer: Dan LeFebvre and/or Based on a True Story may earn commissions from qualifying purchases through our links on this page.

Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.

Our story today opens with a scene of golden fields of long grass blowing in the wind. It’s the kind of grass you might expect to see a lion hiding in. Or, I guess, the kind of grass you won’t see a lion hiding in until it’s too late.

Instead of seeing lions, though, we hear a slight growl as we see the title of the film: The Ghost and the Darkness.

After this, the camera cuts to a building and there’s a bit of text on screen to let us know we’re in London in the year 1898. The door opens and walking through the dark halls is a man in uniform. He’s walking with his back to the camera as we follow him down the hall, so we can’t really see his face.

As he walks, we hear a voiceover explaining that this is the most famous true African adventure. It’s famous because what took place at Tsavo had never happened before. As the voiceover continues to explain, a brilliant engineer named Colonel John Patterson was there when it began. Then the voice concludes its monologue as it introduces itself as Samuel—a character played by John Kani in the film.

Finally, we see the man’s face as he finishes his walk down the hall and reaches his destination. It’s Val Kilmer’s character who happens to be Colonel John Patterson.

The scene we see next is one where Robert Beaumont, a character played by Tom Wilkinson, tells Colonel Patterson that he’s building the most expensive and daring railroad in history. All of it for the glorious purpose of beating the French and Germans in the colonialism of Africa. Or, as Robert explains it, in saving Africa from the Africans. And their ability to beat the French and Germans hinges on Colonel Patterson being able to do what Robert Beaumont has hired him to do—build a bridge across the river Tsavo.

After this introduction to Colonel Patterson’s boss, we meet his wife at the train station as she bids him farewell. She’s pregnant, but he must leave. In theory he should be back before she has the child, but challenges come—they always do. She understands. It’s alright, because that just means she can come to Africa with their newborn child when he’s born.

And with that, our opening sequence is set. All of those scenes are made up, but there are bits and pieces of truth in there.

Robert Beaumont wasn’t a real person. He’s more of a composite character to portray the committee in London in charge of the Uganda Railway. The purpose of that committee was, as you can probably guess, to build a railway across the sub-Saharan plains of Africa.

Colonel Patterson, on the other hand, was a real person. He was commissioned, like the movie implies, to build a bridge on the Tsavo river for the Uganda Railway committee. More specifically, they’d already built a temporary bridge that the workers used to haul equipment across the river, but Colonel Patterson’s job was to build the permanent bridge and also the railway for 30 miles on either side of the bridge.

For a bit of geographical context, the Tsavo river is on the eastern side of Africa. In 1898 when our story takes place that was known by the colonizing British as simply British East Africa, but today we know it as Kenya. That’s between Somalia to the north and Tanzania to the south.

Another little difference in this opening sequence is with Colonel Patterson’s wife, who is cast as Helena Patterson. She’s played by Emily Mortimer in the film. In truth, her first name was Frances. Helena was her middle name. The two were married in 1895, so the movie is correct in showing them married in 1898.

However, it’d be a bit of a stretch to assume that they had their son around the timeline of the film. He was born in 1909, so unless she had one of the longest pregnancies ever, I doubt she was pregnant in 1898.

Something the movie doesn’t mention, though, is that Frances Patterson was an amazing woman in her own right. She was the very first woman to receive a law degree in the British Isles.

Going back to the movie, Colonel Patterson arrives in Africa to meet a few new characters. First there’s Angus Starling, the camp supervisor that’s played by Brian McCardie. Together, we see Starling and Patterson take what Starling calls the best seat on the train—a wooden bench positioned outside the train on the very front. From here, the two take the trip from Mombasa to Tsavo.

That’s not really accurate.

Like Beaumont, the character of Angus Starling is a fictional one.

Although it is true that Colonel Patterson made his way to Tsavo through the port city of Mombasa. As Colonel Patterson measured it in his book, that’s about 132 miles, or 212 kilometers, to the north of the coast. The movie speeds it all up quite a bit, though. He was in Mombasa for about a week before getting his official orders to head to Tsavo.

While it is true that the train from Mombasa to Tsavo is the one that Colonel Patterson took, according to his memoirs he made a very specific point to talk about the wildlife he saw on the train ride to Tsavo through the windows—so not on the front of the train.

Although, it’s not like Patterson took the trip from Mombasa to Tsavo alone. Joining him on the ride was a man named Dr. McCulloch.

It’s worth mentioning that, generally speaking, as much as the trip to Tsavo was a job for Patterson, any time off he’d have from building the bridge would be spent hunting wild animals.

And their hunting started right away. Not with a lion, but rather with Dr. McCulloch and Patterson being amazed at a beautiful ostrich running alongside their train. So, Dr. McCulloch shot it. For sport, of course. Just because it was there. They then got the train to stop and back up so they could pick up the slain ostrich.

Back in the movie, after Patterson arrives in Tsavo we get to meet a couple more characters. The first is John Kani’s character, Samuel. He’s the guy who did the voiceover in the beginning.

Finally, the last main character we meet here is David Hawthorne. He’s played by Bernard Hill and as the camp doctor, greets Colonel Patterson by saying he’s brought some bad luck. There’s been a lion attack. Don’t worry, Colonel Patterson reassures Dr. Hawthorne, I’ll sort it out.

All of that is made up, including all those characters—they’re fictional. There was a doctor at the camp, but we already learned about him. He was none other than Dr. McCulloch who arrived in Tsavo with Patterson.

Back in the movie, after arriving in Tsavo, Val Kilmer’s version of Colonel Patterson gets right to work sorting it out. He and Starling climb up a tree that night to hunt the lion.

After plenty of waiting and a few tense moments, Patterson manages to kill the lion with a single shot—quite a feat! Back in camp the next day, everyone celebrates Patterson for freeing them of the terror of lions at night.

Of course, if you’ve seen the movie before you’ll know that’s going to change.

But historically, none of that happened.

While it’s also not true that Colonel Patterson hunted down a lion on his first night at the camp, that’s a bit nit-picky since the hunt for man-eating lions began just a few days after his arrival. It’s worth pointing out that when Patterson arrived at the camp in March of 1898, there were thousands of workers, mostly Indians who had been imported by the British to do the backbreaking work for a measly sum of about 12 rupees a month. That’s roughly about $1 in today’s US dollars. So, I think it’s safe to say their pay was a pittance—just enough to avoid being tagged as slave labor.

With thousands of workers, what I’m referring to as the “camp” was technically several camps spread out across a rather wide area—a few miles or so. There’s the one Colonel Patterson was in, then a half a mile away or so another camp. The hospital would be three-quarters of a mile away from that, and so on.

It’s also worth pointing out that not all the workers were under Colonel Patterson’s command, like the movie seems to imply. While there were a few hundred under his command to build the bridge and the 30 miles of railway on either side, the rest were tasked with the railway outside of Colonel Patterson’s job. So, mile 31 and beyond.

Because of the size of the camp, when the first two men were dragged away in the middle of the night by what witnesses described as a pair of lions, Colonel Patterson didn’t believe them. He chalked it up to a disagreement among the workers and a lion attack was the cover story. So, he didn’t do anything.

That would soon change.

Going back to the movie, after Val Kilmer’s version of Colonel Patterson kills a lion right after arriving in Tsavo, things seem to be rather uneventful for some time. There’s a bit of text on screen that says it’s seven weeks later, and one night we see Patterson go to sleep in his tent. Across the camp, the construction foreman, Mahina, goes to sleep in his tent.

By the way, Mahina is played by Henry Cele in the movie.

Of course, there’s quite a bit of difference in the sleeping arrangements. Patterson gets a bed in a tent of his own while Mahina sleeps on the floor with at least six other men that I could count in the frame. Most of them are lying with their heads in the center of the tent with their feet near the edges.

After settling in for the night, across the camp there’s silence.

All is quiet.

Then all of a sudden, there’s a scuffle as we see Mahina’s leg get pulled. He’s dragged out of the tent, startling him awake. As he looks up, there’s a massive black shadow above him—a lion.

Mahina screams. The lion responds with a growl of his own as he clamps down on Mahina’s leg and starts to drag him into the tall grass nearby. Back in the camp, a commotion starts as people start screaming, “Simba! Simba!” or “Lion! Lion!”

The next day, Patterson, Starling and Samuel find the remains of Mahina’s body in the grass.

None of that is true. Although Mahina was a real person—he was Patterson’s gun-bearer. In fact, the character of Samuel in the movie was a fictional one and, in truth, it was Mahina who was Patterson’s right-hand man in the hunt for the man-eaters moreso than anyone else.

As his gun-bearer, anytime Colonel Patterson went hunting in the African wilderness, which he did often as a break from building the bridge, Mahina would likely be at his side. What’s not true about this, though, is that Mahina died as a result of a lion attack like we see in the film. In fact, Mahina was one of the men who bade farewell to Colonel Patterson when he finally went back to England toward the end of 1899.

But that’s getting a bit ahead of our story.

Even though Mahina didn’t die during the timeline of the film, there was an event that was similar to what we saw.

About three weeks after Colonel Patterson arrived in Tsavo, one of his officers, a man named Ungan Singh, was dragged out of his tent in the middle of the night and eaten.

If you remember, up until this point the real Patterson didn’t really believe the previous reports of night-time killings being lions. He thought they were probably scraps between the workers that were being blamed on wildlife. When Singh was killed, the witnesses said it was a lion attack. This time, though, Colonel Patterson investigated the disappearance. He came to the same conclusion as the witnesses—the prints were clear in the sand along with the marks of where Ungan was dragged off into the brush.

Going back to the movie, after Mahina is killed there’s more deaths. Each night, Val Kilmer’s version of Colonel Patterson climbs a tree to kill the lion. They build bomas, or thornbush enclosures that are meant to keep the lion out. And yet, each night it seems, the lion evades Patterson as someone else is dragged off.

Things get so bad that we see Tom Wilkinson’s character of Robert Beaumont make his way to the construction site. When he arrives on a train, he mentions that Patterson is two months behind—and he wants answers.

After hearing about the 30 or so men that have been killed, Beaumont says he doesn’t care about the men who have died—all he cares about is his knighthood. Get the job done. But then he offers to hire Michael Douglas’s character, Charles Remington, to take out lion.

That’s not true.

As we learned before, Beaumont wasn’t a real person so it’s probably not too much of a surprise that that never happened. Although it’d be logical to assume that if the character of Beaumont was supposed to be a personified version of the Uganda Railway committee that maybe some folks of the committee came out to degrade Patterson at the site.

Of course, who’s to say what happened in the undocumented conversations, but building a railroad in the wilderness came with its fair share of hardness. No one likes them, but delays are a part of the job.

Still, it’s safe to say none of that happened.

That brings us to Charles Remington. He’s also a fictional character. There was a man named Mr. Whitehead that Patterson wrote to for assistance in killing the lions, but he was the District Officer in the region, not a big game hunter like Remington was in the movie.

And that right there probably tells you how historically accurate much of the movie from here on out was since he’s one of the main characters. And we’ll come back to Mr. Whitehead in a moment.

As a little side note, you’ll notice that when recounting what happened in the movie I’m using the term “lion”, singular. In the movie, at this point, Patterson didn’t know there were two lions.

To be honest, I don’t really know if that’s true or not. I couldn’t find anything that verified that Patterson thought there was only one lion at the beginning until seeing the two side-by-side at one time. In his book, Patterson almost always refers to them as “the lions” from the very beginning—plural. But that brings up a great point. Patterson’s book called The Man-Eaters of Tsavo was published in 1907, so about nine years after the events took place.

Can you remember everything you did nine years ago to write down every detail? I know I can’t.

And therein lies the conundrum of stories like this that rely so heavily on the experiences of only one man. Stories like this one or others like The Revenant, Lawrence of Arabia, Sargent York and so on. Stories that are often conflated either out of misremembering, honest mistakes or just the desire to make their stories sound more exciting than they actually were.

Oh, sure, there were other people there, but not people who wrote down their stories. And oral histories are even more unreliable. This is all important to keep in mind, because due to the nature of Patterson being the only one who really provided documentation of many of the events by way of his book, we pretty much have to assume its details are true. But I still think it’s worth pointing that out from time to time.

Back to our story today, even though Beaumont never came to Tsavo because, well, he’s not a real person, the basic idea of Patterson trying to hunt down the lions almost immediately after his arrival was true.

In his first few weeks at camp, even after the very first of the workers was dragged away in the middle of the night, Colonel Patterson was determined to get rid of the lions. He’d perch in the trees at night near a recent kill—even getting to the point of leaving a victim’s body where it was found after being dragged off in hopes that the lions would come back for the remains. Instead, while hanging out on a perch, which usually consisted of a board between four posts, Patterson would hear a commotion in a camp a half a mile away. The lions eluded him yet again.

That was a common occurrence. Remember, there used to be people spread out across multiple camps. When they’d guard one camp, another would get attacked. Initially, they’d sometimes be successful in scaring the lions off by making a lot of noise—gunshots, banging things together. But as the nights wore on, the noises stopped having an effect on the lions. They grew more and more bold as they entered tents, grabbing someone in their sleep and dragging them to the outside of the camp where they’d both feed on the poor soul.

What made things even worse was that the thousands of men started to shrink as the railway made progress. Remember earlier when we learned that not all of the workers were tasked with building the bridge under Colonel Patterson? Well, as the workers who were working on the railway itself beyond the bridge made progress, that meant more and more workers were moving away from the Tsavo encampment.

Left behind were the few hundred workers tasked with the bridge. That meant the camps weren’t nearly as full as when Patterson arrived, making things seem even more eerie as the already depleted numbers dwindled more with each night someone was taken from their tent by the lions.

Going back to the movie, with the deaths piling up, we see one of the Indian workers named Abdullah get into a big argument with Patterson. Angry words are thrust back and forth along with what some might consider threats.

Then, just as things start to get really heated, Michael Douglas’s character, Charles Remington, comes into the picture and places a gun to Abdullah’s head. Finally, things calm down a bit.

Well, we already learned earlier that Charles Remington wasn’t a real person, so that part isn’t true. But it is true that the Indian workers revolted against Colonel Patterson. In fact, it was quite a bit worse than what we saw in the movie—even down to a plot to murder Patterson.

There was a lot of stress in the camp, not the least of which because of the lions. But then there was another key factor that seemed to be the last straw in Patterson’s leadership for many of the workers.

None of this is in the movie at all, but as Patterson was overseeing the stone for the base supports for the bridge, he called on the masons of his workers to help. It didn’t take long for him to realize that many of his masons didn’t know the first thing about stone-work.

It’d seem that masons made 45 rupees a month while regular workers only made about 12. So, plenty of people signed up to be masons. When it came time to prove their work, they failed.

As we learned earlier, 12 rupees is equivalent to about $1 in today’s US dollars. On the other hand, 45 rupees in 1898 was roughly about $34 in today’s US dollars. So, neither is really a high salary by any means…but there’s quite a difference.

After Patterson found this out, he decided to cut the pay of anyone who couldn’t prove they were actual masons. Then, trying to appease those who were masons, he’d offer them a little above the 45 rupees.

Well, this drastic pay cut for many workers didn’t really make them happy.

On September 6th, 1898, Colonel Patterson started along his normal morning routine from the trolley line to a quarry to check on the workers there. He’d heard rumors of a mutinous plot but didn’t think a lot of it—he didn’t believe they’d actually carry it out, he just thought it was an intimidation technique.

Well, it was more than that. He found out about that when roughly 160 or so men armed with crowbars and hammers cornered Patterson in a remote gully. It had to have been like a scene in a movie—except not this one. Suddenly, one of the men charged at Patterson.

Patterson dodged, causing the man to dive past him and straight into a nearby rock. That caused enough of a pause from the rest of the workers to give Patterson the time to jump up on another nearby rock. From there, he addressed the workers who, somewhat surprisingly, listened.

He pointed out that if he were killed, the nearby government wasn’t going to be likely to believe that he’d been dragged off by a lion. The punishment for killing him would be hanging for any man involved. Not only that, but they’d just replace him with a new task-master. How did they know who that new boss would be? Maybe he’d be even worse of a boss—not as fair as Patterson was.

He promised anyone who was unhappy could leave without question. Anyone who stayed, though, would have to stop their plots against his life. In return, he wouldn’t mention it to his own bosses.

Back in the movie…actually, before we move onto the next scene, let’s clarify something because the movie gets the timeline a little backward.

In particular, the timing of the work stoppage. In the movie, we see a little later on a scene where Abdullah and hundreds of Indian workers climb aboard a train to leave Tsavo in the wake of one of the worst attacks yet. I’m speaking of the one on the hospital, of course. But we’ll get to that a bit later.

So, in truth, all of those workers really did leave Tsavo…but it wasn’t later like we see in the movie. Remember, the plot against Patterson’s life was in September of 1898.

By the time December of 1898 rolled around, things had gotten so bad that, like the movie implies, there was indeed a halt in the work. Hundreds of workers threw themselves in front of a passing train, forcing it to stop. When it did, they hopped on and left. Anyone who stayed behind stopped working on the bridge and railway. The only thing they’d build was what they thought were lion-proof buildings. These were structures that stood atop anything they could find—water tanks and roofs. Anything to get them off the ground at night.

The work stoppage would end up lasting three weeks.

But the thing I wanted to point out here was how the movie change the timeline, because in truth the workers left before Patterson’s help came. That help wasn’t Remington, of course, but rather the District Officer in the region, a man named Mr. Whitehead.

And Mr. Whitehead was nearly killed upon his arrival to the camp. His train, which was scheduled to arrive on December 2nd, the day after the mass exodus of workers took place, came in late at night. It was so dark that seeing anything was almost impossible, but Whitehead had an assistant carrying a lamp behind him, so they could see their path from the station to the camp.

Then, out of the darkness a lion jumped down on the pair, tearing into Whitehead’s back with his claws. Startled, Whitehead shot his weapon. It seemed to work—the lion froze just long enough for Whitehead to back away. Then, a split second later, the lion pounced on Whitehead’s assistant, a man named Abdullah, and dragged him off into the darkness.

He was never seen again.

As the sun started to rise, Whitehead managed to run into Patterson who, in turn, was looking for Whitehead, since he was supposed to have arrived the night before. Whitehead and Patterson made their way back to camp where Whitehead’s injuries were tended to.

Then something else happens that’s not quite in line with what we saw in the movie.

Remember when Michael Douglas’s character, Charles Remington, arrives in Tsavo in the movie? He came with a tribe called the Masai to hunt the lions down. We already learned that Remington wasn’t a real person, but the Masai was a real tribe that Patterson met during his time in Africa.

But it wasn’t them who came with Mr. Whitehead.

In the movie, Remington is called by Beaumont. Something I didn’t really mention earlier in the scene with Beaumont, but one of the things he mentioned specifically was his reply to Patterson’s request for soldiers. He denied it.

That’s interesting, because in truth, since there was no Beaumont, it was Patterson himself who requested assistance hunting the lions.

Well, the very next day after Mr. Whitehead arrived in Tsavo, some soldiers arrived under the command of a man named Mr. Farquhar. He was the Superintendent of Police in a nearby region, so he arrived with forces to help in the killing of the two man-eating lions.

It was that night, on December 3rd, when they finally caught one of the lions.

Back in the movie, we see a rather ingenious contraption that Val Kilmer’s version of Patterson cleverly calls…well, his contraption.

It’s basically a box car that’s been modified with wooden boards inside to create two compartments. On one side, three workers are to spend the night as bait. On the other side, a door is left open for the lion to enter. When it does, in theory, it’ll hit a tripwire that’ll slam the door down behind it. That’s when the armed workers are to open fire on the lion, killing it.

And, according to the movie, everything seems to go well at first. The trap works, and the lion makes its way in, knocking down the door behind it. Then, the workers start to panic. They keep shooting, but never seem to hit it. One of those shots hits the door behind the lion, damaging the door—which allows the lion to escape.

Surprisingly, that’s pretty close to what happened. Well, there were only two people set up in the trap as bait. And they weren’t workers, they were soldiers from Mr. Farquhar, who had arrived that same day.

As other soldiers positioned themselves in trees all around the camp for the night, Patterson and Mr. Whitehead took up positions near the trap with the human bait inside.

For a while, all was quiet. At about 9:00 PM, one of the lions fell for the trap and wandered inside. The door came slamming down, making quite a ruckus. Patterson breathed a sigh of relief—that’s one lion down!

Except…not quite so fast.

When the lion entered, the soldiers who served as bait were so terrified they didn’t shoot. They froze. Finally, after a few minutes, they opened fire. Not very accurately, though, and just like the movie shows they managed to hit just about everything but the lion. Oh, there was a little bit of blood they found afterward that implies the lion was slightly injured, but nothing major.

One of the bullets though did manage to hit a bar on the door, completely blowing it away. And just like we saw in the movie, that left a hole in the door big enough for the lion to get away.

Back in the movie, Remington orders Bernard Hill’s character, Dr. Hawthorne, to move the hospital. He says the smell of blood and sweat are only going to attract the lions.

That night, we see Dr. Hawthorne and Patterson swap weapons for a hunt the following day. As the movie explains it, Dr. Hawthorne tells Patterson that his gun is more powerful than Patterson’s and he’s just going to be tending to the hospital transfer, so the more powerful gun will do Patterson more good on his hunt than it will Dr. Hawthorne.

Then, the next day, Patterson, Remington and the Masai tribe head off for a hunt. They manage to corner one of the lions, but just as Patterson has the shot—his gun misfires. The lion gets away.

The misfire happened, but that’s not at all how it happened.

Obviously, we already know Remington and the Masai weren’t there.

In fact, Mr. Whitehead and the soldiers from Farquhar weren’t there either. On December 9th, just a couple days after Mr. Whitehead and Farquhar’s soldiers left, Patterson was going about his morning routine when he heard a warning cry.

“Simba! Simba!”

In a rush, Patterson grabbed the closest rifle he could find. It was a heavy rifle that Farquhar had left behind for him, just in case it would be of any use. But Patterson couldn’t track down the lion, so he decided to head back to camp and get some help. He enlisted some of the workers to help make a bunch of noise.

In the movie we see the Masai fill this role as they hoot and holler to scare the lion in a direction they want it to go.

Well, in truth it was some of the railway workers who made as much noise as they could as Patterson snuck around to find a good position to hit the lion. When he found the lion, he raised his rifle and…click. Misfire.

There was a temporary moment of panic where Patterson just stared at the lion. Then, the workers’ noise came closer and scared off the lion. Good thing, too, because if not then Patterson might’ve been a goner.

A bit earlier, I mentioned that Mr. Whitehead and Farquhar’s soldiers had left. They didn’t stick around for long. Since Patterson’s assistance had left by this point, that probably gives you a good idea of how accurate the next major scene is in the movie.

I’m talking, of course, about one of the biggest scenes in the film. At least, it’s the one that disturbed me the most when I saw the movie for the first time. As Patterson and Remington hole themselves up in the old hospital. They spread blood all over the place, pieces of meat and even a couple cows in an attempt to attract the lions to them.

We see the lions sniff at the blood, but then they disappear.

Then we see the lions again. They start attacking the helpless sick and injured in the new location of the hospital—ripping apart the men. One of those who dies is Dr. Hawthorne.

None of that happened. Nor did the real camp doc, Dr. McCulloch die during any of this. He ended up surviving and returning home safe and sound.

According to the movie, after this is when we see Abdullah and the hundreds of Indian workers pile on the train and make their way out of Tsavo. While I can’t say I blame them in the context of what happened in the movie, we already learned about how the movie changed the timeline for that.

So, let’s hop back to the movie where the next major plot point happens when they’re able to finally take down one of the two lions. This happens after Colonel Patterson builds a rather precarious-looking platform. The plan is to have him sit up there out of reach of the lions, while a baboon is tied beneath the platform as bait.

In the dead of the night, one of the lions arrives. Patterson shifts around, trying to get a good angle for a shot. Then, suddenly, a bird swoops down on him. Unsurprisingly, this makes Patterson lose his balance on the very thin board. He falls to the ground, sending his rifle a distance away in the process. Just then, the lion pounces on Patterson—he manages to roll away in the nick of time.

Pulling his pistol, he unloads it into the lion.

Finally, one of the lions is killed.

That’s pretty close to what happened. Even down to the very precarious platform that Patterson erected to hunt atop.

Here’s an excerpt from Patterson’s book where he described exactly what happened:

But no; matters quickly took an unexpected turn. The hunter became the hunted; and instead of either making off or coming for the bait prepared for him, the lion began stealthily to stalk me! For about two hours he horrified me by slowly creeping round and round my crazy structure, gradually edging his way nearer and nearer. Every moment I expected him to rush it; and the staging had not been constructed with an eye to such a possibility. If one of the rather flimsy poles should break, or if the lion could spring the twelve feet which separated me from the ground … the thought was scarcely a pleasant one. I began to feel distinctly “creepy,” and heartily repented my folly in having placed myself in such a dangerous position. I kept perfectly still, however, hardly daring even to blink my eyes: but the long-continued strain was telling on my nerves, and my feelings may be better imagined than described when about midnight suddenly something came flop and struck me on the back of the head. For a moment I was so terrified that I nearly fell off the plank, as I thought that the lion had sprung on me from behind. Regaining my senses in a second or two, I realised that I had been hit by nothing more formidable than an owl, which had doubtless mistaken me for the branch of a tree—not a very alarming thing to happen in ordinary circumstances, I admit, but coming at the time it did, it almost paralysed me. The involuntary start which I could not help giving was immediately answered by a sinister growl from below. After this I again kept as still as I could, though absolutely trembling with excitement; and in a short while I heard the lion begin to creep stealthily towards me. I could barely make out his form as he crouched among the whitish undergrowth; but I saw enough for my purpose, and before he could come any nearer, I took careful aim and pulled the trigger. The sound of the shot was at once followed by a most terrific roar, and then I could hear him leaping about in all directions. I was no longer able to see him, however, as his first bound had taken him into the thick bush; but to make assurance doubly sure, I kept blazing away in the direction in which I heard him plunging about. At length came a series of mighty groans, gradually subsiding into deep sighs, and finally ceasing altogether; and I felt convinced that one of the “devils” who had so long harried us would trouble us no more. As soon as I ceased firing, a tumult of inquiring voices was borne across the dark jungle from the men in camp about a quarter of a mile away. I shouted back that I was safe and sound, and that one of the lions was dead: whereupon such a mighty cheer went up from all the camps as must have astonished the denizens of the jungle for miles around.

Back in the movie, after the first lion is killed we see Patterson, Remington and Samuel all celebrating with a drink around the fire that same night. Conversation turns to families, and before heading off to bed Remington tells Patterson that the next time he sees his son, he should hold him high.

That night, Patterson has a dream. It’s a good dream where his wife and newborn son visit him. Then, it turns to a nightmare as the remaining lion mauls his wife to death while he watches helplessly from a distance.

Val Kilmer’s version of Colonel Patterson awakes from the nightmare with a start. He goes to splash his face with water, and that’s when he notices it. Remington’s tent. It’s empty. It’s more than empty—it’s in shreds. Remington is gone.

Rushing out into the brush, Patterson and Samuel come across the remains of Remington amid blood-stained grass.

Then the camera cuts and we see Patterson and Samuel standing around a blazing fire. They’re burning Remington’s body out of respect. Patterson grabs one of the logs from the fire and starts lighting the tall, dry grass ablaze. Samuel follows suit, and the fire quickly eats up the long grass.

None of that is true. There was a moment where Patterson set a fire while he was in Tsavo, but that was much later and due to a plague that was in the area—he was trying to get rid of the sickness and did so by setting fire to many of the buildings in the area. A sacrifice, but it worked to get rid of the illness. But it had nothing to do with the lions.

After this, in the movie, we see how the second lion is killed. The evening after Remington is killed, Colonel Patterson is walking along the unfinished bridge when the lion surprises him. Shocked, Patterson stumbles back and drops his shotgun. It clatters between the wooden boards, falling uselessly away.

Patterson starts running, climbing down from the bridge in a way that slows the lion’s charge on him. Fortunately, he just barely manages to make it to a nearby tree before the lion gets there.

It stares up at him. Then…the lion starts climbing the tree after Val Kilmer’s version of the Colonel.

Patterson climbs higher, but there’s only so much tree. Meanwhile, we see Samuel climbing another tree nearby. He’s trying to get a good angle on the lion, but he can’t. so, he calls out to Patterson. Getting his attention, Samuel throws his rifle across the gap separating his tree from Patterson’s.

It’s just out of reach! Hitting a branch, it falls to the ground.

For a moment, Patterson considers what to do. The lion is still making its way up the tree. Closer and closer. Then, Patterson jumps from the tree toward the gun. The fall brings him down—almost lying down as he lunges to pick up the gun just as the lion follows him to the ground.

Patterson aims…fires. The lion roars, blood splattering across his face. But he doesn’t stop. He keeps crawling toward Patterson, who scrambles backward. Finally, he steadies himself for a second shot right into the lion’s face.

And with that, the second lion is killed.

All of that…is not at all how it happened.

And rather than trying to retell the story myself, as we did with the first lion, here’s the account of how the second man-eater of Tsavo was killed by Colonel Patterson from his book:

About this time Sir Guilford Molesworth, K.C.I.E., late Consulting Engineer to the Government of India for State Railways, passed through Tsavo on a tour of inspection on behalf of the Foreign Office. After examining the bridge and other works and expressing his satisfaction, he took a number of photographs, one or two of which he has kindly allowed me to reproduce in this book. He thoroughly sympathised with us in all the trials we had endured from the man-eaters, and was delighted that one at least was dead. When he asked me if I expected to get the second lion soon, I well remember his half-doubting smile as I rather too confidently asserted that I hoped to bag him also in the course of a few days. As it happened, there was no sign of our enemy for about ten days after this, and we began to hope that he had died of his wounds in the bush. All the same we still took every precaution at night, and it was fortunate that we did so, as otherwise at least one more victim would have been added to the list. For on the night of December 27, I was suddenly aroused by terrified shouts from my trolley men, who slept in a tree close outside my boma, to the effect that a lion was trying to get at them. It would have been madness to have gone out, as the moon was hidden by dense clouds and it was absolutely impossible to see anything more than a yard in front of one; so all I could do was to fire off a few rounds just to frighten the brute away. This apparently had the desired effect, for the men were not further molested that night; but the man-eater had evidently prowled about for some time, for we found in the morning that he had gone right into every one of their tents, and round the tree was a regular ring of his footmarks. The following evening I took up my position in this same tree, in the hope that he would make another attempt. The night began badly, as, while climbing up to my perch I very nearly put my hand on a venomous snake which was lying coiled round one of the branches. As may be imagined, I came down again very quickly, but one of my men managed to despatch it with a long pole. Fortunately the night was clear and cloudless, and the moon made every thing almost as bright as day. I kept watch until about 2 a.m., when I roused Mahina to take his turn. For about an hour I slept peacefully with my back to the tree, and then woke suddenly with an uncanny feeling that something was wrong. Mahina, however, was on the alert, and had seen nothing; and although I looked carefully round us on all sides, I too could discover nothing unusual. Only half satisfied, I was about to lie back again, when I fancied I saw something move a little way off among the low bushes. On gazing intently at the spot for a few seconds, I found I was not mistaken. It was the man-eater, cautiously stalking us. The ground was fairly open round our tree, with only a small bush every here and there; and from our position it was a most fascinating sight to watch this great brute stealing stealthily round us, taking advantage of every bit of cover as he came. His skill showed that he was an old hand at the terrible game of man-hunting: so I determined to run no undue risk of losing him this time. I accordingly waited until he got quite close—about twenty yards away—and then fired my .303 at his chest. I heard the bullet strike him, but unfortunately it had no knockdown effect, for with a fierce growl he turned and made off with great long bounds. Before he disappeared from sight, however, I managed to have three more shots at him from the magazine rifle, and another growl told me that the last of these had also taken effect. We awaited daylight with impatience, and at the first glimmer of dawn we set out to hunt him down. I took a native tracker with me, so that I was free to keep a good look-out, while Mahina followed immediately behind with a Martini carbine. Splashes of blood being plentiful, we were able to get along quickly; and we had not proceeded more than a quarter of a mile through the jungle when suddenly a fierce warning growl was heard right in front of us. Looking cautiously through the bushes, I could see the man-eater glaring out in our direction, and showing his tusks in an angry snarl. I at once took careful aim and fired. Instantly he sprang out and made a most determined charge down on us. I fired again and knocked him over; but in a second he was up once more and coming for me as fast as he could in his crippled condition. A third shot had no apparent effect, so I put out my hand for the Martini, hoping to stop him with it. To my dismay, however, it was not there. The terror of the sudden charge had proved too much for Mahina, and both he and the carbine were by this time well on their way up a tree. In the circumstances there was nothing to do but follow suit, which I did without loss of time: and but for the fact that one of my shots had broken a hind leg, the brute would most certainly have had me. Even as it was, I had barely time to swing myself up out of his reach before he arrived at the foot of the tree. When the lion found he was too late, he started to limp back to the thicket; but by this time I had seized the carbine from Mahina, and the first shot I fired from it seemed to give him his quietus, for he fell over and lay motionless. Rather foolishly, I at once scrambled down from the tree and walked up towards him. To my surprise and no little alarm he jumped up and attempted another charge. This time, however, a Martini bullet in the chest and another in the head finished him for good and all; he dropped in his tracks not five yards away from me, and died gamely, biting savagely at a branch which had fallen to the ground. By this time all the workmen in camp, attracted by the sound of the firing, had arrived on the scene, and so great was their resentment against the brute who had killed such numbers of their comrades that it was only with the greatest difficulty that I could restrain them from tearing the dead body to pieces. Eventually, amid the wild rejoicings of the natives and coolies, I had the lion carried to my boma, which was close at hand. On examination we found no less than six bullet holes in the body, and embedded only a little way in the flesh of the back was the slug which I had fired into him from the scaffolding about ten days previously. He measured nine feet six inches from tip of nose to tip of tail, and stood three feet eleven and a half inches high; but, as in the case of his companion, the skin was disfigured by being deeply scored all over by the boma thorns.

Oh, and even though I didn’t mention it, the first man-eater measured about nine feet eight inches long and was three feet nine inches tall.

As the movie draws to a close, we see Colonel Patterson’s wife, Helena, arrive in Tsavo. It’s a very similar scene to what we saw in Patterson’s nightmare, except this time there are no lions stalking their prey from the tall grass.

It’s a rather happy ending as Patterson sees his wife and, for the first time, his newborn son—who he raises high just as Charles Remington told him to do before he died.

As happy as that made the ending in the movie, none of that happened. As we learned in the beginning, Colonel John Patterson and his wife, Frances Helena Patterson, didn’t have their only son until many years later—1909.

And, as far as my research indicates, she never visited him in Africa.

But, at the end of the movie, we hear Samuel’s voiceover talk about how Patterson finished the bridge.

And that’s true.

The bridge was finished in February of 1899, not long after the man-eating lions were killed. However, Patterson didn’t return to England right away. In fact, it wasn’t for about a year after the two lions were killed that Patterson stumbled upon their den. We saw Patterson and Remington find their cave in the movie, but that’s not something that happened while the lions were still alive.

While the lions were alive, Patterson spent countless hours searching for their den without success. But it was only after they were killed that he managed to find it—and quite by accident.

The movie did correctly show that there were plenty of human bones in the den. Although, the number of them were played up for effect in the film.

Speaking of which, throughout the movie we hear a running tally of the number of deaths at the hand of the two man-eaters of Tsavo. 10, 20, 30…all the way up to somewhere in the 100s.

How many did the two lions actually kill?

Well, the true answer is that we don’t know. The numbers vary quite a bit, but estimates are as high as 135 people.

As for the two lions, for a little over two decades their skins served as rugs for Colonel Patterson’s home. Then, in 1924, he sold them to the Chicago Field Museum where they were stuffed and reconstructed to mimic the lions they once were.

And that’s where they are today.

Just like the movie indicates at the end, those two lions are currently on display at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois. Of course, it’s their skins stuffed into reconstructions, but in the display they also have the two skulls of the man-eaters.

In 2004, Colonel John Patterson’s son, Bruce, published his theories into the reasons behind why the two man-eaters killed so many.

The prevailing thought was that it was a combination of multiple factors. A perfect storm, of sorts.

First, in 1898 there was a plague that limited the number of animals available in the lion’s normal hunting grounds. In addition to that, quite frankly, there was a lot of slave labor and slave trade in the region at the time. As a result, there were a lot of people murdered and dumped around the area—especially around the Tsavo river, since it was a water supply for slave traders in the region.

Finally, Bruce Patterson studied the skulls of the lions and determined that perhaps there was an infection in their teeth. A lion’s normal prey, zebras, antelopes and so on, would be suffocated from the pressure of the lion’s attack. But with the infection, maybe that same sort of pressure couldn’t be applied without immense pain. So, killing humans that didn’t require the same sort of suffocation would’ve been an easier prey.

Of course, those are all theories.

The truth is…we don’t really know.

Share this:

  • Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)
  • Click to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)
  • Click to print (Opens in new window)

You might also like

ghost in the darkness real story

228: This Week: Mary Queen of Scots, The Pacific and Julia

ghost in the darkness real story

104: Housekeeping

The true story behind The Pacific (Part 1)

190: The Pacific Part 1 with Marty Morgan

  • Apple Podcasts
  • Google Podcasts

LeFebvre, LLC

  • Advertisers
  • Discord Community
  • Find More Podcasts

Privacy Overview

Latest episode

Latest Facts

20 Cowboy Corgi Facts

20 Cowboy Corgi Facts

19 Eoraptor Facts

19 Eoraptor Facts

42 facts about the movie the ghost and the darkness.

Corabelle Kuhlman

Corabelle Kuhlman

Modified & Updated: 30 Dec 2023

Published: 15 Dec 2023

Modified: 30 Dec 2023


Get ready to embark on an incredible adventure as we dive deep into the thrilling movie, The Ghost and the Darkness. This action-packed film is filled with suspense, mystery, and jaw-dropping moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Directed by Stephen Hopkins and released in 1996, The Ghost and the Darkness is based on the true story of the Tsavo Man-Eaters, two notorious lions that terrorized a construction crew in East Africa during the late 19th century.

In this article, we will uncover 42 fascinating facts about this movie, from behind-the-scenes anecdotes to the historical events that inspired the storyline. Whether you’re a fan of adventure films, a history buff, or simply interested in extraordinary true stories, this article will provide you with a comprehensive and insightful guide to The Ghost and the Darkness.

Based on a True Story

The movie “The Ghost and the Darkness” is based on the real-life events surrounding the Tsavo Maneaters, a pair of notorious man-eating lions that terrorized railway workers in East Africa in the late 19th century.

A Star-Studded Cast

The film boasts a remarkable cast, with Val Kilmer portraying the character of Colonel John Henry Patterson and Michael Douglas taking on the role of Remington, a renowned hunter. Both actors deliver exceptional performances that add depth and intensity to the film.

Captivating African Locations

“The Ghost and the Darkness” was filmed on location in South Africa and Kenya, capturing the breathtaking landscapes and immersing viewers in the untamed wilderness of Africa.

The Iconic Lions

The film revolves around the two maneless lions known as the “Ghost” and the “Darkness.” These ferocious beasts were brought to life using a combination of trained lions and animatronic models, creating thrilling scenes that keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

Oscar-Winning Cinematography

The stunning cinematography of “The Ghost and the Darkness” was recognized with an Academy Award for Best Cinematography. Vilmos Zsigmond masterfully captures the beauty and danger of the African landscape, enhancing the overall visual experience.

A Gripping Musical Score

James Newton Howard composed the hauntingly beautiful score for “The Ghost and the Darkness,” which perfectly complements the suspense and tension of the film.

Historical Accuracy

The movie accurately portrays the historical context of the construction of the Nairobi-Mombasa railway in the late 19th century and the impact of the man-eating lions on the workers’ lives.

Directors and Writers

The film was directed by Stephen Hopkins, known for his work on “Predator 2” and “Lost in Space.” The screenplay was written by William Goldman, based on Colonel John Henry Patterson’s book “The Man-eaters of Tsavo.”

A Tale of Fear and Survival

“The Ghost and the Darkness” brilliantly captures the fear and desperation of the characters as they try to outsmart and overcome the relentless man-eating lions roaming the African wilderness.

The Hunting of the Tsavo Maneaters

The film depicts the gripping and dangerous hunt for the Tsavo Maneaters, led by Colonel John Henry Patterson, who faces numerous challenges in his quest to protect the railway workers and eliminate the deadly predators.

Authentic Wildlife Encounters

The production team took great care to incorporate realistic wildlife encounters throughout the film, showcasing the rich biodiversity of Africa and adding an extra layer of authenticity to the story.

Critical and Commercial Success

Upon its release, “The Ghost and the Darkness” received positive reviews from critics and became a commercial success, grossing over $98 million worldwide.

A True Action-Horror Hybrid

“The Ghost and the Darkness” seamlessly blends elements of action and horror, delivering a unique cinematic experience that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats.

Real-Life Inspiration

The characters in the film are based on real individuals who lived through the events at Tsavo, making the story even more compelling and realistic.

Cultural Impact

“The Ghost and the Darkness” not only entertained audiences but also sparked interest in the history and folklore surrounding the Tsavo Maneaters, leading to increased tourism to the areas where the events took place.

Hair-Raising Moments

The film is filled with intense and suspenseful sequences that keep viewers on the edge of their seats, showcasing the relentless pursuit of the man-eating lions and the chilling atmosphere of fear that permeates the story.

Behind-the-Scenes Challenges

Creating realistic and convincing lion attacks presented significant challenges for the filmmakers. The team utilized a combination of animatronic lions, animatics, and trained animals to achieve seamless and terrifying attack scenes.

Production Design

The production design team meticulously recreated the railway construction era, paying attention to even the smallest details to transport viewers back in time.

A Lesson in Determination

“The Ghost and the Darkness” showcases the resilience and determination of the human spirit in the face of extraordinary challenges, highlighting the strength of the human-wildlife conflict.

International Recognition

The film was released worldwide, introducing audiences to the awe-inspiring beauty and inherent dangers of the African wilderness.

Historical Context

The events depicted in the film shed light on the difficulties encountered during the construction of the railway in Africa, providing historical context to the intense drama that unfolds.

Popularity Among Adventure Enthusiasts

“The Ghost and the Darkness” continues to be appreciated by adventure enthusiasts and wildlife lovers for its thrilling storyline and portrayal of the intense man versus beast conflict.

African Wildlife Conservation

The film raises awareness about the delicate balance between humans and wildlife in Africa and highlights the importance of conservation efforts to protect endangered species.

Impressive Set Pieces

The film showcases magnificent set pieces, bringing to life the rugged African landscape, the railway construction site, and the eerie presence of the man-eating lions.

Animal Behavior Research

The filmmakers conducted extensive research on lion behavior to accurately portray the movements, hunting techniques, and territoriality of the Tsavo Maneaters.

The Power of Collaboration

“The Ghost and the Darkness” brought together talented professionals from various fields, including cinematographers, animators, and sound engineers, who collaborated to create a captivating cinematic experience.

A Thought-Provoking Story

The film raises thought-provoking questions about the boundaries between civilization and the wild, the ethics of hunting, and the delicate relationship between humans and wildlife.

Dialogues that Resonate

The screenplay brings to life impactful and memorable dialogues, adding depth to the characters and amplifying the emotional weight of their experiences.

A Thrilling Journey

“The Ghost and the Darkness” takes audiences on an unforgettable and adrenaline-filled journey through the heart of the African wilderness, immersing them in a world of danger, courage, and survival.

Breathtaking Cinematic Moments

The film features breathtaking cinematic moments that capture the sheer beauty of the African landscape, juxtaposed with the terrifying presence of the man-eating lions.

A Testament to Human Ingenuity

The story showcases the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the railway workers as they adapt to the relentless attacks of the man-eating lions, using innovative methods to protect themselves.

Historical Significance

The events at Tsavo left a significant impact on both the railway construction efforts and the understanding of lion behavior in that region, making “The Ghost and the Darkness” an important part of that historical narrative.

Transformation of Characters

Throughout the film, the characters undergo powerful transformations, as they grapple with their fears, confront their own vulnerabilities, and discover the depths of their courage.

Authentic Period Costumes

The costume designers meticulously recreated the fashion of the late 19th century, ensuring that the characters’ attire reflects the historical accuracy of the time.

Unforgettable Performances

The performances by Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas are gripping and memorable, establishing them as a formidable on-screen duo that captivates viewers from start to finish.

The Legacy of the Tsavo Maneaters

The Tsavo Maneaters remain a legendary symbol of the clash between humans and wildlife, and “The Ghost and the Darkness” plays a vital role in keeping the story alive and informing new audiences of the gripping events.

Special Effects and Practical Stunts

The film blends practical effects and stunts with carefully integrated CGI to create seamless and heart-stopping moments that elevate the tension and danger.

The Power of Fear

“The Ghost and the Darkness” explores the paralyzing effect of fear and the lengths individuals will go to overcome it and protect each other in the face of imminent danger.

Powerful Symbolism

The film utilizes various symbolic elements, such as the darkness that lurks within humans and the ghost-like presence of the relentless lions, to deepen the thematic layers of the story.

Immersive Sound Design

The sound design of the film plays a crucial role in creating tension and suspense, enveloping the audience in a world where every distant roar echoes through the African plains.

Embracing the Unknown

“The Ghost and the Darkness” explores the primal fear humans have of the unknown and takes viewers on a journey into the heart of darkness.

Enduring Legacy

“The Ghost and the Darkness” continues to captivate audiences with its thrilling story, outstanding performances, and vivid portrayal of the enduring human spirit.

So there you have it, 42 intriguing facts about the movie “The Ghost and the Darkness.” From the true story that inspired the film to the captivating performances and stunning cinematography, this movie keeps audiences engaged and on the edge of their seats. Whether you’re a fan of adventure, history, or wildlife, “The Ghost and the Darkness” is a must-watch film that leaves a lasting impression. Are you ready to embark on this unforgettable journey into the heart of the African wilderness?

In conclusion, The Ghost and the Darkness is a captivating and thrilling movie that combines elements of adventure, suspense, and history. With its talented cast, breathtaking cinematography, and compelling storyline, it continues to captivate audiences even years after its release. The movie offers a unique blend of action and drama, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats from start to finish. The real-life events that inspired the film add an extra layer of intrigue and make it even more fascinating. Whether you’re a fan of adventure movies or simply appreciate great storytelling, The Ghost and the Darkness is definitely a must-watch film that will keep you entertained from beginning to end.

Q: Is The Ghost and the Darkness based on a true story? A: Yes, the movie is based on true events that took place in the late 19th century. It tells the story of the man-eating lions that terrorized the construction of the East African Railway in Tsavo, Kenya. Q: Who are the main actors in The Ghost and the Darkness? A: The movie stars Val Kilmer as Colonel John Patterson and Michael Douglas as Charles Remington, the two characters at the forefront of the mission to stop the man-eating lions. Q: Where was The Ghost and the Darkness filmed? A: The film was primarily shot on location in South Africa, capturing the beautiful African landscapes that serve as the backdrop for the story. Q: What is the runtime of The Ghost and the Darkness? A: The movie has a runtime of approximately 109 minutes, keeping the audience engaged and immersed in the thrilling narrative. Q: Is The Ghost and the Darkness available on streaming platforms? A: Yes, the movie is available to stream on various platforms such as Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix. However, availability may vary based on your location. Q: Does The Ghost and the Darkness have any notable awards or nominations? A: Yes, the film was nominated for two Academy Awards in 1997, including Best Sound and Best Film Editing. It also received recognition for its technical achievements and visual effects.

Share this Fact:

  • Film and Entertainment
  • Personalities and Influencers
  • TV Shows and Series
  • Russia Ukraine war
  • Transgender News
  • Recommended
  • Web Stories


Worth Reading

Jeannie mai faces backlash over jeezy’s firearm claim amid daughter gatekeeping drama, misfits’ doyle and otep’s co-headlining us tour: a rock extravaganza, spaceman: adam sandler’s netflix film unveils first look.

Priyanshu Singh

The Ghost in the Darkness: Unveiling the Untold True Story (2023)

Introduction to the ghost in the darkness: unveiling the untold true story (2023).

In the annals of human conflict with ferocious beasts, few tales are as thrilling as “The Ghost in the Darkness: Unveiling the Untold True Story ( 2023 ).” This narrative brings to life haunting events from the colonial times of British East Africa, particularly involving two man-eating Tsavo lions.

Origins: A Hint of Truth Behind the Myth

In 1898, two seemingly supernatural beasts, popularly dubbed “The Ghost” and “The Darkness,” terrorized the region now known as Kenya. These Tsavo lions disrupted the construction of the Uganda Railway, a crucial transportation link in the British Empire’s plans for expansion.

Editorial Guidelines & Fact Checking: At The Viral Pink , we uphold stringent Editorial Guidelines to deliver accurate, reliable, and high-quality content. Our dedicated team of expert contributors rigorously fact-checks all information using credible sources before publication. We strive for transparency, accountability, and up-to-date content, ensuring our readers receive trustworthy information they can rely on.

The Tsavo Man-Eaters: Profiles in Terror

The victims’ accounts, as well as field notes from the time, portray the lions as almost supernaturally cunning and bloodthirsty. They were known to slip into camps under cover of darkness, drag away unsuspecting victims, and feast on them. The two lions were responsible for numerous deaths, with the official documentation recording over three dozen casualties.

Editorial Commentary: “This horrific chapter in human-wildlife conflict underscores the delicate balance between human activity and preserving natural habitats. Environments should be approached with respect and understanding to avoid such catastrophic events.” – Dr. Richard Leakey, world-renowned paleoanthropologist.

The Ghost and The Darkness: More Than Just a Tale?

Historical records provide substantial evidence to validate the tale. The most significant piece of evidence being the rigorous documentation by Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson, the British engineer tasked with overseeing the railway’s construction. Driven to desperation by the lions’ relentless onslaught, Patterson eventually hunted down and killed the two man-eaters.

Conceptualizing the Ghost in the Darkness: Unveiling the Untold True Story (2023)

The 2023 narrative offers a fresh perspective on the Ghost and the Darkness. Drawing on a range of primary sources and up-to-date scientific knowledge, it seeks to demystify the events by providing a historically accurate and scientifically sound account of the phenomenon that occurred over a century ago.

Scientific Insights Into the Tsavo Man-Eaters

In recent years, science has contributed further to understanding the events involving the Tsavo lions. Experts postulate drastic changes in their environment, causing food scarcity, may have forced the lions towards their notorious man-eating habits, further emphasizing the impact human activities have on wildlife behavior.

Conclusion: Truth, Myth, and The Ghost in the Darkness

Although “The Ghost in the Darkness: Unveiling the Untold True Story (2023)” is based on historic events, it significantly contributes to the ongoing dialogue on wildlife conservation and human-animal coexistence. This narrative invites readers to consider the complexity of ecological systems, the consequences of human interference, and the importance of preserving the natural world. After all, The Ghost and The Darkness, represent not just a tale of fear, but a stark reminder of the tragedies that can follow when the delicate balance between mankind and nature falters.

“Understanding our past interactions with wildlife, as grim as it may be, can pave the way for better wildlife management practices in the present. ‘The Ghost in the Darkness’ is a testament to that. It underscores the significance of integrating human welfare and environmental conservation.” – Dr. Edward O. Wilson, Pulitzer-winning biologist.=

Subscribe Now

Stranger things creator reveals season 5 ending.

Priyanshu Singh

About The Viral Pink

  • Privacy Policy
  • Cookie Policy
  • Editorial Policy
  • Ethics Policy
  • Guest Blog / Sponsored Post Guidelines
  • Terms And Condition

Most recent

Most popular, get your tickets for west end’s sunset boulevard starring nicole scherzinger: limited offer inside, star wars the bad batch season 3 latest update will shock you, check out for bridgerton season 4 release date, cast & much more, where is serena k fleites now a victim of pornhub’s exploitation.

© theviralpink

Great American Outdoors

Great American Outdoors

ghost in the darkness real story

Facts Behind The Tsavo Man-Eaters The True Story Of ‘The Ghost and The Darkness’

' src=

One of my favorite films is (you guessed it), ‘The Ghost and the Darkness” and what makes this film so popular, is that it was based on a true story. Being eaten alive is perhaps one of our most primordial fears as human beings.

It is hard to imagine in this day and age, that even though human beings are at our peak of accomplishment, when we walk out into the forest at night, we really aren’t at the top of the food chain and can become a meal of some ferocious animal.

Lions are one of the world’s apex predators and even today, lions still occasionally kill and eat people in Africa.

Lions are massive mammals that are loaded with muscle and the power to kill. A single lion has the ability to attack and kill multiple humans in a single event. Their skill with attacking from stealth and killing with a single bite makes them well-suited to inflicting fatal wounds. Lions have always been dangerous to humans, and there will always be the potential for them to harm humans. Fully armed hunters with modern rifles have been attacked and almost perished with what amounts to a firing squad vs a single lion. Hunters and safari guides both get closer to lions than they should if they want to guarantee their safety. Sometimes, by trying to shoot a lion for sport, or helping their customers get a good look at wild lions, these individuals put themselves and others in danger.

The Tsavo Man-Eaters however ,  were a pair of man-eating male lions in the Tsavo region of Kenya, which were responsible for the deaths of many construction workers on the Kenya-Uganda Railway between March and December 1898.

The lion pair was said to have killed 135 people total, but modern estimates place it at 35 total. While the terrors of man-eating lions weren’t new in the British public perception, the Tsavo Man-Eaters became one of the most notorious instances of dangers posed to Indian and native African workers of the Uganda Railway where hostile wildlife and diseases both were frequent sources of deaths in the 1890s-1900s.

H/T – Wikipedia –


In your inbox.

Sign up for our daily email and get the stories everyone is talking about.

Right Report

Al Gore Follows History Of Wrong Climate Predictions With Dire New Warning (Video)

The Great American Outdoors

Klicked footer link

Cookie banner

We use cookies and other tracking technologies to improve your browsing experience on our site, show personalized content and targeted ads, analyze site traffic, and understand where our audiences come from. To learn more or opt-out, read our Cookie Policy . Please also read our Privacy Notice and Terms of Use , which became effective December 20, 2019.

By choosing I Accept , you consent to our use of cookies and other tracking technologies.

Filed under:

It’s a good time to revisit The Ghost and the Darkness, the Beast movie of the 1990s

Val Kilmer in his 1990s heyday anchored a lion-attack movie with all the pretense of a serious historical drama

Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas aim shotguns offscreen in The Ghost and the Darkness

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement .

Share this story

  • Share this on Facebook
  • Share this on Reddit
  • Share All sharing options

Share All sharing options for: It’s a good time to revisit The Ghost and the Darkness, the Beast movie of the 1990s

The new Idris Elba movie Beast is a lean, propulsive creature feature, the kind of efficient man-versus-nature horror story that ladles on the scares, then wraps before the conceit gets old or overstretched. In the film, Elba plays a widower and father of two who has to protect his children from a man-eating lion in South Africa. It’s a comparatively small, intimate movie in scope and character, more like Crawl or Prey than like the Jurassic Park films it’s openly referencing.

For those who prefer to see their lion-gone-rogue stories (and their Steven Spielberg homages) playing out on a more majestic, ambitious scale, though, Beast is an excellent reminder to revisit the 1996 adventure thriller The Ghost and the Darkness , another story where the intellectual power of human prey has a hard time matching up to the physical power of a big veldt predator. As a horror story, The Ghost and the Darkness is surprisingly tense and bloody. But as a character study that actually invests in its characters as people, rather than leaving them as tick marks on a “death by numbers” checklist, it’s particularly well-crafted, in a way that’s familiar from a completely different Spielberg blockbuster.

The Ghost and the Darkness is nominally a historical epic based on actual events in 1898 Kenya, where two lions terrorized a British railroad camp on the Tsavo River for nearly a year, killing dozens of workers. British Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson — played in the film version by Val Kilmer — eventually wrote a book about the events, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo , in which he claimed the lions slaughtered more than 130 people, though that total was later heavily disputed. What isn’t disputed is that the lions were uncharacteristically bold, working together to hunt, and raiding the camp during the daytime — all unusual behavior for male lions, who normally leave the hunting to their pride’s females.

Val Kilmer, in a British army uniform, loads his rifle in The Ghost and the Darkness

Screenwriter William Goldman ( The Princess Bride ) takes plenty of dramatic advantage of the anomalies in the lions’ behavior, and plenty of historical license with the story , all in the interest of bigger and more colorful action. Patterson is sent to Kenya by Robert Beaumont, a ruthless aristocrat and colonialist (played with mustache-twirling evil glee by Tom Wilkinson) determined to beat other countries in building railway trade routes across east Africa. That means bridging the Tsavo, a task Patterson believes he can handle because of similar experience overseeing bridge construction in India. He confidently says goodbye to his pregnant wife, Helena (Emily Mortimer, giving a small role her full energy), certain he’ll be back home in time to see his child born.

From the start, Patterson is a game and winning protagonist, willing to listen to and learn from his Kenyan camp overseer Samuel (John Kani, who went on to play Black Panther’s father T’Chaka in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), and boyishly excited by African wildlife. When he reaches the camp, he’s immediately beset by problems: tensions between the Hindu and Muslim workers imported from India, tensions between his bright young evangelical aide de camp Angus (Brian McCardie) and the cynical local doctor, Hawthorne (Bernard Hill). And then the first lion attack happens, and the African and Indian workers all sullenly look to him, as the white man in charge, to solve it.

The Ghost and the Darkness isn’t a movie about race, but it’s far franker than most adventure movies about the cost of British colonialism and the entirely reasonable class and cultural resentment underlying the railway project. And it isn’t a movie about manhood and masculinity, but Goldman’s script finds familiar threads in these characters — the need to prove themselves and make names for themselves, the jockeying for dominance that relaxes into unspoken trust or distrust, the way shared peril becomes a bonding experience. In that regard, The Ghost and the Darkness is one of the best character pieces of its type since Spielberg’s Jaws .

Goldman openly takes Jaws as a structural model, with many of the story’s basic beats mimicking Spielberg’s masterpiece: the series of escalating deaths perpetrated by a barely seen creature, the killing of an unrelated beast that’s taken as a sign that the threat is over, the late-night drinking-and-bonding session marked by a grim monologue and undercut by equally grim humor. Where Jaws introduces Quint (Robert Shaw) as the shark expert hired to take over the situation when things get serious, The Ghost and the Darkness brings in fabled hunter Charles Remington (Michael Douglas) in a similar role, and with a similarly dramatic, memorable introduction.

Michael Douglas does his best rolly-eyed “I’m a crazy man who will hurt you” impression in The Ghost and the Darkness

Plenty of movies have imitated Jaws over the years , usually copying the animal attacks and leaving out the memorable character dynamics. The Ghost and the Darkness is one of the very few movies that gets the alchemy right. Remington is a tragic obsessive who doesn’t enjoy killing, but finds his services in demand because he’s so good at it. Patterson is an idealist who truly believes in his work — “What better job in all the world than build a bridge?” he says at one point, watching the labor under way. Samuel is a pragmatist caught between the white outsiders’ ambition and the camp he manages. Even Angus, Hawthorne, and other minor characters, like the proud Indian overseer Abdullah (Om Puri) and his African counterpart Mahina (Henry Cele) are given prominent roles to play.

But all this character work would feel dry and literary without the movie’s pulp-thriller energy, which lays a visceral, urgent feel atop the Bridge on the River Kwai -style literary ambitions. Director Stephen Hopkins uses real lions whenever possible, and apart from a few gimmicky shots using dummies, their physical interactions with fragile human bodies look realistic and graphic. They’re genuinely intimidating, even if Hopkins and Goldman do fall into the familiar man-versus-nature movie trap (also seen, frankly, in Jaws ) of giving their animals human-level cunning and malice, to the point where the railroad workers’ belief that the lions are actually demons starts to make some sense.

John Kani sweats and looks out at the night as other cast members examine a lion-mauled body in The Ghost and the Darkness

For all the historical epic qualities in The Ghost and the Darknes s — Vilmos Zsigmond’s majestic shots of skies and fields, the focus on a packed camp full of teeming human endeavor, Jerry Goldsmith’s pounding score — the film also embraces purely corny horror-movie tropes, from a ludicrous fake-out dream sequence to first-person POV shots of what it’s like to be killed by a lion.

And for the most part, they’re efficient and effective filmmaking. A certain amount of buy-in for the over-the-top aspects of the movie is necessary from the start: Historians think Patterson was a bit of a fabulist who exaggerated the threat of the lions to burnish his own legacy, and this film goes even further into the realm of fantasy to tell its story. It plays up the natives’ superstitions about the lions as a malevolent force, but as much as anything else, it’s a movie about a 19th-century white man’s superstitions about Africa, and a 20th-century audience’s imagination about what it’s like to be prey.

It’s also a sly and effective thriller, though, one that uses a huge cast, practical effects, and Val Kilmer’s ’90s Boy Scout charm to ground what could be another trashy when-animals-attack movie in the realm of Shark Night or Lake Placid . The Ghost and the Darkness has been overlooked and underrated over the years, but in an era that appreciates pulp cinema for its own gleefully cheesy values, this movie represents a fairly unique marriage between lowbrow creature feature and highbrow historical epic. It has a lot more texture than a lot of modern beast-on-the-loose thrillers — and a lot more teeth, too.

The Ghost and the Darkness is available for digital rental on Amazon , Vudu , and other digital services. It is available on some On Demand services.


'The Darkness' Is Drawn From Horrifying Accounts

ghost in the darkness real story

Like many horror movies, The Darkness , out Friday, May 13 (yes, really), features a plot that'll leave audiences with goosebumps. The film follows a family who, after a visit to the Grand Canyon, think they've brought home a supernatural force, and the creepiness of the tale leads many to wonder if The Darkness is based on a true story . Yet while many elements are true to life—the minivans, the over-concerned parents, the mean older brother, I've got some bad news, scaredy cats: The Darkness is actually based upon more than one true story.

Contrary to what some believe, The Darkness is not a cinematic version of the video game series of the same name. This one stars everyone's favorite ham, Kevin Bacon, as the father of a son who steals a rock from a burial ground at the Grand Canyon, bringing a bunch of evil spirits back to the burbs. Though it might sound like horror movie from the '50s, the film’s co-writer and director Greg McLean drew up the story from actual terrifying personal accounts that took place in the Grand Canyon. McLean revealed to Entertainment Weekly that The Darkness is based on several true stories , saying, "I was reading about people that had taken objects from the Grand Canyon, and then bad luck started to unfold." While he hasn't reveal which specific stories inspired the film, it turns out that there are tons of ghost stories coming out of Grand Canyon.

ghost in the darkness real story

The National Park is ripe with supernatural and scary tales. Digging into stories of the haunted grand canyon will lead you to a few old school websites that talk about disappearing children , ghosts of canyon workers crushed by boulders , and, more commonly, the spirits of people killed in air crashes. According to Michael P. Ghiglieri, author of Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon , air crashes are the most common cause of death. "All told, there have been 65 fatal crashes of various aircraft in and around the canyon, accounting for 379 victims," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2012. "Of these, 259 died within the canyon, and 120 more died on the adjacent rims while trying to access or exit the airspace over the canyon." Because the hikes are frequently risky, Ghiglieri also noted that folks fall to their deaths when horseplaying around, but someone actually suffered heart failure when a rattlesnake scared them.

ghost in the darkness real story

So if you're making plans to vacation in the Grand Canyon this summer, you might want to play it safe, bring an extra flashlight, and, perhaps, a priest in the exorcism business.

Images: Blumhouse Productions

ghost in the darkness real story

The Telegraph

The Telegraph

A Ghost Story for Christmas: Lot No 249, BBC Two, review: Mark Gatiss remains the king of spooks

Posted: December 24, 2023 | Last updated: December 24, 2023

Since his days dispensing gothic laughs in The League of Gentlemen, among the strings Mark Gatiss has added to his bow is petrifier-in-chief and scholarly professor of shrieks. In the last decade his ghost-story adaptations have become an annual treat which pay homage not only to MR James but also to television’s bygone era of half-hour chills. This year marks a departure. A Ghost Story for Christmas: Lot No 249 (BBC Two) is from the pen of Arthur Conan Doyle .

Published in 1892, it’s a High Victorian tale set in an Oxford college where Egyptology is a new-fangled product of empire – Egypt had been occupied by the British 10 years earlier. From this geopolitical fact Conan Doyle’s imagination conjured up what is acknowledged as the original mummy horror story.

The bandaged cadaver in question – the titular lot no 249 sold at auction – lies inertly gurning in the rooms of Edward Bellingham (Freddie Fox), a secretive orientalist who professes ignorance when creepy things start happening in the night, first to his pretty protégé Monkhouse Lee (Colin Ryan), then to stolidly unsuggestible medic Abercrombie Smith ( Kit Harington ).

Gatiss, as we know, has had previous dealings with Conan Doyle. While the source material has nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes, he can’t resist a tempting referential wink. Smith tells the whole tale to an unnamed friend (John Heffernan), a cool-headed rationalist who is thinking of moving to new rooms in Baker Street and proposes that they co-habit.

But this is a genre which has no business with detection, so this prototype Holmes is merely a curious listener. And anyway, Smith won’t be able to move to Baker Street or anywhere else. Bellingham, forced by Smith to destroy lot no 249 and all associated papyruses, turns out to have a lot no 250.

The mummy, embodied in rags by James Swanton without a stitch of CGI, makes for a satisfying ghoul. The night-time settings and yards of wood panelling add atmosphere. And Fox is a blissfully sinister foil to Harington’s stolid homo Victorianus, whose reserve dissolves into a weird, horrified laughter in the final image. How scary the story actually is might be better answered by those in the age bracket that Gatiss belonged to when he first got obsessed with horror. The biggest shock I got was hearing the phrase “colour me intrigued”, from a construction whose first usage was cited in 1962.

Sign up to the Front Page newsletter for free: Your essential guide to the day's agenda from The Telegraph - direct to your inbox seven days a week.

Colin Ryan, Kit Harington and Freddie Fox in A Ghost Story for Christmas: Lot No 249 - Colin Hutton/BBC

More for You


Rudy Giuliani Pleads for Money After Filing for Bankruptcy

Close up of skin cancer Melanoma on a patient's skin

Patient turned away by NHS dies of skin cancer after he did not pay for private test

Warriors Announce Roster Move After Loss to Clippers

Golden State Warriors Announce New Roster Move

rich wealthy man hands holding cash 100 dollar bills_iStock-938914620

I’m a Self-Made Millionaire: 4 Things To Stop Buying That Are a Waste of Money

Cities to watch in 2024: This Texas hub is attracting more homebuyers than Austin and Dallas with its affordability and jobs

Cities to watch in 2024: This Texas hub is attracting more homebuyers than Austin and Dallas with its affordability and jobs

Iron Man 3 Mandarin

Iron Man 3's Mandarin Utterly Terrified Marvel Studios' Execs

The rise of sea levels is expected to continue and it could see coastal areas in many countries underwater by the year 2050

Interactive map shows United States areas under the sea in 2050 due to climate change

Amazon is shutting down its fledgling health care service, Amazon Care, at the end of this year. Shown is an Amazon facility in Sunnyvale, California.

Whistleblower reveals Israel hatred in Amazon communication channels

Three-person polyamorous relationship

What Exactly Is A Nesting Partner?

Young couple at car dealership looking at new car together.

10 Slowest Selling New Cars in 2023 That Could Be The Biggest Bargains in 2024

Donald Trump iowa

Donald Trump Set Up For Supreme Court Disappointment

'We are not that': How one Florida county is defying DeSantis at the 2024 Rose Parade

'We are not that': How one Florida county is defying DeSantis at the 2024 Rose Parade

Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) and Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa (97) talk to officials after a penalty negated a potential game-winning Lions two-point conversion in the final seconds of the second half of the Cowboys 20-19 victory in an NFL football game at AT&T Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023, in Arlington.

Did tripping penalty mistake alter Cowboys’ late-game plans vs. Lions? ‘The tape is clear’

Iran has sent a warship into tense waters where the US Navy has been shooting down Houthi threats and destroying their boats

Iran has sent a warship into tense waters where the US Navy has been shooting down Houthi threats and destroying their boats

The disease has been noted as causing neurological issues for deer and related species

Map shows 'zombie deer disease' spreading across the United States

Les McCann, Jazz Pioneer Sampled by Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, and Dr. Dre, Dead at 88

Les McCann, Jazz Pioneer Sampled by Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, and Dr. Dre, Dead at 88

Trump Allies Struggling With Mounting Legal Bills

Former Trump Staffers Warn His Election Would Mean End of Democracy

5 more big purchases you'll probably regret

Boomer's remorse: 5 more 'big money' purchases you're likely to regret in retirement

The U.S. Constitution was ratified by nine of the 13 states, making it binding.

Maryland county claims school board can create seat only illegal immigrants can vote on: reports

Times Square in New York on New Year's Eve, 2021.

Why do we sing 'Auld Lang Syne' at the stroke of midnight? The New Year's song explained

  • Share full article


Supported by

Forget Halloween, Bring Ghost Stories Back to Christmas

If your idea of festive joy is being haunted by past memories or driven insane by mysterious specters, have we got the tradition for you.

An actor in costume as Jacob Marley emerges from the shadows, lit by a sharp, neon green light. He is in tattered Victorian-era clothing, and carries weights and chains. He has a white beard, and his hair is sticking straight up.

By Isabella Kwai

Reporting from London

At the most wonderful time of the year, there is one tradition that John Maguire remembers fondly: his Liverpudlian grandmother trying to scare the daylights out of him.

Without much money for Christmas celebrations, he and his family leaned instead on a centuries-old form of festive entertainment on the cold and dark evenings.

“We’d turn all the lights off, and put the candles on, and she’d tell us a story,” Mr. Maguire said. Not nice stories — ghost tales and other myths. “It used to keep me awake at night.”

Now a grown-up, 46-year-old creative director at Arts Groupie, a group that promotes theater and other arts, he wants more people to have that painful pleasure. This year he revived the tradition , popularized during Victorian times, of sharing ghost stories at Christmas. He and other authors read chilling Victorian tales aloud to a quiet, dim library, lit by (electronic) candles.

“Dickens didn’t have the luxury of television,” he said. He still holds a belief that, at a time when green screens can manifest every potential horror, “nothing is more chilling than your own imagination.”

Christmas can be a time of cheery joy, family fun and romantic high jinks, as many a Hallmark Christmas film suggests . But if that doesn’t do it for you — Bah! Humbug! — there is another way. Perhaps your idea of a getting into the holiday spirit is the haunting of past memories, a glimpse of a specter or being driven mad by former wrongdoings.

Families in Victorian England, where written ghost stories flourished in periodicals at Christmas, would have agreed. You know the most famous of them: the 1843 Dickens classic “ A Christmas Carol ,” in which ghosts help a miserly man change his ways. Its popularity is clear in the countless retellings onscreen and in theaters (including by The Muppets ).

But his other stories, many published specifically to be read at Christmas, may now feel more appropriate for Halloween. There is “The Signal-Man” (a railway worker is troubled by an apparition); “The Haunted House” (a group of friends renting a rundown manor realize they are not alone); and “The Trial for Murder” (the ghost of a man seeking justice haunts jurors at his own murder trial).

Plenty of others have contributed to the genre, including writers like Elizabeth Gaskell , Henry James and Montague Rhodes James. Editors populated their periodicals with stories of gothic horror, dreams and eerie events.

Though the origins are misty, experts say the tradition of telling ghost stories in the winter predates the Victorians. But mentions of the supernatural at Christmas became popular in the 19th century, as literacy rates improved and the traditions of the season as we know it were emerging — Christmas trees and cards were both introduced to Britain at the time. What else to do, on the long and dark nights as winter solstice closed in?

”The family would come together, they would play games, they would end the evening with a storytelling around the fire,” said Jen Cadwallader, a professor of English at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia.

The success of “A Christmas Carol” helped shift Yuletide ghost stories from the family parlor into the mainstream, and its publication prompted a flurry of Christmas novellas and short stories for a thirsty audience.

“It just reminded people that, hey, ghosts really sell at Christmas time,” said Tara Moore, a professor at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.

(Though Americans share the fondness for “A Christmas Carol,” historians say Christmas ghost stories did not quite cross over with the same fervor, perhaps because such spookiness became more associated with Halloween there.)

Since 2005, the BBC has produced adaptations of ghost stories at Christmas; this year’s Christmas Eve entry stars Kit Harington of “Game of Thrones” in an adaptation of a tale by Arthur Conan Doyle. Theater companies have adapted ghost stories for stages like Shakespeare’s Globe .

But do people still want Christmas to be scary?

George Hoyle, who runs the South East London Folklore Society, thinks they do. Mr. Hoyle discussed the history of the tradition before reading a famous tale to audiences at a local cafe this month.

“It is a scary place, but it’s safe at the same time, because we are all together,” he said of contrasting the coziness of a warm cafe with the spooky tales. Mulled wine and minced pies were served.

Several of Mr. Maguire’s ghost story nights sold out, and the company also hosted a competition for locals to submit their own ghost tales to be performed.

“It’s mankind’s oldest form of entertainment,” he said. “It’s cold, it’s dark, and people want to have that kind of fear factor.”

Ghost stories tend to remind people to reflect on their morals, values and how precious time is spent, something that still resonates in today’s working world, said Professor Cadwallader. “We are as busy as the Victorians were — and we still find it comforting to step out of time for a little bit.”

So, gather some friends. Draw the blinds. Read some tried and tested chillers, like Elizabeth Gaskell’s “The Old Nurse’s Story,” or Montague Rhodes James’s “The Mezzotint.” Listen — what was that sound? A whisper? A guilty conscience? Or the sound of Christmas on its way?

Isabella Kwai is a breaking news reporter in the London bureau. She joined The Times in 2017 as part of the Australia bureau. More about Isabella Kwai

Lot No. 249: The Intriguing History of Mark Gatiss' A Ghost Story for Christmas

The latest instalment of the classic BBC TV series is nearly with us

lot no 249

Christmas is inherently creepy for a number of reasons, not least because much of it is predicated on a complete stranger breaking into our houses at some unspecified point in the early hours. Well-meaning he may be, but it's odd behaviour for a man of his age (around 170 years old, give or take).

Back in 1843, Charles Dickens mined the real spooky season for his novella, A Christmas Carol , in which the cantankerous old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, was famously visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future to frighten him enough to change his “bah, humbug” ways. That it’s now become canon in our Christmas culture also speaks volumes to us all being invested in the dark side of the enforced frivolity of the festive period; a seasonal palate-cleanser, if you will.

It goes further back than that. According to Norse legend, when the Pagans celebrated Yule, the shortest and darkest day of the year (December 21), it went hand in hand with beer drinking (festive!) and ritual animal sacrificing (not so much!). While there’s still cosmic gatherings at Glastonbury to be found on the winter solstice IRL, Christmas TV offerings since the 1970s have also been traditionally on the shady side as well, especially with the advent of A Ghost Story For Christmas .

A Ghost Story For Christmas beginnings

It was back in 1971 that the BBC decided to start screening a ghost story on Christmas Eve. The first ever show was The Stalls of Barchester , by M.R. James, and featuring Robert Hardy as the ill-fated Dr. Haynes. Over the next four years, on the same date, four different ghost stories by James were aired; in 1976, a version of Charles Dickens’ The Signalman was broadcast, followed by two original ghoulish tales for the following the two years afterwards.

But after the 1978 production, the idea was dropped. It wasn’t until almost 30 years later, in 2005, that it was revived by BBC Four with another MR James story, A View From A Hill . The hauntings have been sporadic from this point onwards – with creepy stories shown in 2006, 2010, and 2013 – but have become an annual tradition again since 2018, with the exception of one in 2020 because, well, that year was terrifying enough already.

The actor and director Mark Gatiss (perhaps most famous for The League of Gentleman and Sherlock ) has produced the last five years of stories, including 2019’s Martin’s Close , featuring Peter Capaldi, and steadily, Gatiss has been pulling in bigger names and more expansive productions for the Christmas Eve scare-a-thon.

2023’s ghost story

This year is no exception, and he’s lined up Game Of Thrones ’ Kit Harrington and Slow Horses ’s Freddie Fox in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lot No. 249 , in which the purchase of an Ancient Egyptian mummy at an auction leads to a terrible series of events for two Oxford students.

On the announcement of the 2023 outing, Gatiss said he was happy to be carrying the trend of what’s become a signature seasonal TV show: “It’s a serious delight for me to delve once again into the brilliant work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this time for the Christmas Ghost story.” He added, “ Lot No.249 is a personal favourite and is the grand-daddy (or should that be Mummy?) of a particular kind of end of Empire chiller: a ripping yarn packed with ghastly scares and who-knows-what lurking in the Victorian closet.”

Lot No.249 will air on BBC Two in December.

Laura Martin is a freelance journalist  specializing in pop culture.

preview for Esquire UK - Featured Videos

@media(max-width: 73.75rem){.css-1ktbcds:before{margin-right:0.4375rem;color:#FF3A30;content:'_';display:inline-block;}}@media(min-width: 64rem){.css-1ktbcds:before{margin-right:0.5625rem;color:#FF3A30;content:'_';display:inline-block;}} Culture


All Your Burning Post-'Ferrari' Questions, Answere


Michael Mann Breaks Down 'Ferrari'

dk3rya the wolf of wall street 2013 paramount film with leonardo dicaprio photo mary cybulski

'The Wolf of Wall Street', 10 Years On

text, calendar

The Biggest Books of 2024

zack snyder

Zack Snyder Breaks Down ‘Rebel Moon’

a woman posing for a picture

Naomi Alderman: The Slow-Burn Legacy of 'Buffy'

london, england october 09 andrew haigh attends a qa screen talk at the 67th bfi london film festival at the curzon soho on october 09, 2023 in london, england photo by shane anthony sinclairgetty images for bfi

Andrew Haigh Will Wreck You

best movies of 2023

The Best Movies of 2024

a bottle of whisky on a rock

The Story Behind The Macallan Fine & Rare 1926

the crown

Freeze Frame With The Crown’s Young Royals

a group of people sitting on a couch

How to Watch 2023’s Biggest Movies At Home

  • International edition
  • Australia edition
  • Europe edition

Colin Ryan, Kit Harington and Freddie Fox in A Ghost Story for Christmas: Lot No 249.

A Ghost Story for Christmas: Lot No 249 review – Mark Gatiss’s camp, creepy tale is absolutely bang on

The Sherlock creator’s annual festive spookathon is predictably hammy and great. It’s a clever take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s mummy revenge story that’s as tight as a pair of Victorian breeches

O ld College, Oxford, 1881: a mummified – sorry, rarefied – world of moustachioed men jogging around quads in white shorts. Men who understand the significance of men who drink “Scotch in the jug, Irish in the bottle”. (Me neither.) Men who dabble in the dark arts of – shiver – “eastern studies”. Basically, men … plus one mummy of the dead rather than the female variety. Auction lot no 249. About 40 centuries old. Bad teeth. May be under the command of Ned Bellingham, the kind of fanatical Egyptology student you definitely don’t want to come across in an Arthur Conan Doyle story. Could this “bag of bones” be responsible for the attempted garrotting and drowning of two students, both of whom happen to have crossed Bellingham? Great Scot, it’s Mark Gatiss’s Christmas ghost story!

Conan Doyle is to Gatiss what Sherlock is to Watson or, indeed, empire was to the Victorians. So there is something fitting about the chap who brought Sherlock back to life resurrecting a Conan Doyle horror story for the trad Christmas Eve slippers-and-scares slot. Once again, Gatiss gets it tonally bang on. His adaptation of Lot No 249, originally published in Harper’s Magazine in 1892 and considered to be the first mummy revenge story, is creepy, clever, hammy and camp, with as many delectable moments as a box of Lindt chocolates. It makes my festive bones ache for Sherlock the movie. The mummy, in full throttle, is terrifying. And, in the spirit of Inside No 9, which it also evokes, it is as tight as a pair of Victorian breeches, coming in at a very satisfying half hour.

Abercrombie Smith (Kit Harington) is the quintessential Victorian hero: square-jawed, rational, destined for a promising future in medicine (and Game of Thrones). Lot No 249 opens with him “unmanned” by fear, banging on the door of his brilliant pipe-smoking, dressing-gowned friend. (Yes, exactly who you think he is.) He points to a lamplit figure outside the window who, he insists, chased him here. Takes a little brandy. Prepares to tell his friend “the whole black business”.

Seven weeks earlier … Smith is discussing Bellingham with another neighbour, the unworldly foreign student Monkhouse Lee (Colin Ryan) (it’s always the foreigners who are unworldly in Victorian Britain). Lee appears to have been seduced, then discarded by Bellingham, a bright but bad-tempered student immersed in “arcane bits and bobs” among other things. “Drink? Cards? A cad?” Smith enquires. Worse. Eastern studies! When we finally lay eyes on Bellingham (Freddie Fox in suitably louche, floppy-haired form), he appears to be dead. Apart from his heart, which is going “like a pair of castanets”. Smith blames the heathen pipe … or could it be the influence of Bellingham’s newly acquired Egyptian mummy?

It is all long shadows across wood-panelled rooms and robust calls for hip flasks of brandy. The score is suitably melodramatic, and the performances just straight-faced enough to preserve the irony, so it teeters on the brink of pastiche without toppling over. The most enjoyable moment, notably not in Conan Doyle’s story, is when the action loops back to the scene when Lot No 249 opens: Smith visiting his friend for help. At which point things get ur-Sherlockian. Once Smith has stopped shaking like an aspen leaf, he asks his friend: “Are you still set on returning to London?” “I have my eyes on a suite of rooms at Baker Street,” he replies. Gatiss also uses this scene as a chance to whip out one of Conan Doyle’s great lines, also not in Lot No 249, but who gives a deuce: “The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply.” Brilliant.

Conan Doyle penned Lot No 249 when Victorian Britain was in the grip of Egyptomania. A fascination that led to the excavation, export and loot of ancient treasures to museums all over Europe. By the century’s end, a greater awareness of the fate of the Egyptian dynasties was also contributing to the growing Victorian fear of the decline of their own empire. Ancient Egypt, then, represented a source of inspiration as well as a warning from the past.

“You’re just the sort of chap to keep the flags of empire flying,” Bellingham praises Smith, his hand snaking round the back of an Oxford bench. “I can see you putting down a native uprising in Sudan.” Gatiss, always brilliant on the particularities of 19th-century homoeroticism, has also gifted us a Victorian Christmas ghost story that regards itself as an end-of-empire chiller. Conan Doyle chose to express the doubt and fear inherent in Egyptomania through the form of a mummy on the rampage in the centre of the establishment. More than a century later, perhaps the most sinister aspect of Lot No 249 is how powerful its symbolic relevance remains. The ghosts of empire continue to haunt this country, even, perhaps especially, at the most wonderful time of the year.

after newsletter promotion

  • Television & radio
  • Horror (TV)
  • Mark Gatiss

Most viewed


  1. One of the man-eating lions from "Ghosts in the Darkness" movie (which

    ghost in the darkness real story

  2. Is The Ghost And The Darkness A True Story?

    ghost in the darkness real story


    ghost in the darkness real story

  4. “The Ghost and The Darkness”

    ghost in the darkness real story

  5. 60 REAL Ghost Stories

    ghost in the darkness real story

  6. 6 Scariest True Ghost Stories Of All Time, In Case You Didn’t Want To

    ghost in the darkness real story


  1. Who believes in ghosts? #scary #ghosts

  2. Ghost

  3. The Ghost And The Darkness

  4. Real Horror Stories : Level 1 walkthrough : GameORE

  5. Real Horror Stories

  6. Real Horror Stories/Ιστορίες Τρόμου [Level 1 Walkthrough]


  1. What Really Happened in 'The Ghost and the Darkness' Story

    The two maneless male lions are rumored to have killed and eaten 135 workers before the project's lead, Colonel John Henry Patterson shot and killed both animals. He later wrote a best-selling book chronicling the event called "The Man-Eaters of Tsavo," which subsequently became a film.

  2. What Drove Tsavo Lions to Eat People? Century-Old Mystery Solved

    Lt. Colonel John Patterson in 1898, with one of the Tsavo man-eaters that he shot. (Image credit: The Field Museum) Their names were "The Ghost" and "The Darkness," and 119 years ago, these two...

  3. The Ghost and the Darkness

    Plot In 1898, Robert Beaumont, the primary financier of a railway project in Tsavo, Kenya, seeks out the expertise of Lt. Colonel John Henry Patterson, an Anglo-Irish military engineer, to get the project on schedule.

  4. The Horrifying True Story That Inspired The Ghost and the Darkness

    Published Apr 18, 2023 Although the film indulges in a number of liberties, it may have actually downplayed the gruesome events that unfolded over 100 years ago. Paramount Pictures In 1996,...

  5. Tsavo Man-Eaters

    Tsavo Man-Eaters The Tsavo Man-Eaters on display in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois The Tsavo Man-Eaters were a pair of man-eating male lions in the Tsavo region of Kenya, which were responsible for the deaths of many construction workers on the Kenya-Uganda Railway between March and December 1898.

  6. Man-Eaters of Tsavo

    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,...

  7. The Ghost and the Darkness: The True Story Behind The 1996 Thriller Film

    Ridham Vashishth September 12, 2023 Directed by the seasoned Stephen Hopkins, 'The Ghost and the Darkness' is an adventure thriller film that paints a vivid picture of Africa's vast terrains. In the heart of Tsavo, Kenya, during the late 19th century, a railway construction crew is thrown into a whirlwind of fear and uncertainty.

  8. Tsavo Lions

    In addition to Patterson's written account, several movies are based on his tale of the man-eating lions, including The Ghost and the Darkness. The 1996 film contained some glaring inaccuracies, including casting lions with manes for the part, but the story captivated moviegoers and increased interest in these infamous lions.

  9. The lion-killer who became an Israeli hero

    Patterson told the whole story in his best-selling book, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo. ... who appears in The Ghost and The Darkness is a pure invention - in real-life our Irish hero did it all himself ...

  10. How many people did the man-eating lions of Tsavo actually eat?

    By Ed Yong. Published November 2, 2009. • 5 min read. In 1898, railway workers in Tsavo, Kenya were terrorised by a pair of man-eating lions, who killed at least 28 people during a 10-month ...

  11. The True Story Behind "The Ghost And The Darkness"

    The True Story Behind "The Ghost And The Darkness" | The Man Eaters Of Tsavo How Strange 2.51K subscribers Subscribe 1.8K views 9 months ago Confused and in fear, workers would find that...

  12. 108: The Ghost and the Darkness

    July 2, 2018 Adventure, Drama, Thriller 108: The Ghost and the Darkness Did you enjoy this episode? Help support the next one! Buy me a coffee Resources The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) - IMDb Tsavo Man-Eaters - Wikipedia John Henry Patterson (author) - Wikipedia Man-Eaters of Tsavo | Science | Smithsonian

  13. 42 Facts About The Movie The Ghost And The Darkness

    Based on a True Story The movie "The Ghost and the Darkness" is based on the real-life events surrounding the Tsavo Maneaters, a pair of notorious man-eating lions that terrorized railway workers in East Africa in the late 19th century. A Star-Studded Cast

  14. 6 Crazy Facts About the Man-Eating Lions of Tsavo

    The famous man-eating African lions of Tsavo terrorized workers along the Kenya-Uganda Railroad for nine months, until one man hunted them down.

  15. The Ghost and the Darkness by Dewey Gram

    Dewey Gram. 3.81. 207 ratings12 reviews. Based on the true story, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo, this novelization tells the story of two renowned hunters' attempts to track and kill a pair of man-eating lions--one ghostly white, the other black as night--who terrorized workers building a bridge in the heart of Africa's wildlands in 1888.

  16. What Really Happened in 'The Ghost and the Darkness' Story

    The film "The Ghost and the Darkness" chronicles the lions of Tsavo, two man-eating big cats that terrorized a construction project dedicated to building a r...

  17. The Ghost in the Darkness: Unveiling the Untold True Story (2023)

    Discover the untold true story behind "The Ghost and the Darkness" movie. Unveiling historical accuracy and intriguing facts.

  18. Facts Behind The Tsavo Man-Eaters The True Story Of 'The Ghost and The

    The lion pair was said to have killed 135 people total, but modern estimates place it at 35 total. While the terrors of man-eating lions weren't new in the British public perception, the Tsavo Man-Eaters became one of the most notorious instances of dangers posed to Indian and native African workers of the Uganda Railway where hostile wildlife and diseases both were frequent sources of ...

  19. The Ghost and the Darkness

    The Ghost and the Darkness is a cult classic starring Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer that's based on a true story, but how much is accurate? By Brian Accardo April 13th 2023, 11:24am In...

  20. Two Lions Gnawing Away At 19th-Century Progress

    ''The Ghost and the Darkness,'' a lion-hunting story set in 19th-century Africa, is the rare Hollywood action-adventure that becomes more surprising and exotic as it moves along.

  21. The Ghost and the Darkness was the Beast movie of the 1990s

    The Ghost and the Darkness is nominally a historical epic based on actual events in 1898 Kenya, where two lions terrorized a British railroad camp on the Tsavo River for nearly a year, killing ...

  22. 'The Darkness' Is Based On A True Story & The Tale Is Truly ...

    The film follows a family who, after a visit to the Grand Canyon, think they've brought home a supernatural force, and the creepiness of the tale leads many to wonder if The Darkness is based on...

  23. What is the true story behind The Ghost and the Darkness?

    The film has taken a realistic animal and made it deadlier than any real-life one, which adds a level of disbelief and fear exclusive to the genre. Rather than a big explosion or heavy artillery, Beast will likely have its main protagonist use wits to outsmart his foe, similar to The Ghost and the Darkness. Jun 4, 2022

  24. A Ghost Story for Christmas: Lot No 249, BBC Two, review: Mark ...

    A Ghost Story for Christmas: Lot No 249 (BBC Two) is from the pen of Arthur Conan Doyle. Published in 1892, it's a High Victorian tale set in an Oxford college where Egyptology is a new-fangled ...

  25. Forget Halloween, Bring Ghost Stories Back to Christmas

    Dec. 20, 2023. At the most wonderful time of the year, there is one tradition that John Maguire remembers fondly: his Liverpudlian grandmother trying to scare the daylights out of him. Without ...

  26. Lot No. 249: The Intriguing History of Mark Gatiss' A Ghost Story for

    But after the 1978 production, the idea was dropped. It wasn't until almost 30 years later, in 2005, that it was revived by BBC Four with another MR James story, A View From A Hill.The hauntings ...

  27. A Ghost Story for Christmas: Lot No 249 review

    The most enjoyable moment, notably not in Conan Doyle's story, is when the action loops back to the scene when Lot No 249 opens: Smith visiting his friend for help. At which point things get ur ...