How was my first post? Hope you enjoyed it. In this post I will write about the Hollywood movie ‘ghost and the darkness’.The basic facts of the story are portrayed truly in the movie. In 1898 two large male lions attacked workers in Africa building a railroad bridge and devoured about 140 humans before being shot. The rogue lions were nicknamed the Ghost and the Darkness by the superstitious natives. In the movie Val Kilmer played the courageous Irish engineer Col. John Henry Patterson who was in charge of building the bridge. Hollywood brought in Michael Douglas as a great white hunter to assist Patterson, but in true life Patterson hunted and killed both lions himself. The biggest visual discrepancy between Hollywood and the true story of the man-eaters was the physical appearance of the lions themselves. In the movie the lions were great beasts with huge manes around their necks. In real life the Tsavo man-eaters didn’t have manes at all and resembled female lions. Their stuffed hides are on display at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History and their photos are on the museum website. They look quite unlike the fierce male lions in the movie. In the movie Patterson was hit in the head by a wandering owl and knocked off his hunting platform placing him in great danger from one of the lions. In real life he was hit by an owl on his stand, but fortunately maintained his balance and didn’t fall. Like in the movie the real life Patterson did have a misfire on a borrowed rifle and missed an easy opportunity to kill one of the lions. Patterson also did build a huge wooden trap in real life that was baited with Indian Workers armed with rifles and protected by metal bars. This scene was depicted in the movie and the movie trap looked identical to old pictures of the actual trap. The result in real life was very similar to the movie. One of the man-eaters did spring The trip wire and was trapped inside the trap. The workers were so frightened they fired wildly through the bars and finally a bullet broke one of the slats in the trap door allowing the lion to escape. Unlike the movie there was no fire in the real life incident. In the movie many of the victims were Africans. While by most accounts that is true, most of the labor to build the railroad was supplied by indentured Indian laborers and the Tsavo lion reportedly killed 28 of the Indians. These workers were nicknamed ‘coolies.’ By some accounts 90% of the thousands of Indian workers in Africa died from disease and injury.
An exciting discovery in the movie by Kilmer and Douglas was the den of the man-eaters. Patterson also discovered what he thought was the man-eater’s den (complete with scattered human bones) and took pictures of it. The location of the cave was lost for nearly 100 years until it was rediscovered by American scientists one mile from the Tsavo railroad bridge on April 30, 1997.The men used an 1899 photograph of the cave to confirm their finding. No bones were found in 1997 and there is some speculation as to whether it actually was a den for lions. It may have been an African burial cave Disturbed by animals or possibly was a hyena den. I also discovered an earlier 1952 film called Bwana Devils told the story of the Tsavo man-eaters. and his account of how he hunted and killed the lions is well worth reading. Hollywood did a good job of retelling the story about the man-eaters in The Ghost and the Darkness and I look forward to a future movie about the famous Bengal tiger in India and Nepal that killed over 400 people. This tigress known as Champawat killed 200 men and women before being driven out of Nepal. She moved to India and continued to kill bringing her total up to 436 before she was tracked down and killed by the famous hunter Jim Corbett in 1937 and also a great man-eating leopard of rudraprayag, which then had created a flutter in Indian parliament. It had killed 125 people (official figures). Even it was shot by the greatest hunter of all time jim Corbett.