Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Ghost And The Darkness

Hi friends,
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.

12 comments:

Vc said...

Hi Satish,

I saw the Ghost and the Darkness a couple of years ago and i was scared as hell . It was unique and frightening .I really liked the background score. Thanks for the info and welcome to the world of blogging .

Hmm Bengal tiger ... nodona..interesting....


Vc

satishds said...

thanks VC....your blog rocks

shreekant said...

Hi Satish,

extremely insightful, however one point i'd like to add. The reason why the lions turned man eaters was thier physical apperance. It has been noted by researchers that lions without mane fail to attract females for mating and are often outcasted. Lions are social animals and hunted in packs. It is extremely difficult for a lion to kill its prey alone. This is one of the most important reasons as to why those 2 lions turned into man eaters. killing humans is much more easier than wild game after all.

Great stuff pal, thanx

Anonymous said...

i know this post is old but i stumbled upon it.
The reason they used maned lions is the breed is less aggressive than the maneless species.
this was done for safely purposes.

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Anonymous said...

In regards to the lions on display at the field museum, those lions are man made re-makes of the original lions. The skins were acquired by the museum when Patterson visited to do a speech in 1934 (or 1924). By then it is claimed the skins and skulls were the only remaining pieces. It was also said that the lion skins had been used as household ornaments and were in rather tattered condition when turned over to the Field museum to be remolded into bodies and made life like. Now really, after such a magnificent feat, who in their right mind would use the lion skins so casually? For all we know Patterson may not have even turned in the REAL skins. Though he was paid $5,000 who's to say he handed in the real ones? They didn't have the kind of technology back then to prove otherwise. The museum has a copy of a photo of the first lion right after Patterson killed it and it is HUGE! But the lions on display are smaller and look more like dogs with lion heads. Boy! That museum sculptor in 1934 was some untalented. Ha ha ha.

kurt said...

Don't you think how the film maker portrayed the Indians in the movie ?
They are shown as worthless, coward, incompetent, racist. I really felt sorry for actor Om Puri where he have act like this. In one scene, Val Kilmer (of course the hero) checks the shooting ability of three Indian men. They say that we have been hunting since childhood. Val Kilmer replies, "You are murderers, criminals. That's good". And then they bow their heads in shame. Wow what a compliment ? He just wanted them to make this clear that who are they actually.

These English men in fancy suits have a innumerable criminal records of invasion, robbery, murders etc

India is a country of moral values and people from different parts of world are coming to see the rich culture of this country. And it doesn't need the advice of any foreign country in the whole world in order to improve one's character, ability and bravery.
Jai Hind

Truebill said...

I would have got on the first train smoking.:) ain't no need for me to lie.but the movie realy took me to the bridge being built.and the fear that was running through that vamp.Hats off to the man that stopped the lions.

Truebill said...

I would have got on the first train smoking.:) ain't no need for me to lie.but the movie realy took me to the bridge being built.and the fear that was running through that vamp.Hats off to the man that stopped the lions.

Truebill said...

I would have got on the first train smoking.:) ain't no need for me to lie.but the movie realy took me to the bridge being built.and the fear that was running through that vamp.Hats off to the man that stopped the lions.

Anonymous said...

Indian men are cowards, useless pricks.

Anonymous said...

Kurt is a paki cunt, if it wasn't for the British you would still be in a mud hut, 90% of Indians still shit in the street, val Kilmer was spot on you are worthless