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25th January 2005The Ghost and the Darkness - is it true ?.
By Coll
This may be a little off the beaten track, but I watched this film a while ago and apparently it was a true story.

An officer of the Royal Engineers was sent to Africa to build a bridge, but on his arrival he was confronted with the fact that two lions prowled the surrounding area, killing many of the men employed for the construction.

This officer is thought to have been personally involved with the hunting of these lions, eventually managing to kill both. It was then mentioned that the lions are on display in a museum somewhere, I think in Canada.

Is this a myth invented just for the big screen ?.

If not and it is definitely true, does anyone know details about this officer and the actual events ?.

It happened in the late 19th or early 20th Century, but specific dates I don't know.

Any information on this event would be much appreciated.

25th January 2005Sheldon Hall
I'll leave confirmation of the historical details to others, but this same story formed the basis for the first American feature film to be made in 3-D: BWANA DEVIL (1952), starring Robert Stack.
25th January 2005Mike Snook

It's true. Or as true as good cinema can bear. The true story is 'The Man Eaters of Tsavo.' by Lt Col Patterson RE. I have a copy at home in my library but I imagine it can be quite difficult to get hold of. You might get it through

It's one of my favourite films of Africa. Very nicely written and photographed. Well acted. Recommend to all.

Regards as ever

25th January 2005Coll

Thank you for replying so quickly.


Excellent news. I was hoping it was true.

I must admit when I was typing this in as a new topic, I thought I was going to be asked how I could believe such a story.

I've ordered a copy of the dvd and I'm collecting it at the weekend, happy in the knowledge that it actually happened.

Cheers Mike

25th January 2005Simon Vaughan
Hello Coll,

In addition to Patterson's own book, there are several others on the man-eaters, including "The Lions of Tsavo" by Bruce Patterson and "Ghosts of Tsavo" by Phillip Caputo. These books not only investigate what makes a lion a 'Man-eater', but both also extensively talk about Patterson himself, who was a pretty interesting person and went on to fight in Judea amongst other places. The film is beautifully photographed and very entertaining, but there's plenty of 'Hollywood licence' there also (such as the introduction of the American Big Game Hunter played by Michael Douglas. Dare I say that the real story is even more fascinating than the movie!.

The lions themselves are now mounted and on display in Chicago.

Good luck with the books, and I hope you enjoy reading more about J H Patterson.


25th January 2005Coll

Thankyou for this information.

I'll be making room on my bookshelf for all the mentioned titles.

Thanks again

25th January 2005John Young

The film was made in South Africa, one of the first to die after Val Kilmer's arrival is Henry Cele, who has played Shaka Zulu in a couple of productions.

John Y.
25th January 2005Jeff Dickinson

The lions are on display in the Field Musuem in Chicago IL. Have a look at go to the on line shop and you should find all the books you are looking for. Col JH Pattersons for about $6, Ghosts of Tsavo by Caputo $27, and about three others. Interesting point that the lions were maneless males. Great movie. All the best. Good luck.

25th January 2005Paul Cubbin
Dominant male lions in a successful packs are the ones who tend to grow manes. Solitary males who have been expelled from the pack occasionally have manes (especially if they are ex-pack leaders) but these are usually successful and dominant types too who are able to scavenge or hunt sufficiently to thrive. Maneaters tend to be animals who turn to it out of desperation as they are not good hunters or have suffered some form of injury that prevents them hunting other game. This may explain the lack of a mane - of course I'mm assuming they're not just females!
25th January 2005Coll

Thanks very much.

I went to the site you suggested immediately, found out about the books and have stored the information on my computer.



26th January 2005Cliff Buffham
If you are interested, the screenwriter William Goldman wrote a book entitled "Which Lie Did I Tell?"

In it, one chapter is devoted to this film and he explains how and why the true story was changed for the film. It would have made a very boring film, basically.
26th January 2005Coll

Thanks for your reply.

I guess, as with a lot of films made about real events, parts are changed or enhanced to appeal to the wider audience.

I think to be a participant in the actual event itself, an engineer sent to build a bridge concentrating on the construction, but having to deal with man-eating lions would have been an exciting and frightening experience at the same time to be there, the feelings that are very difficult to repeat on the big screen.

However, the story is one that draws you in and for myself to find out more about the man and the facts about what happened.

Yet another aspect of history that I just have to know the truth about.

Thanks again


26th January 2005AMB
I do believe that F C Selous wrote the intro to Col P's original book.

27th January 2005Mike Snook
Yes, the film takes a lot of liberties with the book. But the result is a great movie. Perhaps rather like Zulu.

29th January 2005Michael Boyle
How did they end up in Chicago?
3rd February 2005Coll

Check out the Field Museum site that Jeff suggested, the image gallery is well-illustrated and plenty of details are included.

It really is fascinating.

4th February 2005Michael Boyle

Quite so! Looking at them I can't help feeling some sympathy,but not nearly what I feel for the poor souls whose last sight they were.

Being devoured by a viscious beast is way up there on my list of 'Experiences to Avoid'.(And to think that the Zulus took lions down with assegais,bit too 'up close and personal' for my tastes!)