The Ghost and the Darkness

In 1898, the British started the construction of a railway bridge over the Tsavo river in Kenya. Over the next nine months, the unfortunate railway workers became the target of two man-eating lions (now known to have been brothers). These lions were huge, measuring over three meters long, and, as is usual among lions from the Tsavo region, they were maneless. At first, the two lions snatched the men from their tents, dragging them to the bush and devouring them at night. But soon they became so fearless, that they wouldn’t even drag their victims away and would start feeding on their flesh just a few yards from the tents. Their size, ferocity and cunning were so extraordinary that many natives thought that they were not actually lions, but rather demons, or perhaps the reincarnation of ancient local kings trying to repel the British invaders (the belief of dead kings being reborn as lions was once very common in Eastern Africa). The two man-eaters were nicknamed The Ghost and The Darkness, and workers were so afraid of them that they fled by the hundreds out of Tsavo. The railway construction was halted; no one wanted to be the next victim of the “devil lions”.

Eventually, the Chief Engineer in charge of the railway project, John Henry Patterson, decided that the only solution was to kill the man eaters. He was very close to being killed by the lions but, eventually, he managed to shoot the first one in December of 1989, and two weeks later, he managed to shot the second one. By this time, the lions had killed 140 people. Patterson also found the man-eaters’ lair; a cave near the Tsavo river bank, which contained the remains of many human victims, as well as pieces of clothes and ornaments. This cave still exists today and, although many bones have been exhumed, it is said that many still remain inside. Some experts have recently claimed that the lions only ate about 35 of their human victims. But this doesn’t mean they didn’t kill many others; like other man eaters, they were often said to kill even when not hungry. Today, the Tsavo man-eaters (or rather, their stuffed pelts) can be seen in the Field Museum of Chicago, although Kenyan authorities have expressed interest in building a museum completely dedicated to them, in which case the Ghost and the Darkness could return to Tsavo once again.

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