The British wanted a railroad, and they were going to get a railroad, God help anyone who tried to stop them. It was to run from the city of Mombasa, which is in Kenya, on to Lake Victoria, then Uganda, and the British had hoped it would encourage people to migrate into, and then colonize the interior of Africa. It would also provide a 580 mile long trade route between Europe and Africa. Officially, it was called the Uganda line. Unofficially, people called it the 'Lunatic Line', and said it went from 'nowhere to nowhere'. It was considered a symbol of British progress in 'civilizing' what was known a the 'Dark Continent'. Thousands of workers, called coolies, were imported from India to help with the thirty year task.
British Army Colonel John Henry Patterson was put in charge of the whole thing. In February 1898, the workers were two years into their task, and they had just reached the Tsavo River, which is 130 miles northwest of Mombasa. The Colonel was brought in to supervise the construction of a permanent bridge for the railroad over the river, which was near the valley of Tsavo. The natives all warned them of danger and evil in the valley, but it would cost too much time, too much effort, and too much money to go around. It was simpler to build through the valley.
There were stories about Tsavo ( which means slaughter in the language of the Akamba), stories dating back generations, stories about animals and livestock being stolen in the dark, never to be seen again. And people. People would just up and disappear from their beds at night, and never seen again in the world of the living. Occasionally, their remains would be found, picked clean of all flesh, and covered in teeth marks.
These killings were said to be the work of a pair of male lions that lived in the valley, nicknamed the Ghost and the Darkness by the locals. Lt. Colonel Patterson, thinking this to be only local folklore, designed to keep children from wandering at night, went right on with construction.
Now, with several thousand workers, there were many camps to hold them all. And with several thousand workers, it was impossible to keep track of everyone working on the tracks. So when stories of disappearances began to reach his ears, he dismissed them as well. Until the bodies began turning up, picked clean of any tissue. He began to believe then.
Every night, the lions would attack the coolie camps scattered across the valley. The Indian workers constructed bomas, fences woven of thorns and tree branches, but the lions either jumped over or crawled under them. Even the bonfires didn't succeed in scaring them away. People kept disappearing.
There was a supervisor who would oversee construction, and make sure everything went off without a hitch. He would stand on a high place overlooking the valley and watch the laborers work. One night, he, too, disappeared into the darkness. The next morning, they found his head in his tent. His head, and nothing else besides a large puddle of blood. They went up to the place he would always stand, and no less than three feet behind the mans boot prints, they found the paw prints of two large lions concealed in the long savannah grass. The Lions of Tsavo had been stalking him in particular. They found the rest of him, a little ways away from the camp. He was completely uneaten. His body was perfectly whole, minus a head.
With all the workers, some people were bound to get sick and injured. The lions attacked the hospital, too, which was also strange because it was in the middle of a camp, surrounded by people, which wild animals usually give a wide berth. They killed one of the patients, and when it was discovered the next morning, the hospital was ordered to be moved, and it was. The lions attacked the next night, even though it was in a different place. They killed another person. Nothing was found of him but his hand and his head.
This was making the other workers more than slightly nervous. People were disappearing from their tents in the night, and the survivors had no wish to become part of the food chain. People were packing up and leaving the unfinished railroad.
The Colonel needed this railroad finished. He would be in trouble with his government if he had just wasted all that money, and all those resources on a half finished job, so he hired some professional lion-hunters from the nearby Maasai tribe. They came down to the valley, and Patterson briefed them on all he knew of the lions. When he was done, the leader looked at him and spat in the dirt. "We will not hunt this valley's demons for you. We do not wish to anger the protectors of Tsavo,", he said and left.
Fine then, thought Patterson. I will kill them myself. A few days later, one of the lions killed a donkey. Workers drove it away from its kill, and Patterson shot it with his rifle. It stopped and turned to him. It gave an unearthly snarl, and the creature's amber eyes burned into his own. It stood there a second longer, then turned and loped into the long grass, not even causing the golden strands to rustle.
Figuring the cat would return for its half eaten kill, he climbed up in a tree near the carcass to wait. Sometime after sundown, Patterson fell asleep. He dreamed of two amber eyes with slitted pupils burning in the darkness. A low growl woke him. He looked down from the tree, and saw the lion walking towards the dead donkey, paws making no noise on the dry grass even though it was limping a little from the bullet wound on its hind leg. However, it ignored the donkey in favor of him. Golden eyes tracked his every movement as he brought his rifle to his shoulder and fired. The creature snarled in pain and faltered a bit, but it kept coming. He fired again, this time hitting it in the head. It let out a roar of anger and pain and frustration, then dropped dead, the light gone from its tawny eyes. An answering roar echoed throughout the valley.
A few nights later, he set a trap for the second lion. He tied goats to a railroad tie, but the lion killed the goats and dragged the tie away. He built a platform in a tree and waited. When he saw the lion, he shot it twice and when it limped off into the darkness, he assumed it had died of its wounds. This was not to be the case. For the next fortnight, everything was fine and work on the tracks continued. Until the lion attacked another worker, who had been sleeping in a tree. Patterson decided to wait in the same tree for the monster. He didn't fall asleep this time, and just as the sun was setting and the moon was rising, the lion walked out of the grass, those golden eyes fixed on him. Patterson's blood froze. Somehow, it knew. It knew he had been the one to kill its brother.
He panicked, raising the gun and firing wildly and blindly into the dark twice. By the answering growls of pain, he knew that by some miracle he had hit his target both times. The lion snarled at him once, then ran off into the night. Patterson sighed in relief and leaned against the tree. Eventually, he fell asleep. The rising sun shining in his eyes woke him, and he blinked. That lion needed to die before it could kill another human being. He climbed down from the tree and stretched, before starting the trek back to camp, keeping his guard up. When he got to camp he recruited a few men to help him find the lion.
They went back to the tree and searched the area around it. One of the men shouted, and Patterson jogged over to where he was. The man had found a blood trail, leading away into the grass. They followed it for what felt like hours, until they wound up in a clearing where it ended. The beast lay in the center of the clearing, fur rippling slightly in the African breeze. By all appearances it was dead. One of the men let out a laugh and walked over to where the monster lay. Patterson's eyes widened. "No, don't-", he cried, but it was to late. Quick as lightning, the lion was on its feet, and the man was lying on the ground, bleeding from a gaping hole in his neck.
Patterson raised his gun and fired two more shots into the demon, hitting it in the chest and head. It collapsed, dead. The Ghost and the Darkness reign of terror was at an end.
A few days later, a worker discovered a narrow cave in the canyon wall. It was a tight fiit at first, but became wider as you walked through it. In a chamber at the end, they found dozens of human bones the lions had taken trophy.