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Ghosts of Tsavo: Stalking the Mystery Lions of East Africa

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  439 ratings  ·  43 reviews
1898, Tsavo River Kenya, the British Empire employs native workers to build a railroad. Construction comes to a violent halt when two maneless lions devour 140 workers in an extended feeding frenzy that would make headlines and history all over the world. Caputo's Ghosts of Tsavo is a new quest for truth about the origins of these near-mythical animals and how they became ...more
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published June 1st 2002 by National Geographic (first published 2002)
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3.78  · 
Rating details
 ·  439 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Oct 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
The book opens with gripping tales of lion hunting in Africa. There was the famous tale of two man-eaters in Tsavo, Ghost and Darkness, which had killed and devoured hundreds of humans at the end of the 19th century. There have been other outbreaks. Why? What makes these man-eaters different from the wooly-maned lords of the Serengeti? The opening, the first couple of chapters, is wonderful, but it is downhill from there, mostly following Caputo as he accompanies others in their research or hunt ...more
May 04, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a book about man-eating lions. You may as well stop reading this review now, because can you really go wrong? I mean, even though the author went to Africa to work with researchers in the hopes of gaining scientific knowledge of the animals, is it wrong that my favorite parts were accounts of the man-eating itself?

Different researchers have different theories about the lions of Tsavo and they carry out careful experiments in an attempt to uncover answers. Are the mane-less lions of this
Apr 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nature, non-fiction
I will start by saying I read this book by accident about 18 years ago. I just never remembered to put it on here. As I recall, it wasn't a bad read. BUT..... when I purchased it, I had mistaken it for MAN EATERS OF TSAVO. The book I was actually looking for but didn't write down the name and when I went to the book store I grabbed this book by accident. As I recall it wasn't bad, I was just disappointed because I figured out rather quickly that I had the wrooooong book. Despite that, I did read ...more
Aug 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Caputo travels through Kenya stalking lions alongside scientists with opposing views on why these particular animals in Tsavo sometimes track, kill, and eat humans.

Tsavo means place of slaughter in KiKamba. Generally, when referred to geographically, Tsavo refers to Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. This area is noted for lions. More spefically-man-eating lions. In 1898, two man-eating lions nicknamed Ghost and Darkness, killed an estimated 135 people. Another noted period of man-eating lion te
Nov 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a sort of combination science and travel book. Unfortunately the "science" side was much weaker than the "travel" side.

The author writes of his trips to east-central Africa on photographic safari, tracking the lions of Tsavo, and his adventures. Apparently safari vacations, at least in the Tsavo, are not for the faint of heart -- it's close to 100 degrees all the time, you're very far from civilization, there's a real chance of getting mauled and/or eaten by some wild animal, and there a
Mark Luongo
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: ?
Recommended to Mark by: Movie, "The Ghost and the Darkness"
If you've seen the movie, "The Ghost and the Darkness" (Val Kilmer & Michael Douglas), you are going to want to read this book and get a notion about what makes a "man-eater."You are going to want to know about how a large predator like a lion goes about killing and eating you.
Caputo eloquently waxes poetic about the African "bush" and laments the effect progress has had on the environment, the culture and the wildlife. The author, a Vietnam veteran of note, has his moments on "safari" inclu
P.S. Winn
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have read several books of this subject and have found all of them astounding and intriguing. To know this is a true story of two lions doing what had never been something lions did in pairs is amazing. If you haven;t rad the books, this one or others, pick them up. I also loved the movie "The ghost and the darkness" linked to the books.
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Exploration of what makes a lion become a man-eater. A bit of a Kenya travelogue and serious investigation of the behavior of maned and in-maned lions. Fascinating.
Kayla Motto
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting read! Gives a whole new prospective on lion behavior.
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: animals
Enjoyed the chapters about the Man Eater of Mfuwe and the Tsavo Man-Eaters, but I got so bored with the rest of the book and just kinda stopped reading it.
Dean Hamilton
Jun 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
They were called The Ghost and The Darkness, two adult male African lions, that haunted the scrub brush of the Tsavo River at the turn of the century.

In 1898, they killed more than 135 Indian and African railway workers, laboring to throw a bridge across the Tsavo River, before Lt. Col. John Patterson, in an epic and harrowing nine-month struggle, hunted the lions down and killed them.

Today the lion's are stuffed and displayed in the Field Museum in Chicago, but the question of what spawned the
Apr 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
This is a shame. What starts as a fascinating account of the lions of Tsavo and their predilection for man eating quickly becomes the wandering, directionless travelogue of a tourist.

The first few chapters are full of compelling stories about the man eaters, most notably the famed pair that plagued the railroad construction and were finally killed by Patterson and later stuffed and displayed in the Field Museum. These early chapters are packed full of anecdotal evidence that these maneless man
I'm in two minds about this book, much like Caputo seems to be in his writing as he jumps between the science of the animals, their ecology, behaviour etc. and the philosophical musings he scatters amongst the scientific endeavours he is following. I enjoyed the science side of this book as Caputo details each of the various theories about the Tsavo lions and the experiments being undertaken to determine whether they are in fact a separate species or subspecies of Panthera leo. Although he never ...more
Jennifer Rothe
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Caputo starts strong, delivering a fascinating and chilling account of Ghost and Darkness, the legendary man-eaters. Unfortunately the book goes downhill from there. He mostly tags along with researchers and guides, and while this premise held potential, in my opinion he drops the ball. Caputo also makes it clear on several occasions that he pits science and wonder at opposite ends of the spectrum, and quite frankly comes off as smug, humble-bragging that *he* is satisfied without knowing the in ...more
Jun 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
I first heard of Phil Caputo when I watched an interview with him on (2 Pacifica people, traveling around in their RV, interviewing authors along the way). I liked him and what he had to say so much that I started looking for his books, and this one is the first I've read. It is, I must say, a very good follow-up to The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival, even though it is very different. In this one, the author tells of his travels to Tsavo Nat'l Park in Kenya, and th ...more
Donna Siebold
Oct 18, 2016 rated it liked it
In the late nineteenth century John H. Patterson, of the British Army, tracked and killed two man-eating lions in Tsavo, East Africa.

Almost one hundred years later Philip Caputo revisits this area to try and uncover the truth about the lions of this area.

They are larger than our typical view of a lion. The males are usually maneless and their ferocity is well-documented.

What makes these lions different? Are they a unique sub-species, are they direct descendants of a larger prehistoric ancestor?
Sep 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book in the gift shop of the Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney. One because it fit with the whole Animal Kingdom theme, and because it was written by Philip Caputo one of my favorite authors. Having read A Rumor of War many many moons ago and loving it very much I thought that this would be an excellent choice of book. I was not disappointed. A cross between myth and science this was a quick read in the exploration of why lions are man eaters. If you loved the film The Ghost and Darkn ...more
Mike Winterrowd
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Caputo is of course a great writer. In this book he combines multiple storylines, viewpoints and personal experiences into a really meaningful examination of the myth and reality of the Tsavo lions, both in the modern day and in their original context.

I can't say enough good things about the read. You won't want to put it down, and if you have a serious interest in the morphology and reality of Patterson's lions, then you'll go back to it again and again.

If you're like me and the lions at Field
Mar 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Offers a contemporary perspective on the famous episodes of man-eating by lions in the Tsavo region of Kenya. Scientific observation has shed some light on the conditions that may have led to man-eating in the past, but it does not definitively answer all questions. As game populations across Africa increasingly come under pressure from restricted ranges, true understanding of these past incidents may become ever more elusive. The book is engaging and a real page turner, while convying a lot of ...more
Gerry Germond
Essentially, this is a blog in print. And a fun one, as if one were actually taking these trips with the author and his companions. Along the way, one learns of modern (early last decade) African ways, the Masai, the last of the colonials, tourism, hippos, elephants, scientific disputes over lions' descent, African scenery, The Meaning of It All, and, oh yeah, a thing or two about man-eating lions and why hiking in Tsavo Park may not be a great idea. To me, this was all light reading, but I did ...more
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Great retelling of the original account of the "Maneaters of Tsavo" by Kenneth Anderson. I read this book after seeing 'The Ghost and the Darkness" and enjoyed it. As always what lingers is the intelligence of these animals and what it must have been like to be at their receiving end while building the Mombasa railway line.
Jul 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This text reads as parts nature book, mystery, and travelogue. Caputo captivates his audience weaving his own expedition into Tsavo and its lions with the tales from John Patterson's personal narrative that inspired the 1996 film The Ghost and the Darkness. I would recommend this as an accompaniment to the film.
Edward Sullivan
Nov 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
An interesting, sometimes gripping, mix of travelogue, science, history, and mystery in which Caputo attempts to separate reality from myth as he investigates stories of maneless, man-eating lions in East Africa.
Jul 10, 2007 rated it liked it
Picked this one up at the Field Museum in Chicago after seeing the man-eating African lions on display. If you're into science, it's a good book for you, though I would recommend reading it as a companion text for the Val Kilmer/Michael Dougles movie "The Ghost and The Darkness."
Oct 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Although I was inspired to read more about the lions of Tsavo and Africa, I basically think this was Phillip Caputo's way of getting a publisher to pay for a safari trip to Africa. And Phillip Caputo is one of my favorite authors, so I say that with love.
Tom Mueller
Jul 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Speculation that the maneless man-eaters of Tsavo are a sub-species of the Serengiti lion. 250-500 lbs heavier and up to a foot taller, these lions have been known to develop a taste - as well as specialized hunting techniques - for humans.
Paul Ison
Jan 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
tracking the unmaned lions of east africa and determimining why they tend to be man-eating compared to their fully-maned cousins on the Serengheti. Interesting but somehow not that fulfilling, as the researchers ultimately never really have much contact with the lions.
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wildlife
A look into man eating lions, going from the killing of a man eater in the early 1990s to the Ghost and the Darkness themselves. Interesting look at the causes and effects of what brought on the attacks and part Afirican travel book as the author travels to Tsavo himself.
Oct 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very nice scientific review and follow-up of the man-eating lions of Tsavo. Of course, cannot compare to that volume for terror and a thrilling tale, but a nice addition to the scientific understanding of why these lions might behave in some of the ways that they do.
Apr 13, 2009 rated it liked it
So far I really like this book. Interesting.
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American author and journalist. Author of 16 books, including the upcoming novel SOME RISE BY SIN. Best known for A Rumor of War , a best-selling memoir of his experiences during the Vietnam War (look for the special 40th Anniversary Edition in summer 2017).
“I don't care if your the President of the United States, the Queen of England, the inventor of the microchip, a bankable movie star, or an ordinary Joe or Jill, you're no paragon in my book, but the same as a zebra or gazelle - a source of protein. In fact, I'd rather hunt you, because you're slow and feeble.” 0 likes
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