8 Stories of Vicious Man-Eaters

With all we've accomplished, it's easy to forget that people aren't always the dominant species. Here are eight stories of man-eating animals that remind us we really are still part of the food chain.

1. The Ghost and The Darkness

Over nine months in 1898, two maneless, male lions allegedly attacked and killed over 140 workers building a British rail bridge across the Tsavo River in eastern Africa. Nicknamed "The Ghost" and "The Darkness" by the superstitious natives, the two beasts were said to be the angry souls of ancient tribal leaders protesting the destruction of their kingdom.

As the attacks became more frequent, employees refused to work. So, chief engineer Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson took it upon himself to hunt down the beasts. Using a series of scaffolding-like structures made of trees and branches (called "manchas"), he was able to hide from the two beasts, shooting them both a few weeks apart. Patterson had the animals' skins made into rugs, and eventually sold the remains to the Chicago Field Museum. The animals were expertly reconstructed and are still on display today. [Image courtesy of Jeffrey Jung.]

However, modern science has to some extent diminished the legend of the Lions of Tsavo. Recent chemical tests on hair samples have revealed that the animals did eat people in the months before they died, but that the combined number was probably closer to 35—a far cry from the original count of 140.

2. The Man-Eater of Mfuwe

This cocky, 10-foot long lion terrorized the people of Zambia in 1991. After his sixth kill, the lion strutted through the middle of town carrying the victim's laundry bag, daring anyone to confront him. A California man on safari waited in a hunting blind for 20 nights before finally shooting and killing the monster. This man-eater is currently neighbors with The Ghost and The Darkness at Chicago's Field Museum.

3. The Champawat Tigress

In the early 1900s, a female tiger allegedly killed 200 people in Nepal before she was driven across the border into the Kumaon Province of India. Once there, she continued her murderous spree by killing another 236 people, bringing her total to 436 over an eight year period.

Determined to end the killings, British hunter Jim Corbett roamed the countryside for days searching for the tigress, but came up empty. Finally, news of a new victim led him to the scene and he tracked the animal as she dragged her latest kill through the dense jungle. Corbett recruited the men of Champawat, a nearby village, to form a line of banging drums in an attempt to drive the animal towards him. The plan worked, and he killed the tigress with two shots. After examining the body, Corbett noticed that her right canine teeth had been damaged by a previous gunshot, which he believed prevented her from hunting her natural prey and forced her to rely on food that was easier to catch.

4. The Tigers of Chowgarh

This mother and son duo were responsible for the deaths of at least 64 people during a five year period in India. In 1930, Jim Corbett shot and killed them both as well. When the mother died, Corbett saw that her claws and one canine tooth were broken, and that her front teeth had completely worn down. Like the Champawat Tigress, these deficiencies probably made hunting its natural prey difficult.

5. The Jaws of Jersey

jersey-jawsDuring the first six days of July in 1916, two men were killed while swimming at resorts on the coast of New Jersey, by what witnesses said was a 9-foot long, 500-pound shark. These sensational deaths made front-page news across the country, prompting experts to reassure Jersey Shore tourists that the attacks were a once-in-a-lifetime event and didn't expect to see another like them for 1,000 years. In reality, the next attacks came less than a week later.

On July 12, in Matawan, New Jersey, 12-year old Lester Stillwell was swimming in the river when he was pulled underwater by a shark. Stanley Fisher, a local dry cleaner, selflessly dove in to find Lester, only to have the shark strip his right thigh of an estimated 10 pounds of muscle and skin. About 30 minutes later, young Joseph Dunn was swimming with friends by a dock when they faintly heard someone yell, "Shark!" Dunn was last in line for the ladder to safety when, after putting one foot on the bottom rung, the shark latched onto his other leg and yanked him back into the water. The other boys were able to free him from the monster's grasp, but not before it had cut his lower leg to ribbons.

Stanley Fisher died that day just as he was going into surgery. Lester Stillwell's body floated up a few days later, with much of the flesh missing from his left leg, part of his shoulder, and across his chest. Only Joseph Dunn survived the Jersey man-eater and, thanks to medical attention, walked out of the hospital on both legs.

For weeks, a frenzy of amateur shark hunters killed many of the big fish around New Jersey. On July 14, a seven foot Great White was snared—its stomach was said to contain "suspicious fleshy material and bones." The attacks stopped, but to this day, there is debate if that Great White really was the killer. While there haven't been any similar, large-scale shark attacks on the Jersey Shore since, the events of 1916 were immortalized when they became the inspiration for the novel (and movie) Jaws.

6. The Goonch Catfish

Another man-eater with gills is the Goonch, a species of 6-foot long, 150-pound catfish that swims the Great Kali River in the foothills of the Himalayas. This giant has reportedly pulled a handful of people underwater over the last 20 years, drowning them and feasting on the body. It has been theorized that the fish has acquired a taste for human flesh after dining on funeral pyre remains dumped into the river.

7. Old Two Toes

The story of Old Two Toes, a man-eating grizzly bear that rampaged through Montana, starts in 1898 when a prospector name Johnny Graham set out a bear trap near his claim. The next morning, the trap was gone and a blood trail led into the woods. Graham followed the trail and found a gigantic grizzly lying quietly among the trees. Thinking it dead, the miner set his rifle down and pulled out his knife, to skin the bear for its valuable fur. As he got closer, the bear lunged, mauling Graham to death. Later, a friend came to check on the miner and found the trap with three bear toes still in its jaws—they were chewed off by the determined grizzly, leaving the bear with only two toes on one foot.

Pat Welsh, a wagon train driver, became Old Two Toes' next victim. The bear happened upon the train's camp and began eating the food out of Welsh's wagon. Two Toes killed Welsh while the other members of the wagon train fired Roman candles to chase him away. Another victim, Frenchy Duret, captured the bear in a trap and shot it. But Two Toes simply snapped the chain holding the trap in place and charged at Duret. His body was found later that day, partially devoured.

How Old Two Toes died is a bit of a mystery. Some legends say that Frenchy's shot was enough to mortally wound the bear. Others say Two Toes attacked a man named Dale, knocking him into a ravine. When Two Toes came down the valley to finish the man off, the bear fell on its back. Dale quickly fired three shots into the exposed underside, puncturing the grizzly's lung, breaking its neck, and hitting it in the head. Another story involves government wagon drivers who placed dynamite under some food and waited for the big bear to come by for a free meal. The men set off the explosives and Old Two Toes lost a lot more than just a couple of claws.

8. The Sloth Bear of Mysore

The Indian Sloth Bear is a fairly small but very aggressive bear found exclusively on the Indian subcontinent. For unknown reasons, one bear attacked at least 36 people, killing 12. Some of his victims were partially eaten and had their faces ripped from their skulls. Those who survived didn't fare much better, as they usually lost eyes and noses. Big game hunter Kenneth Anderson finally ended the bear's rampage with a single shot to the chest.

Michael Campanella/Getty Images
10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios

"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.


If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).


Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.


Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother


When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."


A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:


In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:


Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.


More from mental floss studios