Although not nearly as large as the worm in the movie “Tremors,” a rooftop would still be as good a place as any to be if you come across the acid-spitting, electricity-throwing Mongolian Death Worm. Of course, a rooftop might be rather difficult to find in the Gobi Desert.
Approximately 1,000 miles by 500 miles, the Gobi Desert is one of the largest deserts in the world, and has more rocky areas than sand and dunes. Considered a “cold” desert, it does have extreme temperatures ranging from freezing cold at night to sweltering hot in the daytime.
An inhabitant of the southern Gobi Desert, the Mongolian Death Worm is first mentioned in 1926 by Professor Roy Chapman Andrews, a Paleontologist, in his book, On the Trail of Ancient Man.
Mongolia’s nomadic tribesmen called the creatures Allghoi or Olgoi-Khorkhoi which means “intestine worm” or “blood-filled intestine,” because that is what the cryptid closely resembles.
The Mongolian Death Worm is usually described as blood-red with darker spots, although it has been said to change color to match its environment. About 2 feet in circumference, it ranges from two to five feet in length. The invertebrate doesn’t appear to have eyes, a nose, or a mouth, so it is difficult to tell its head from its tail. Spiked projections appear at both ends.
Czechoslovakian Author/Explorer Ivan Mackerle believes the creature hibernates most of the year, only coming out of its underground chamber in the hot, rainy months of June and July. The worm moves in a sideways motion across the desert floor. It “contracts and expands, or squirms to move about.”
The Worm is considered to be extremely dangerous because of the toxic acid-like substance it spits as a defense mechanism. It is easier to tell which end is its head when it is spitting at you! It also has the ability to discharge a lethal jolt of electricity from several feet away. Because of this, the Worm has been compared to an electric eel. But, electric eels don’t spit and they don’t live on land.
Often seen in the vicinity of the saxaul plant, it has been considered that the worm might somehow obtain its poison from the plant’s poisonous roots, or from the goya plant parasite found on the roots. The goya is said to taste delicious, a cross between celery and banana.
The poison corrodes everything it touches, even metal. The toxin loses its effectiveness as the creature’s time of hibernation approaches.
Some spectators state that it “raises half of its body up” and “inflates itself,” emitting a “bubble of poison from one end.”
A witness currently working as an interpreter for an exploration team remembered an incident from his childhood when a visiting geologist was killed instantly by a “huge fat worm” that emerged from the ground.
A native ranger tells a story from the 1960s of an entire herd of camels killed by a worm lying below the surface of the desert.
The locals tell the story of a worm hiding inside a yellow toy box, killing a little boy instantly when he reached inside. Then killing the child’s parents when they tried to exact revenge.
There is another tale about two friends riding on horseback on a hot July day. One fellow and his horse both suddenly fell down dead. The other fellow saw a “big fat worm slowly crawling away.”
To the west of Mongolia, in the neighboring country of Kazakhstan, the death worm is called “bujenzhylan.”
There are similar worms in other countries, although they aren’t known to be dangerous: the megascolides australis of Victoria reaches lengths of 13 feet; the didymogaster sylvaticus of New South Wales is a “squirter earthworm” that “squirts” harmless internal fluids into the air out of its bodily pores; and, a microchaetus rappi of South Africa found in 1936 measured 22 feet!
Michel Raynal, a Cryptozoologist from France suggests that the worm might actually be some kind of burrowing serpent or cobra, although the creature is said to have smooth blotchy skin, not scales.
Similar to an Earthworm, the creature makes its way to the Earth’s surface after a rainfall. It also appears to respond to terrestrial vibrations. Usually, though, the Earthworm requires a damp, moist climate, not the arid environment of the desert.
During the last few decades, a few exploration teams have ventured into the Gobi searching for the Mongolian Death Worm. They have used various techniques such as bucket traps, ground “thumping” and sending shockwaves through the ground in an attempt to roust the creature out into the open. They were unsuccessful. In my opinion, they were lucky not to have encountered the giant worm.
One team led by Dr. Chris Clark in 2005, was driven out by a sandstorm. Prior to that, following a rainstorm, Dr.Clark found “the whole desert floor was covered in burrows.”
This is one cryptid I’d advise not trying to find. The Gobi Desert is full of ticks, biting flies, and vicious spiders, that’s enough to deter me!
References/Sources/Additional Information and Reading:
Coghlan, Ronan. A Dictionary of Cryptozoology. Bangor: Xiphos Books, 2004.
Coleman, Loren and Jerome Clark. Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters,
Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1999.
Shuker, Karl. The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals. New York: Paraview Press, 2003. Pages 25-74, 263-264