Sunday, 26 October 2008

The Mongolian Death Worm

The Mongolian Death Worm (known locally as allghoi khorkhoi [intestine worm]) is not very well known outside of cryptozoological circles. The reasons for this are pretty obvious; there's no media friendly pictures, very little hard evidence and it's supposedly based in the Gobi Desert which is not a good place for investigating. But nevertheless, once you've heard about the Mongolian Death Worm, you won't soon forget about it!


It has been described thus:
"Sausage-like worm over half a metre (20 inches) long, and thick as a man’s arm, resembling the intestine of cattle. Its tail is short, as [if] it were cut off, but not tapered. It is difficult to tell its head from its tail because it has no visible eyes, nostrils or mouth. Its colour is dark red, like blood or salami… It moves in odd ways – either it rolls around or squirms sideways, sweeping its way about. It lives in desolate sand dunes and in the hot valleys of the Gobi desert with saxaul plants underground. It is possible to see it only during the hottest months of the year, June and July; later it burrows into the sand and sleeps. It gets out on the ground mainly after the rain, when the ground is wet. It is dangerous, because it can kill people and animals instantly at a range of several metres."
Ivan Mackerle, an explorer from the Czech Republic
What gives it the name "Death Worm" and allows it to kill at a range of "several metres"?

Well three things:

1) it is said to be able to spray an acidic, poisonous substance at it's prey and when threatened.
2) it is also, rather more bizarrely, supposedly able to electrocute others at a distance of several metres like some sort of land based electric eel.
3) if it's failed to stop you with electricity or acid then it has one final trick up it's sleeve... one touch and you'll die instantly.

Whilst any attempts by explorers or researchers to find this creature have ended in failure, local eyewitness testimony is both numerous and consistent, rendering at least some credibility to claims of the existence of this outlandish creature.

Well supposedly, whilst the testimony is consistent and numerous it tends not to be from an eyewitness but from a friend of a friend. I've had a look around and only this third hand account from Dr. Karl Shuker's awesome book "The Beasts That Hide From Man".

"My brother living in Oboto Chajun aimak knew a man who encountered an allghoi khorkhoi. His name was Altan. Once he returned with a friend from a neighbouring camp. They were riding their horses, and it was just after noon, on a day in July. The sun was shining..."

"Suddenly Altan's friend's horse fell down. The rider stood up and went to the horse, but suddenly cried out and fell again. Altan was 5 metres behind and saw a big fat worm slowly crawling away. Altan stood in horror and then ran to his friend. But he was dead, and so too was his horse."

Unnamed herdsman


What could it be?

Richard Freeman who lead a Centre of Fortean Zoology expedition, codenamed Operation Death Worm, says:
"I don't think that it's a worm at all. True worms need moisture. I think it is a limbless, burrowing reptile, probably a giant member of a group of reptiles known as amphisbaenas or worm lizards. These are a primitive group of poorly studied animals. They are not snakes or lizards but are related to both. I think the Death Worm is a giant member of this group."


Personally I find the claims of it's use of electricity to be quite outlandish, the amount of power needed for that without the aid of salty water would be fairly immense. But these of course could be misidentification of some other mechanism so perhaps it might be true. However more depressing is the lack of first hand eyewitness testimony. The quality and nature of the stories take on the feel of a Mongolian "Urban" legend and do not impress me too greatly. But unlike bigfoot or Nessie there is one thing in favour of the existence of this creature; if it truly is as deadly as believed then there might not be that many people who've survived long enough to report an encounter...

Check out the video below for a little look at another expedition in search of the elusive worm...



P.S. Check out this Prague Post interview with Ivan Mackerle, the man who has done the most to research and attempt to find the Mongolian Death Worm.

Further Reading



3 comments:

No BS said...

YUCK!

ManoDogs said...

I absolutely love this story and have been fascinated by it since first learning of the phenomena.

As for the claims of ranged electrical attacks, I agree that they seem outlandish, but there are several things to consider.

Firstly, many animals have ranged attacks - specifically snakes and spiders. Secondly, all living organisms work on electrical impulses. It is not entirely meritless to consider the fact that these very simple organisms just might be able to discharge some of this energy - might even actually have to as a part of their physiognomy. Many organisms native to such harsh environs (desert, tundra) are known to "stockpile" water. If the death worm has some sort of internal reserve, it seems plausible this reserve would gradually develop a high saline content. But barring even this, maybe the lack of complexity and so forth simply leads to a build-up of electricity which the worm must expel from time to time. Logically, this would result in an attack method the creature adapted into using. A similar possibility is that this process is actually triggered when the creature is in danger.

But going with the implausibility of the whole thing, it is also just as (probably moreso) possible that the creature has some sort of known ranged attack (throwing hairs, barbs, teeth) which may be accompanied by a loud noise and almost certainly sudden movement. In panic situations, victims may "remember" it being "like lightning." Translation, fear, and even false memories could account for the rest.

Naveed said...

Manodogs said: "the creature has some sort of known ranged attack (throwing hairs, barbs, teeth)"

I agree with that. Throw in the possibility that the creature is highly venomous, then one barb, hair, or tooth could mean instant death.