An interpretation of the Mongolian Death Worm by Belgian painter Pieter Dirkx.
The Mongolian death worm (Mongolian: олгой-хорхой, olgoi-khorkhoi, "large intestine worm") is an alleged creature reported to exist in the Gobi Desert. It is generally considered a cryptid: an animal whose sightings and reports are disputed or unconfirmed.
It is described as a bright red worm with a wide body that is 2 to 5 feet (0.6 to 1.5 m) long.
The worm is the subject of a number of claims by Mongolian locals - such as the ability of the worm to spew forth an acid that, on contact, will turn anything it touches yellow and corroded (and which would kill a human), as well as its reported ability to kill at a distance by means of electric discharge.
Though natives of the Gobi have long told tales of the olgoi-khorkhoi, the creature first came to Western attention as a result of Professor Roy Chapman Andrews's 1926 book On the Trail of Ancient Man. The US paleontologist was not convinced by the tales of the monster that he heard at a gathering of Mongolian officials: "None of those present ever had seen the creature, but they all firmly believed in its existence and described it minutely."
The worms are purportedly between 2 and 5 feet (0.6 and 1.5 m) long, and thick-bodied.
In his book "On the Trail of Ancient Man" (1926), Roy Chapman Andrews (an American explorer, adventurer and naturalist who became the director of the American Museum of Natural History) cites Mongolian Prime Minister Damdinbazar who in 1922 described the worm allergorhai-horhai:
"It is shaped like a sausage about two feet long, has no head nor leg and it is so poisonous that merely to touch it means instant death. It lives in the most desolate parts of the Gobi Desert…"
In 1932 Andrews published this information again in the book "The New Conquest of Central Asia", adding: "It is reported to live in the most arid, sandy regions of the western Gobi". Andrews didn't believe that the animal was real.
Czech cryptozoologistIvan Mackerle in his book "Mongolské záhady" (2001) described the animal from second-hand reports as a "sausage-like worm over half a metre (20 inches) long, and thick as a man's arm, resembling the intestine of cattle. Its skin serves as an exoskeleton, molting whenever hurt. 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... "
Habitat and behavior
The worm is said to inhabit the southern Gobi Desert. The Mongolians say that the olgoi-khorkhoi can kill at a distance, either by spraying a venom at its prey or by means of electric discharge. They say that the worm lives underground, hibernating most of the year except for when it becomes active in June and July. It is reported that this animal is mostly seen on the surface when it rains and the ground is wet.[self-published source?]
The Mongolians also believe that touching any part of the worm will cause instant death or tremendous pain.[self-published source?] It has been told that the worm frequently preyed on camels and laid eggs in its intestines, and eventually acquired the trait of its red-like skin. Its venom supposedly corrodes metal and local folklore tells of a predilection for the color yellow. The worm is also said to have a preference for local parasitic plants such as the goyo.[self-published source?]
British zoologist Karl Shuker brought the animal back to the general attention of the English-speaking public in his 1996 book The Unexplained, followed a year later by his Fortean Studies paper on this subject, which was reprinted in The Beasts That Hide from Man in which it was hypothesized that the death worm was an Amphisbaenid.
Loren Coleman included this animal in Cryptozoology A to Z.
A joint expedition in 2005 by the Centre for Fortean Zoology and E-Mongol[clarification needed] investigated new reports and sighting of the creature. They found no evidence of its existence, but could not rule out that it might live deep in the Gobi Desert along the prohibited areas of the Mongolian–Chinese border.
In 2005, zoological journalist Richard Freeman mounted an expedition to hunt for the death worm but came up empty-handed. Freeman's conclusion was that the tales of the worm had to be apocryphal, and that reported sightings likely involved non-poisonous burrowing reptiles.
A New Zealand television entertainment reporter, David Farrier of TV3 News, took part in an expedition in August 2009 but came up empty-handed as well. He conducted interviews with locals claiming to have seen the worm and mentioned on his website that the sightings peaked in the 1950s.
The worm's first literary appearance was in the short story "Olgoi-Khorkhoi" by Ivan Yefremov (1942–1943) based on descriptions of Prof. Andrews and Mongolian locals. The short story's first edition was called Allergorhai-Horhai, but later, after Yefremov's visit to Mongolia, he changed the name to the original Mongolian spelling "Olgoi-Khorkhoi".
In 1990, the film Tremors features a worm-like creature, which attacks animals and humans alike. The worm, known as a graboid, is based on the Mongolian death worm and appears in all 4 installment of the Tremors franchise.
The worm is the subject of a Vector 13 story in the British anthology comic 2000 AD.
In 2009, the short-fiction podcastThe Drabblecast presented a humorous, multi-part audio story called "In Search of the Mongolian Death Worm".
The anime series Guin Saga has several incidents where an expeditionary force from "Monghol" is attacked by a giant red worm with a corrosive touch.
In the TV show The Secret Saturdays, the main villain, V.V. Argost, uses Mongolian death worm venom in many episodes.
In the Nickelodeon TV Show The Troop, the pilot episode, "Do the Worm," is about Mongolian death worms attacking the senior dance.
A film, Mongolian Death Worm, was released by the SyFy network on May 8, 2010. It stars Sean Patrick Flanery as a treasure hunter who gets caught up in adventures and encounters numerous examples of the deadly creatures.
Animal Planet has produced a docudrama show titled "Lost Tapes." In Season 1, Episode 13 (first aired February 17, 2009) is titled "Death Worm," showcasing purported actual footage (which is fictional) of two men who were attacked and killed; one of them was bitten and burned with a corrosive acid (greenish yellow in color, and corrosive enough to corrode the metal of his bike), and both were electrocuted. Their claim of the docudrama is that the bodies were never found, yet their equipment was recovered.