WORMWOOD FILES: "Meet the Mongolian Death Worm!"

Investigation by Dr. Abner Mality

They say it is out there somewhere in the desert...out there where few living creatures can endure. The southern expanse of the Gobi Desert rivals the depths of the Sahara or the Australian Outback as a place hostile to life, a place where only the hardiest and most twisted of animals can exist. It is here in this barren hell that the mythical beast can be found. It is olghoi-khorkhoi...the MONGOLIAN DEATH WORM!!!

No, humanoids, the Good Doctor has not been hitting hard on fermented mare's milk (the Mongolian's drink of choice) nor has he been tripping on peyote again. The Mongolian Death Worm is a creature just as real to the peoples of Southern Mongolia as the horses and camels they ride. It's been a part of their existence for millenia, but to see it in its harsh environment is to risk death, because the olghoi-khorkhoi is the most lethal living thing in the desert....a monster who kills on sight!

Sounds like it is right up Wormwood's alley! Can such a thing be real? Or is it part of the mythical folklore of the Mongolians? No physical evidence of the Death Worm has ever fallen into Western hands, but the people of Mongolia swear up and down that the Worm exists, including government officials and scientists.

Just what does one of these hideous beasts look like? And how exactly do they kill their prey? Well, the literal meaning of olghoi-khorkhoi is "intestine worm". Every description of the creature is the same...a thick-bodied dark red animal ranging in size from two to five feet long, looking like a cow's intestine come to life. Several illustrations of the Worm show something like a miniture version of a giant sandworm from the science fiction classic "Dune". As the Fremen might say, Kull Wahad! It definitely looks more like a worm than a snake or reptile...no eyes or typical mouth are visible, but some say it has a lamprey-like mouth opening. It is sometimes described as having darker patches amidst its red hide. It is a burrowing animal that digs under the sand or crawls over the rocky terrain of the Gobi Desert.

How does the Death Worm kill? Two different ways are described. It is said to spit a fiercely corrosive yellow acid at victims that not only kills them almost instantly, but which causes flesh to melt and even rock to bubble! It is worth mentioning that the creature is said to be agitated by the color yellow and will attack anything in that particular shade. The worm's second method of attack is even more incredible: it is said to "throw lightning" or use electrical charges to kill at a distance!

A animated cow intestine that spits yellow corrosive acid and kills by electrical charge sounds like something made up in the mind of a madman, but if one stands back a little, is it really that preposterous? After all, electricity is no stranger to living creatures....the electric eel and even the electric catfish stand as proof.

When dismissing reports of unknown animals, keep this in mind. When the skin of a platypus complete with duck-like bill attached was brought back to Europe, it was roundly scorned as an obvious fake...a duck bill sewn on to a beaver pelt. Such a creature couldn't possibly exist, right? We know better now. Reports on an island in the Indian Ocean inhabited by giant flesh-eating lizards were also laughed off, right up until 1912...when a stranded pilot found himself on an island called Komodo and running for his life from giant monitor lizards. This scientific conceit of laughing at animals that "can't be real" continues in our modern day. Just this year, a new large species of monitor lizard with gold-flecked skin was found in the Phillipines, where it was well known to locals all along.

Is it so outrageous that one of the world's harshest environments could produce one of the world's strangest creatures?

The Mongolian Death Worm first came to the attention of the West in the 1926 book "On The Trail of Ancient Man" by the famous explorer and naturalist Roy Chapman Andrews. Andrews was as close as you're liable to get to a real-life Indiana Jones and was one of the very first Westerners to extensively travel in Mongolia. He consistently heard tales of the olghoi-khorkhoi from native Mongolians, who regarded it as absolutely real but feared the creature terribly. Even the Prime Minister of Mongolia described the beast the same way...as a thick-bodied cylinder of dark red color with no discernible head or tail.

Andrews himself did not believe the creature was real, thinking that it was a mythical animal from Mongolian spiritual beliefs. This was how many westerners also regarded the Yeti of the Himalayan Mountains. Perhaps both Death Worm and Snow Man are rooted in reality mixed with myth.

Some of the Worm's more deadly characteristics may have been exaggerated with the passage of time. It may be that it is an unknown type of snake or lizard with a lethal venomous bite. As time passes and the creature is seen more infrequently, the lethal bite may become a mystic lightning charge or acid that can burn stone. Yet native descriptions of the Death Worm are very precise, including reports of its behavior. It is said to mostly be an underground dweller, venturing on the surface of the wasteland only during the brief rainy season in the summer. The creature's eating habits are unknown and it is said to never eat those it kills.

The descriptions sound more like that of a real animal than a supernatural bugaboo. I wonder if ancient reports of the Death Worm filtered to the West, where its lethal qualities were given to such truly mythical monsters as the basilisk and the cockatrice, both said to be able to kill people with a glance.

With the downfall of Communism, the once highly restricted Mongolia slowly has begun to open up to Western explorers. Among those intrepid researchers are scientists looking to see if the legendary Mongolian Death Worm is real. In the last two decades, several expeditions have been launched to the Gobi Desert to seek the Worm.

Ivan Mackerle has been the most tireless pursuer of the Mongolian Death Worm and has written extensively about the creature. Unfortunately, not a single Western expedition has turned up any physical evidence of the Worm's existence, although circumstantial evidence is plentiful. It's worth noting that New Zealand TV report David Farrier was told that the olghoi-khorkhoi has been seen less and less since the 1950's. Perhaps the reclusive creature is on the brink of extinction, if not already extinct. That would be a sad day for crypto-fanatics everywhere!

The renowned cryptozoologist Karl Shuker has theorized that the Death Worm may be a kind of burrowing reptile called an Amphisbaenid or "worm-lizard". These are more like legless lizards than snakes and are seldom seen. Shuker thinks the Death Worm could be a large, poisonous variety of this species.

In the last few years, the Mongolian Death Worm has started to become more well-known in the West. So well-known, in fact, that earlier this year it was the subject of one of those dreadful Syfy made-for TV movies. The movie "Mongolian Death Worm" somehow manages to turn the Worms into giant monsters similar to the ones in "Tremors" although no real report has them any bigger than five feet long. More hilarity in the film includes a Mongolian "sheriff" speaking like a Texas cowboy and a star turn by the slumming Sean Patrick Flannery. If a real Death Worm ever sees this flick, you can bet anybody in the vicinity is gonna get an acid bath!!!

There's also a death metal band called Mongolian Death Worm. Check out their Myspace HERE if you dare!!!

So...the jury is still out! Is the Mongolian Death Worm another fanciful maybe-monster...or is it the real deal? Keep in mind it lives in an environment so harsh that humans rarely go there and also that it is not a "giant" creature but a more reasonably sized beast. The Good Doctor's own opinion is that if the creature no longer exists, SOMETHING like it certainly did at one time! And I for one hope that somewhere in those desolate wastes, the olghoi-khorkhoi is still lurking!

This is Dr. Abner Mality, turning out the lights!