Trudging gingerly across the arid sands of the Gobi desert, Czech explorer Ivan Mackerle is careful not to put a foot wrong, for he knows it may be his last. He scours the land and shifting valleys for tell-tale signs of disturbance in the sands below, always ready for the unexpected lurch of an alien being said to kill in one strike with a sharp spout of acidic venom to the face. A creature so secretive that no photographic evidence yet exists, but the locals know it’s there, always waiting in silence for its prey, waiting to strike – the Mongolian Death Worm.
Reported to be between two and five feet long, the deep-red coloured worm is said to resemble the intestines of a cow and sprays a yellow acidic saliva substance at its victims, who if they’re unlucky enough to be within touching distance also receive an electric shock powerful enough to kill a camel… or them.
Given the latin name Allghoi khorkhoi, the Mongolian Death Worm was first referred to by American paleontologist Professor Roy Chapman Andrews (apparently the inspiration for the Indiana Jones character) in his book On the Trail of Ancient Man, in 1926 but he didn’t appear to be entirely convinced about the whole idea. Even though locals were desperate to relay events of when the dreaded worm struck, Andrews writes: “None of those present ever had seen the creature, but they all firmly believed in its existence and described it minutely.” But it wasn’t to stop other inquisitive adventurers taking up the investigative mantle when Andrews was no longer interested, or able to pursue the matter.
Only a few years ago, in 2005, a group of English scientists and cryptozoologists spent a month in the hostile Gobi desert searching for the fabled creature, and although they spoke to a number of Mongolians in the area, all of whom regaled wondrous stories of the worm, no one could verify they had seen the creature first-hand. Even still, after four weeks the team had gathered enough verbal evidence to be convinced that the worm really does exist. Lead researcher, Richard Freeman, said: “Every eyewitness account and story we have heard describes exactly the same thing: a red-brown worm-like snake, approximately two feet long and two inches thick with no discernable head or back (tail).”
Today, it is Ivan Mackerle, a self-made cryptozoologist who travels the world in search of scientific evidence that proves creatures like the Loch Ness monster and Mongolian Death Worm exist. As a boy he read the stories of the Russian paleontologist Yefremov, who wrote about a worm, which resembled a bloody intestine, that could grow to the length of a small man and mysteriously kill people at great distance, possibly with poison or electricity.
Mackerle says: “I thought it was only science fiction. But when I was in university, we had a Mongolian student in our class. I asked him, ‘Do you know what this is, the Allghoi khorkhoi?’ I was waiting for him to start laughing, to say that’s nothing. But he leaned in, like he had a secret, and said, ‘I know it. It is a very strange creature.’”
So Does the Mongolian Death Worm really exist, and what if it does?
This insistence by locals that worm is a reality will continue to fuel inquisitive minds and as long as open-mindedness remains a fair virtue, we’re prepared to wait a little longer for empirical proof of its existence.
Just remember, if you do decide to go Death Worm hunting in the Gobi desert, don’t wear yellow, seemingly that’s the color that sends our wrinkly friend into one its trademark electrifying, spitting freak outs. Don’t say we didn’t warm you.