|Posted on March 20, 2011 at 1:40 PM|
THE MONGOLIAN DEATH WORM: TERROR OF THE GOBI!
The Mongolian Death Worm is a cryptid reported to exist in the Gobi Desert. It is generally considered a cryptozoological creature, one whose sightings and reports are disputed or unconfirmed.
The Mongolian Death Worm, known to Mongolia's nomadic tribesmen as the allghoi khorkhoi (sometimes given as allerghoi horhai or olgoj chorchoj) or 'blood-filled intestine worm' for its resemblance to a sort of living cow's intestine. It is said to be red in color, and is sometimes described as having darker spots or blotches, and sometimes said to bear spiked projections at both ends. They are said to be thick bodied and between 2 and 5 feet long.
The Mongolian Death Worm is said to inhabit the Southern Gobi Desert in Mongolia. The first reference in English to this remarkable beast appears in Professor Roy Chapman Andrews' 1926 book On the Trail of Ancient Man. Although he was asked to capture it by the Prime Minister of Mongolia in 1922, the famous American paleontologist (apparently the inspiration for the Indiana Jones character) was not entirely convinced by the tales of the monster 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."
Following is a description of the creature by the Czech Explorer Ivan Mackerle:
"[It is a] 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."
The creature is reported to be able to spray an acid like substance that causes death instantly. It is also claimed that this creature has the ability to kill from a distance with some sort of super charged electrical charge. Numerous Mongolians have reported seeing this creature, including a Mongolian Premier. The creature is reported to hibernate during most of the year except for June and July when it becomes active.
It is believed that touching any part of the worm will bring instant death, and its venom supposedly corrodes metal. Local folklore also tells of a predilection for the color yellow and local parasitic plants such as the Goyo. It is also believed that the worm likes to get out on the ground generally after the rain, when the ground is still wet.
A LAND ELECTRIC EEL?
Electric Eels - are long worm like creatures, and it is known to science that they can generate electric discharges powerful enough to disable or kill prey. Despite their name, they are not true eels but rather a species of knifefish that is eel-like in shape.
They tend to live on muddy bottoms in calm water and are obligate air-breathers; rising to the surface every 10 minutes or so, the animal will gulp air before returning to the bottom. Nearly 80% of the oxygen used by the fish is taken in this way. This indicates that it is a more likely candidate for having a variation that lives on land. However an environment like the Gobi Desert would seem particularly harsh for such a creature. Nevertheless, remember the local belief that "the worm likes to get out on the ground generally after the rain, when the ground is still wet".
Electrophorus electricus is famous for its ability to produce strong electrical currents, reaching 500-650 volts. This strong discharge is used to stun or kill prey. This electrical discharge is also used to ward off potential predators.
Up to 6,000 electroplates are arranged like a dry cell in the eel's body. Its internal organs are all in a small area behind the head, with 7/8 of the eel being tail. The electrical shocks come from muscles mainly in the tail portion of the electric eel's body. The body of an electric eel is similar to a battery. The tail end of the eel has a positive charge and the head region is negatively charged. When the eel touches its tail and head to other animals it sends electric shocks through their bodies. When the eel is at rest, there is no generation of electrical impulses.
Although all living creatures generate bio-electricity all known creatures that produce electricity useful for navigation, communication and for attack/defense are water dwelling creatures.
No known electric eels can emit poison.
AN UNKNOWN SPECIES OF SNAKE?
A Spitting Cobra - Spitting cobras are extremely accurate at distances over 10 feet. When the cobra wants to "Spit" or "Spray" its venom at a threat, it "Hoods Up", aims its open mouth as specialized muscles contract the Venom Gland, forcing the Cobra's Venom out through it's fangs. The Cobra is well equipped to spray its painful venom directly into the eyes of potential trampling animals from a safe distance Snakes are wormlike shaped just like the reported "Mongolian Death Worm". Some spitting cobras are reddish in color-similar to reports about the Mongolian Death Worm.
A Desert Viper - Desert Horned Vipers live in arid places. They usually bury themselves in the sand in order to keep cool in the desert heat. They overwinter in the borrowed burrows of rodents or burrowing lizards. They usually move with their bodies in front of their heads in order to keep the sun out of their faces, using their bodies as a wall. They normally hunt during the night. They received their name because of the two horns that stick out of the top of their heads.
Horned vipers are egg-layers. Mating takes place from April to June, and the female will lay and 12-20 eggs in damp soil. The eggs incubate for about 8 weeks and then hatch. The young snakes become sexually mature in about two years. Captive specimens of this snake can live as long as 18 years.
The "horns" on this viper may help to protect its eyes from injury or may simply contribute to the snake's camouflage.
The horned desert viper can burrow quickly into the sand by rapid sideways movements of its body, leaving only the head and eyes visible. However, in its natural environment, loose sand may not be available, and the snake will then hide under a rock or in the burrow of another animal.
The reddish color of the snake helps to camouflage it against sand or rocky ground, especially when it is partially buried. Cerastes cerastes is an ambush hunter, lurking quietly in a half-buried position until an unwary lizard or rodent comes within reach, and then lunging quickly to capture its prey. Although this is not a rattlesnake, it can make a sound by scraping its scales against one another. The venom is hemotoxic.
Perhaps the stories about the electricity charges were made up or mistakes caused by the surprise of seeing the creature.
A GIANT CARNIVOROUS WORM?
Lurking beneath the sand at Port Noarlunga and indeed on many sandy surf beaches from Queensland to South Australia is the flesh eating Giant Beach worm (Australonuphis teres) or as it is more commonly known, the Bungum Worm. It would be fair to say that 95% of people who visit the beach would be unaware of their presence. They live under the sand around the low water mark. Although blind they have a very keen sense of smell and feed mainly on small cockles that live on the beach, decaying meat, fish and seaweeds which are washed up in the shallows. They are found up to 2.5 METERS or around 8 FEET in length!!
THE GOBI DESERT
Phonetically, the word Gobi means "very large and dry" in the Mongolian language. It occupies an arc of land 1,300,000 square km in area, making it one of the largest deserts in the world. Contrary to images often associated with a desert, much of the Gobi is not sandy but is covered with bare rock.
Chief investigator of this animal is Czech author Ivan Mackerle, who revealed (Fate Magazine, June 1991) that it reportedly kills its victims by electrocution. British zoologist Karl Shuker first brought it to the general attention of the English speaking public in his 1996 book The Unexplained, followed a year later by his extensive Fortean Studies paper on this subject, which remains the most comprehensive coverage of this mystery beast currently published, and was subsequently reprinted in The Beasts That Hide From Man. Loren Coleman also included this animal in Cryptozoology A to Z.
A joint expedition in 2005 by the Centre for Fortean Zoology, and E-Mongol investigated new reports and sightings of the creature. They found no evidence of its existence, but could not rule out its existence in the deep Gobi Desert along the prohibited areas of the Mongolian/Chinese border. They concluded that the deathworm was a reptile, probably an unknown type of sand boa or worm lizard. (See report below)
The most recent expedition was one in 2006-2007, conducted by the reality-television series, "Destination Truth".
MENTIONS IN LITERATURE
The worm is mentioned in a short story of Ivan Yefremov and in the 2007 novel Spook Country by William Gibson.
OPERATION DEATH WORM: A BRITISH EXPEDITION SEARCHES FOR THE KILLER SAND DWELLER
IT LIVES BENEATH the sands of the Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia. The blood-red creature surfaces only occasionally, but when it does-beware. The Mongolian Death Worm lives up to its name. It spits a yellow, acid-like saliva at its victims. And should you get close enough to touch it, you're not lucky, you're dead, for the Mongolian Death Worm can pump out jolts of electricity powerful enough to kill a camel. That's the legend, anyway.
For generations, natives of the area have sworn to the reality of the creature they call Allghoi khorkhoi. The name means "intestine worm," because it has been described as resembling the intestine of a cow. Those who claim to have seen it further describe it has being deep red in color and measuring between two and five feet long.
Killer sand worms? It sounds like fiction and, of course, mainstream science has long considered the Mongolian Death Worm to be nothing more than a part of colorful local lore. In fact, some cryptozoologists were skeptical as well, simply because the claims sounded too fantastic. Besides, aside from the "sightings," there was no other evidence-no photos, no traces. But very often such lore is based on something real.
Other cryptozoologists, in fact, find the eyewitness testimony compelling-so compelling that in late April, 2005 they launched an expedition to the Gobi Desert to see if they could find hard evidence for the existence of the elusive creature.
Two years after the search of Extreme expeditions, an expedition of British scientists, sponsored by the Centre for Fortean Zoology and led by cryptozoologist Richard Freeman, decided to return to explore the south Gobi and capture a worm to show to science. They placed their confidence in an experienced guide named Byamba from e-Mongol to guide them in the desolated zones where the animal was already seen. Before their arrival, and in order to multiply their chances of capture, they distributed to the stockbreeders of these zones a leaflet promising a reward for the capture of a worm dead or alive!
Team members of Operation Death Worm included Chris Clark, physicist, Jon Hare, science writer and Dave Churchill, artist and designer. The 8 team members left Ulaanbaatar on May 1, 2005 for a one month expedition. They kept the world apprised of their hunt and their findings via their Internet blog, Cryptoworld-Operation Death Worm-Mongolia, 2005.
Surprisingly, after four weeks the group said they were convinced that the worm really does exist. "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)," the blog says. Unfortunately, no photos were snapped of the monster nor other tangible evidence uncovered. And if it does exist, whether or not it can spit acid and generate electricity remains to be seen. Freeman promised a full report when was safely back in the U.K.
The expedition chose May for the their hunt since many sightings were said to take place between May and September (the majority in June and July). Throughout May, they interviewed dozens of witnesses, including at least one who promised he could show the team where to find worm tracks and burrow holes. The plan was to dig into the holes, if identified. But it wasn't to be. They saw hundreds of skinks and lizards, but no Death Worm.
The expedition exited from the desert and came back safely in Ulaanbaatar on May 26 without having found the mythic beast. But the team accumulated an important collection of similar reports from eyewitnesses that have increased their belief that there does exist a kind of worm-lizard or snake in the deep sands of south Gobi. The cryptozoologists did find two animals previously unknown to science: a dragon-like lizard and a two-meter-long horned snake.
They hoped to mount a second expedition in July, 2006, at which time they planned to zero in on two areas where numerous sightings have been reported.
EYE-WITNESS REPORTS GATHERED BY THE EXPEDITION
Byamba Luvsandorj was a 90 year old former policeman. He lived in the Gur district of the city. It had been 1930 when Luvsandorj had seen the deathworm. He was 15 back then and had been tending to cows when he came across a two foot long, reddish brown creature in the desert. It was about 4 inches thick and he could see no eyes or mouth on it. It was sausage shaped and moved slightly from side to side. He ran to tell his parents who warned him not to go near it as it was deadly. He drew a picture of what he had seen, a crude sausage shape. He provided us with the names and addresses of other people he knew that had seen the creature.
Juuraidor was a 70 year old camel herd who saw the worm in the 1950s whilst searching for lost camels. His description tallied with that of Luvsandorj's. Brown, two feet long, and with snake-like scales. He had heard that the worm was dangerous so he ran away. The encounter was in June. He also told us of a man who had put a deathworm on an iron plate. The plate had turned green. Another man that he knew, had wrapped a dead deathworm in three layers of felt. The worm shriveled up like a piece of leather, and the felt turned green. Both incidents had been long ago and no remains had been saved.
Two men drove into the camp the following morning and introduced themselves. One was a grizzled park ranger the other a younger man with prominent golden teeth named Nyama. The latter had seen the deathworm on no less than three occasions. The first was in 1965 when he saw the creature's head (presumably) protruding from a hole in the sand. The following year he saw a specimen in the process of swallowing a mouse. Finally he actually killed a worm-in 1972-by throwing a rock at it. Some Russian scientists who had been in the area studying snakes took the body away. It probably resides forgotten to this day in some Russian museum basement. Nyama said the worm eating the mouse was grey and 10 inches long. The other two were brown. The one he killed was between18 inches and two feet long. They moved with a caterpillar like motion. The sightings occurred in a place called Dun-dus. He also heard tell of a deathworm killing a child by spitting venom but could not confirm this.
The park ranger and his family lived in a nearby gur. His wife had seen the worm just three years ago in an area close to the Chinese border. When Sukhee, his wife, turned up she agreed to take us to the spot were she had seen the creature.
She lead us the spot were she had seen the strange beast. She had been herding cows with her son when she saw an 18 inch, grey, worm-like thing slither out from a hole. Her son threw a rock at it and it slid into some bushes. She ran away. It had been in September and it was very hot, about 40 degrees Celsius. Sukhee told us there were two worms in the desert. One was the allghoi-khorkoi or intestine worm. The other was called the temrenii suhl or camel's tail. This was smaller than the deathworm and grey rather than red / brown.
Another local man named Damdin had seen the creature in 1954-55. He told us he had been out tending camels in May 1955. At about ten in the morning he saw a deathworm. It was brown, two feet long and about two inches thick. It made no movement. He ran to tell his parents and they warned him it was venomous. He returned to the spot he had seen the creature in and it was gone. Damdin's family had been so frightened by what their son had seen that they packed up their gur and moved. He said that lots of families moved after seeing a deathworm. He heard tell of it killing animals by spitting at them. Damdin's sister told us that her mother had seen it as well, also in 1955. She had been present at the sighting but was too young to recall it. Her mother said it was 2 feet long, brown, scaly, and as thick as a gur support pole (about 5 inches).
A retired Mongolian Army Colonel called Hurvoo had once been in charge of a base called Ovootin Otriyad. In 1973 he had been patrolling an area called Ulann Ovoo on motorbike. It had been in May and at sunrise. He saw what looked like an old tire in the desert. It was some sort of animal lying coiled up. His description was by now familiar, brown, two feet long, scaly, sausage shaped. He said he saw light playing across it like electricity or light reflected from a mirror. This may well have been the rising sun reflecting off it's scales. It had been raining and the worm was wet. Hurvoo watched it for half an hour, and it did not move. He drove off to get a camera but on his return it had gone. One year later a solider reported that he had seen an identical animal . Hurvoo investigated but found nothing. He believed the worm came out after rainfall.
A witness named Khuuhengaa had seen the worm in the 1980s when she had been a girl. She could not recall the exact year but it had been in summer. She was staying with her grandfather who called her to see it. The worm was 40cm long, brown and with no decernable head or tail. Her Grandfather told her it was venomous and she was afraid.
A man named Batdelger had seen the worm in 2004 at Zulganai. He had been cutting reeds at an oasis called Zulganai. Another man cutting grass lifted up a worm on the end of a stick and threw it away. Batdelger's wife and son also saw the creature. They had been cutting grass to feed livestock at the time. His description differed slightly from the others. The worm he saw was 40 cm long and brown. It had a squarish head and what looked like large eyes, but these may have been part of a pattern on the skin. He did not think it was a snake as it was too thick. His son lifted the worm on a branch and cast it away. It felt very heavy.
Another man had seen the worm at the same oasis and claimed he could identify it's tracks and burrows. Deevat was sure the worm exists and told us that in these days it is seen less often. This is not because it is getting less common but people are now travelling by motorbike rather than by horse or camel. Also people are moving to towns, cities, and areas of sedentary residence rather than moving about as they used to. Hence the deathworm is encountered less often.
The ex-governor himself spoke to us and said he knew a man who had seen three large snakes some years ago. The biggest was 2 meters long (over 6 feet) and had a head shaped like that of a sheep. All three sported horns. There are horned snakes known to science. They include the rhinoceros viper and the horned viper. Their horns are in fact modified scales. However none is known from Mongolia and none reach two meters in length. We were unable to locate the witness.
Tserendorj, the governor of Sevree Sum, was a mine of information. He related a story of an old man who had seen the worm in 1957 in an area of the Gobi now owned by China. It looked like a length of blood filled intestine. The same old man heard of a fellow prodded it with a horse goad and the end of the goad turned green. Both horse and rider died. This is reminiscent of stories of the basilisk in medieval Europe. Another man had seen it during the 1950s. It slithered out from under a rock and the witness threw a stone at it. The worm retreated back under the rock. The governor introduced us to a 93 year old man whose grandfather had seen the worm in the 19th century at the oasis we had just left. He thought use of motorized vehicles and the population moving to towns was the reason that the deathworm was now seen less often.
CONCLUSIONS BY THE LEADER OF THE EXPEDITION
I believe that the deathworm is one of two things. It could be a worm lizard or Amphisbaenia, a group of primitive burrowing reptiles that are not worms, snakes or lizards, but are related to the two latter. Poorly studied, little is known about these creatures but they resemble the descriptions of the deathworm. Indeed they take their name from a legendary snake, the amphisbaena that had a head at each end of it's body (see "The Mythical Amphisbaena").
Another possibility is that it is an undiscovered species of sand boa. These are sausage-shaped constricting snakes often found in arid climates.
Neither worm lizards or sand boas are venomous, but strange beliefs can grow up around harmless creatures. In the Sudan the natives believe that the sand boa is so deadly that one only has to touch it, and the venom will soak through your skin and kill you. They call the sand boa the apris and go in great fear of it despite the fact that in reality it is harmless.
There could well be a species of horned snake in Mongolia probably a form of large viper.
THE MYTHICAL AMPHISBAENA
The name Amphisbaena refers to a mythological/legendary/heraldic creature. The name comes from the Greek words, amphis, meaning "both ways", and bainein, meaning "to go". Also called the Mother of Ants, it is a mythological, ant-eating serpent with a head at each end. According to Greek mythology, the mythological amphisbaena was spawned from the blood that dripped from the Gorgon Medusa's head as Perseus flew over the Libyan Desert with it in his hand. Cato's army then encountered it along with other serpents on the march. Amphisbaenae fed off of the corpses left behind. The amphisbaena has been referred to by the poets, such as Nicander, John Milton, Alexander Pope, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and A. E. Housman, and the amphisbaena as a mythological and legendary creature has been referenced by Lucan, Pliny the Elder, Isidore of Seville, and Thomas Browne, the last of whom debunked its existence.
"The amphisbaena has a twin head, that is one at the tail end as well, as though it were not enough for poison to be poured out of one mouth." - Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia, ca. 77 AD
This early description of the amphisbaena depicts a venomous, duo-headed snakelike creature. However, Medieval and later drawings often show it with two or more scaled feet, particularly chicken feet and feathered wings. Some even depict it as a horned, dragon-like creature with a serpent-headed tail and small, round ears, while others have both "necks" of equal size so that it cannot be determined which is the rear head. Many descriptions of the amphisbaena say its eyes glow like candles or lightning, but the poet Nicander seems to contradict this by describing it as "always dull of eye". He also says: "From either end protrudes a blunt chin; each is far from each other." Nicander's account seems to be referring to what is indeed called the Amphisbaenia.
The Amphisbaena was said to make its home in the desert.
The burrowing amphibaena's heads have two separate minds, and it can separate itself into two halves as well as reform back into a single body. According to some accounts, the amphisbaena can slither (or run) very quickly, and, at least in the case of the limbless amphisbaena, it can slither in either direction, as Isidore of Seville indicates: "It can move in the direction of either head with a circular motion." The poet Nicander, however, describes it as "slow in motion". However, when the heads lock jaws or join in a similar fashion the amphisbaena can roll like a hoop, as depicted by medieval artists. Isidore of Seville indicates: "Alone among snakes, the amphisbaena goes out in the cold." This indicates the amphisbaena could be warm-blooded. The amphisbaena can grip one head in the other head's mouth, and in that way roll as a hoop.
On some accounts of the limbed (and occasionally limbless) and depictions in medieval art, the amphisbaena has wings that are scaly to feathered, from external to internal hidden by folds in its scales. However none of these depictions have shown that it has the ability to fly.
In ancient times, the supposedly dangerous amphisbaena had many uses in the art of folk medicine and other such remedies. It is said that expecting women wearing a live amphisbaena around their necks would have safe pregnancies, however if your goal is to cure ailments such as arthritis or the common cold wear only its skin. By eating the meat of the amphisbaena one could attract many lovers of the opposite sex, and slaying one during the full moon could give power to one who is pure of heart and mind. Lumberjacks suffering from cold weather on the job could nail its carcass or skin to a tree to keep warm, while in the process allowing the tree to fell easier.
In The Book of Beasts, T.H. White suggests that the creature derives from sightings of the worm lizards of the same name. These creatures are found in the Mediterranean countries where many of these legends originated.