Do You Know About This Blood Sucking Worm Feared by Local Mongolians?

While Mongolia is famous for being the birthplace of Genghis Khan, the region is also well known for a legendary, yet quite unseen creature that is said to live in the Gobi desert – the Mongolian death worm.  (Image: Peter0024  via  wikimedia  CC BY-SA 1.0)
While Mongolia is famous for being the birthplace of Genghis Khan, the region is also well known for a legendary, yet quite unseen creature that is said to live in the Gobi desert – the Mongolian death worm. (Image: Peter0024 via wikimedia CC BY-SA 1.0)

While Mongolia is famous for being the birthplace of Genghis Khan, the region is also well known for a legendary, yet quite unseen creature that is said to live in the Gobi desert — the Mongolian death worm. The strange thing is that no scientific team has ever photographed the creature. The description of the worm has mostly come from local people who claim to have seen it in real life.

Western exposure to the mongolian death worm

The West came to know about the Mongolian death worm for the first time in 1922, thanks to the book On the Trail Of Ancient Man, published in 1926 by Roy Chapman Andrews. It was in this book that Andrews described the legend of the death worm. According to him, these worms are reddish in color, can grow up to 1.5 meters, and have a very thick body.

The locals believed the worm to be so poisonous that any human being touching its body was said to die almost immediately. The creature reportedly lived in the extremely arid conditions of the Gobi desert and is said to come out to the surface during rains when the sands become wet. The worm is said to kill its prey by spraying its venom right on the victims.

To show how deep-rooted this fear is in the Mongolian society, Andrews quotes the then Prime Minister Damdinbazar as saying that the Mongolian death worm “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.”

Searching for the Mongolian death worm

Many research teams have tried to collect evidence regarding the existence of the death worm. In the early 1990s, a small group led by Czech cryptozoologist Ivan Mackerle unsuccessfully tried for several weeks to document the creature. They were even inspired by the Frank Herbert novel Dune in which giant sandworms were summoned to the surface of the desert by a thumping sound. They replicated the sound in hopes of bringing the death worm to the surface, but to no avail.

Another expedition set out in 2005 by the Centre For Fortean Zoology after fresh reports indicated that the creature was active in the desert. And even though they did an extensive search, the team could not find any solid evidence that could substantiate its existence. However, they did agree that the creature could be more active in the deeper parts of the desert, specifically in the border between Mongolia and China, which unfortunately was a prohibited area.

The creature reportedly lived in the extremely arid conditions of the Gobi desert and is said to come out to the surface during rains when the sands become wet. (Image: Kmusser via wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

The creature reportedly lived in the extremely arid conditions of the Gobi desert and is said to come out to the surface during rains when the sands become wet. (Image: Kmusser via wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

Alternate theories about the Mongolian death worm

Given the fantastical explanations locals have given for the death worm and that no research expedition has been able to actually document one, many alternate theories have been put forward by experts — some reasonable and some bordering on science fiction.

The most reasonable explanation is that, what the locals perceive as the death worm might actually be a spitting snake, specifically a cobra. These creatures can easily be mistaken for a worm by locals, and some varieties are reddish in color, which matches with the color of the death worm. Furthermore, the cobra can spit its venom from a long distance, at least from up to 10 feet away from the victim. And its venom does have the ability to paralyze and kill the prey. As such, the spitting cobra has the best chance of being the legendary death worm that sends shivers among the local inhabitants.

Another theory is that the death worms, in reality, are some type of land-based electric eels. Unlike what the name suggests, these are not actually eels, but are called as such because of their body shape that resembles that of an eel. Electric eels usually live in muddy waters, only coming to the surface every 10 minutes or so to get some air. And even though it might seem impossible for an electric eel to live in the arid conditions of the Gobi Desert, reports that death worms come to the surface when the sands are wet can possibly indicate some kind of a land-based electric eel that is yet to be discovered by science. In addition, the fact that these eels can discharge electricity and can kill anyone who touches them eerily matches with local accounts of how people who touch the death worms die instantly.

Until someone documents these creatures and gets them on camera, we will have to make do with the above theories.

Watch this video of the Mongolian death worm courtesy of Animal Planet:

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