Mongolian death worm

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This article is about the legendary monster in Mongolia. For the 2010 film, see Mongolian Death Worm (film).
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 a creature alleged to exist in the Gobi Desert. Described as a bright red worm about a metre in length,[1][2] it is generally considered a cryptid, an animal whose sightings and reports are disputed or unconfirmed.

Various claims are made about the worm by natives of the Gobi. Some say it has the ability to spew forth an acid which, on contact, will turn anything it touches yellow and corroded (and which would kill a man);[3] others say it can kill at a distance by means of electric discharge.[1][3]

The creature first came to Western attention as a result of Roy Chapman Andrews's 1926 book On the Trail of Ancient Man. The American 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."[1][2]


The worms are purportedly between two and five feet long, and thick-bodied.[4]

In On the Trail of Ancient Man, Andrews cites Mongolian Prime Minister Damdinbazar who in 1922 described the worm:

"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, however, did not believe in the creature's existence.

In his 2001 book Mongolské Záhady, Czech cryptozoologist Ivan Mackerle 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... "[4]

Habitat and behavior[edit]

The worm is said to inhabit the southern Gobi.[1] In the 1987 book Altajn Tsaadakh Govd, Ivan Mackerle described it as travelling underground, creating waves of sand on the surface which allow it to be detected.[5] The Mongolians say it can kill at a distance, either by spraying a venom at its prey or by means of electric discharge.[1][3] They say that the worm lives underground, hibernating most of the year except for June and July, when it becomes active. It is also reported that it most often comes to the surface when it rains and the ground is wet.[1][self-published source?]

The Mongolians believe that touching any part of the worm will cause instant death or tremendous pain.[1][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.[1][self-published source?]

Mentions, investigations[edit]

  • In 1990 and 1992, Ivan Mackerle led small groups of companions into the Gobi Desert to search for the worm. Inspired by Frank Herbert's novel Dune, in which giant fictional sandworms could be brought to the surface by rhythmic thumping, Mackerle constructed a motor-driven "thumper" and even utilised small explosive charges in a bid to find the animal.[5]
  • British zoologist Karl Shuker brought the animal back to the general attention of the English-speaking public in his 1996 book The Unexplained.[6] This was followed a year later by a paper in the Fortean Studies, later reprinted in The Beasts That Hide from Man, which hypothesized that the death worm was an amphisbaenid.[7]
  • Loren Coleman included this animal in Cryptozoology A to Z[8]
  • 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.[2]
  • Reality-television series Destination Truth conducted an expedition from 2006–2007.
  • A New Zealand television entertainment reporter, David Farrier of TV3 News, took part in an expedition in August 2009[2][9][10] but came up empty-handed as well.[11] He conducted interviews with locals claiming to have seen the worm and mentioned on his website that the sightings peaked in the 1950s.
  • The series Beast Hunter, hosted by Pat Spain on the National Geographic Channel, featured an episode on the disputed existence of the creature as well.

Cultural references[edit]

Mongolian death worms on graffiti, Kharkiv, 2009
  • The worm's first literary appearance was in the short story Olgoi-Khorkhoi by Ivan Yefremov (1942–1943), based on descriptions made by Andrews and Mongolian locals.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's book The Hobbit (1937) provides an earlier but fleeting reference, namely the "wild were-worms in the Last Desert." In the early drafts of the book (1930–1932), Tolkien had specifically associated these were-worms with "the Great Desert of Gobi", as noted by John D. Rateliff in The History of The Hobbit.
  • The worm is briefly mentioned in the 1959 novel The Land of Crimson Clouds by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.
  • In 1990, the film Tremors featured a worm-like creature, which attacked animals and humans alike. The worm, known as a graboid, was based on the Mongolian death worm[citation needed] and appears in all five installments of the Tremors franchise.
  • The worm is the subject of a Vector 13 story in the British comic 2000 AD.
  • In 2009, the short-fiction podcast The Drabblecast presented a humorous, multi-part audio story called "In Search of the Mongolian Death Worm".[12]
  • 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."[13] In Season 1, Episode 13 (first aired February 17, 2009) is titled "Death Worm,"[14] 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.[15]
  • A March 2011 episode of Beast Man on the National Geographic Channel featured a search for the worm in the Mongolian desert.
  • In Christopher Farnsworth's book The President's Vampire, the vampire Nathaniel Cade keeps a live specimen of the Olgoi-Khorkhoi in his reliquary under the Smithsonian Castle in Washington D.C.
  • Rapper MC Frontalot mentions the creature in the song "Scare Goat," with the lines "Got a Mongolian Death Worm at my house, right next to Squonk and the Aqueous Mouse..."
  • In the 9th Episode of the TNT TV series Franklin & Bash, Stanton Infeld told a reporter that he saw the Mongolian death worm, or at least he thought he did.
  • Lost Girl Season 2, episode 5 in 2011, revolves around a WMD named "Mongolian Death Worm", which reportedly can liquefy anything by electricity.
  • The 2011 book The Grave Robbers of Genghis Khan by P.B. Kerr mentions the worm and its electrical powers.
  • In William Gibson's 2007 novel, Spook Country, the character Hollis Henry refers to the Mongolian death worm as a "mascot for her anxiety," using it to represent whatever she is most afraid of.
  • In the 2012 novel, The Soft Exile by Eric Kiefer, the Mongolian death worm appears as a spirit animal.[16]
  • The worm is also referenced as the main character in the iOS game, Super Mega Worm.
  • In the iOS game Battle Nations, there is an enemy unit called an emperor Sandworm which resembles the Mongolian death worm.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Mongolian Death Worm". Retrieved 2010-01-29. [self-published source]
  2. ^ a b c d Lauren Davis (2009-07-28). "The Hunt for the Mongolian Death Worm Begins Anew". Retrieved 2010-01-29. 
  3. ^ a b c Daniel Harris (2007-06-26). "The Mongolian death worm". Retrieved 2010-01-29. 
  4. ^ a b Shuker, Karl P. N. (1 November 2003). The Beasts that Hide from Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals. Cosimo, Inc. pp. 25–45. ISBN 978-1-61640-621-9. 
  5. ^ a b Dunning, Brian (8 January 2013). "Olgoi-Khorkhoi: The Mongolian Death Worm". Skeptoid. Episode 344. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  6. ^ Karl Shuker (1996). The Unexplained. London: Carlton Books. ISBN 1-85868-186-3. 
  7. ^ Karl Shuker (2003). The Beasts That Hide from Man. NY: Paraview. ISBN 1-931044-64-3. 
  8. ^ Jerome Clark (1999). Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature. NY: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-684-85602-6. 
  9. ^ "David Farrier goes on hunt for Mongolian Death Worm - Video". July 28, 2009. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  10. ^ "New Zealanders Embark on Hunt for Mongolian Death Worm". July 27, 2009. Retrieved January 29, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Digitising, the NZPA Report… & photos.". January 9, 2009. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  12. ^ Sherman, Norm. "In Search of the Mongolian Death Worm". The Drabblecast. Retrieved 2009. 
  13. ^ ""Lost Tapes" - Animal Planet". 2011. Retrieved April 10, 2011. 
  14. ^ ""Death Worm" - Profile". Feb 11, 2009. Retrieved April 10, 2011. 
  15. ^ ""Death Worm" - Video". Feb 11, 2009. Retrieved April 10, 2011. 
  16. ^ Kiefer, Eric (2012). The Soft Exile. Busan, Korea: Gentleman Tree Publishing. p. 220. ISBN 978-0983071419. 

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