Is a Giant 'Death Worm' Lurking in the Gobi Desert?

By Matthew Bossons, December 15, 2015

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Tales from the Chinese Crypt is a regular web column exploring bizarre and creepy stories from across China. For this edition of the series, we will investigate the legendary Mongolian death worm.

Rumored to exist in the rocky and unforgiving Gobi Desert, the Mongolian death worm is unquestionably one of China’s stranger cryptids. (Unfamiliar with cryptids? Click here.)

This particular creature is allegedly red in color, somewhere between two and five feet long and as thick as a man’s arm. It should be noted that two to five feet is the most commonly stated length, some sources suggest the animal can grow to much greater sizes, specifically a short Animal Planet documentary that claims the death worm can reach lengths of up to 10 feet.

Sometimes referred to as the ‘intestine worm’ because of its ridged intestine-like appearance, this cryptid is greatly feared by locals due to its highly toxic (or possibly acid-like) venom. 

According to local beliefs, the death worm has the ability to spray its venom from a reasonable distance and the substance is powerful enough to kill a camel or horse. Some tales assert the worm can also use electricity on hapless passersby. This isn't your standard earthworm folks!

mongolian-death-worm.jpg
Yes, even a cheesy movie has been made about the Mongolian death worm...

There have been numerous expeditions mounted to find the worm, including several that were filmed for television (including the popular mystery show Destination Truth, in 2006-2007), but all ended up empty handed. Reasons for this are numerous, according to believers, who note that many areas near the China-Mongolia border are difficult to access or restricted and that the worm spends most of the year underground, only surfacing when it rains – which is just two months a year.

READ MORE: Tales from the Chinese Crypt: The Hello Kitty Murder

According to Czech cryptozoologist Ivan Mackerle, in his 1987 book Altajn Tsaadakh Govd, “It [the Mongolian death worm] travels underground. Its movement can be detected from above via the waves of sand that it displaces.”redsnake.jpg

While most observers conclude that the death worm is simply a beast of legend (including Markerle, who mounted three separate expeditions in 1990, 1992 and 2004), others have suggested it may be an undiscovered species sand-dwelling snake. This suggestion is plausible, as snakes do come in various shades of red and some species do have the ability to spit venom up to 2 meters.

Regardless of the likelihood of its existence, the Mongolian death worm has found considerable attention worldwide, in books, television shows and a 2010 film titled Mongolian Death Worm (we haven't seen it, but word on the street is it's crap).

So, is a terrifying species of worm lurking beneath the sands of the Gobi Desert? Probably not, but who knows...

Enjoy this story? Click here for more Tales from the Chinese Crypt.

[Cover image: An interpretation of the Mongolian death worm by Belgian painter Pieter Dirkx. Image via Wikipedia.]

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