A mysterious giant worm creature called Olgoi-Khorkhoi, which reportedly lives in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert and is said to be two to five feet long, sounds like a miniature version of the immense sandworms that characters rode for transportation on the Planet Arrakis in Frank Herbert’s classic 1965 science fiction novel Dune and its literary progeny. But even if it’s far smaller in scale, the Mongolian Death Worm, as the Olgoi-Khorkhoi also is called, has a reputation that’s more sinister than benign. The crawling cryptid is said to be able to kill human victims from a distance, either by poison or by tranmitting high-voltage electrical charges (depending upon which unreliable source you choose to believe).
According to Loren Coleman’s and Jerome Clark’s 1999 encyclopedia Cryptology A to Z, Czech cryptozoology investigator and author Ivan Mackerle, who also has searched for the Loch Ness monster, first learned about the creature from a Mongolian student who told him of a “horrible creature” lurking beneath the sand dunes in her native land. Mackerle reportedly had a difficult time getting further information about the creature, because other Mongolians were afraid to discuss it, and government officials had outlawed the search for what they termed “a fairy tale.” The collapse of communism in Mongolia in 1990, however, loosened the restrictions, and western investigators at last were able to find out more.
Czech cryptozoologist Jaroslave Mares and his French contemporary, Michel Raynal, both have speculated that the Olgoi-Khorkhoi might actually not be a worm, but some sort of super-specialized reptile belonging to the suborder
Amphisbaenia. The latter includes about 160 different species of burrowing, limbless creatures who have characteristics of both lizards and snakes. Some amphisbaenians can reach two and a half feet in length, which is in the ballpark of Mongolian Death Worm-esque proportions.
Another hypothesis is that the Olgoi-Khorkoi is a sort of supersized version of the death adder, a member of genus Acanthopis, which is part of the cobra family. Death adders, however, are known to exist only in Australia and New Guinea, but they conceivably could survive in the Gobi desert environment as well.
Neither hypothesis, however, explains the Olgoi-Khorkoi’s reputed ability to kill at a distance. Animals with the ability to discharge electricity–the electric eel, for example–live in acquatic environments, not deserts. As Coleman and Clark conclude:
Most likely, the “death from a distance” component of the Olgoi-Khorkhoi legend is an exaggeration based on fear.
If we were sci-fi scriptwriters, of course, we might come up with the storyline that they were spawned in Godzilla-like fashion by radiation, as the result of Soviet underground nuclear blasts gone awry. But could it be mere coincidence that since gaining independence, the Mongolian government repeatedly has taken a public stand against nuclear testing? Inquiring minds want to know if they’re really concerned about controlling wriggling cryptid-killers in their midst.
Be sure to tune in Friday at 9P et/pt to Beast Hunter: Mongolian Death Worm. Here’s a sneak peak of the new episode: