Mongolian Death Worm

Huge SNAKE-like animal or Invertebrate of Central Asia.

Variant names: Allergorhai-horhai, Allghoi khorkhoi, Olgoi khorkhoi (Mongolian/Altaic, "intestine worm"), Shar khorkhoi.

Physical description: Length, 2-5 feet. Dark red. A yellow variety (Shar khorkhoi) is also said to exist, though it is rarer. Thick. No differentiated head, tail, or feet.

Behavior: Comes to the surface in June and July. Squirts a bubbly, acidic, lethal poison from one end of its body. Said to have killed a geologist when it touched an iron rod he was holding, possibly by electrical shock.

Habitat: Areas of the desert where a parasitic herb, Goyo (Cynomorium songaricum), is found in the roots of saxaul bushes.

Distribution: Region around Ihbulag and Da-landzadgad, southern Gobi Desert, Mongolia; in the Nemegt Uul, Mongolia. Marie-Jeanne Kofman heard rumors of a similar animal in the Kalmyk Republic, Russia. Possible explanations:

(1) Unknown species of giant Worm lizard (Amphisbaenidae), part of a family of limbless lizards with no external eyes and ears. These creatures live in underground burrows and move in a serpentine fashion. In the 1990s, there were several discoveries of fossil amphisbaenids in Central Asia, including Mongolia.

(2) A highly specialized giant form of Earthworm (Subclass Oligochaeta).

(3) Unknown species of venomous Sand boa (Eryx spp.).

(4) Unknown species of venomous elapid snake similar to the Southern death adder

The Mongolian DEATH WORM ofthe Gobi Desert, said to squirt poison and electrocute its victims. (Phillippa Fos-ter/Fortean Picture Library)

(Acanthopis antarcticus) of Australia, which grows to over 3 feet; suggested by John L.

Cloudsley-Thompson.

Sources: Roy Chapman Andrews, The New Conquest ofCentral Asia (New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1932), vol. 1, p. 62; Ivan Antonovich Efremov, "Olgoi-Khorkhoi," in Stories (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1954); Ivan Antonovich Efremov, Doroga vetrov (Moscow, 1958); Dongodiin TSevegmid, Altayn tsaadakh govd (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 1987), pp. 5-7; Ivan Mackerle, "In Search of the Killer Worm," Fate 49 (June 1996): 22-27; Karl Shuker, "Meet Mongolia's Death Worm: The Shock of the New," Fortean Studies 4 (1997): 190-218; Angel Morant and Carlos Bonet, "Olgoi-khhorkhhoi: El gusano-intestino de Mongolia," Biologica, no. 17 (February 1998): 66-67; Michel Raynal, "Olgoi-Khorkhoi: Le 'Ver-intestin' Mongol," August 10, 1999, Institut Virtuel de Cryptozoologie, http:// perso.wanadoo.fr/cryptozoo/olgoi.htm; Ivan Mackerle, Mongolské Záhady (Prague: Ivo Zelezny, 2001).

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