The Mongolian Death Worm, Truth or Myth?

The Mongolian Death Worm

Deep in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia lives a creature that strikes fear into the very hearts of locals. Although no physical evidence has been brought forward confirming its very existence despite numerous attempts into the desert to capture even just a glimpse of this elusive cryptid, there has been no concrete findings but natives and even some scientist believe the Mongolian death worm does indeed exist despite the lack of proof. Scientists argue this cryptid may very well not be a cryptid at all but a actual living specie of desert dwelling snake.

But lets take a look deeper into the world of the Mongolian Death worm

  • What is a Mongolian death worm?
  • Legends surrounding the Mongolian Death worm
  • Sightings
  • Science vs myth
  • Popular media
  • Conclusions
The Gobi Desert, home of the Mongolian Death Worm

What is the Mongolian death worm?

Mongolian Death worm, go here for another fascinating article on this subject

According to legend the Mongolian death worm, named by the locals Olgoi-Khorkoi, literally translating into large intestine worm, because that is what it is said to resemble, not anything relating to where it can be found, luckily – imagine having one of those in you – scary!

  • It is approximately 1 meter long (roughly 3.2 feet), I say approximately as some sources measures it just over a meter and some only half a meter but most agree on the standard 1 meter, with spiky projections on both ends of its body
  • It is red in colour, probably why people think it resembles intestines, some legend tells that it’s eggs is laid inside a camel’s intestines where it then hatches thus getting the red colour, I’m not totally convinced of that theory though.
  • Rodents seem to be the primary source of food for these worms, sometimes camels as well, oh yes and travellers caught unawares – of course.
  • They surface mostly in the rainy season during June/July when the ground is wet, otherwise remain underground
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An interpretation of the Mongolian death worm by Belgian painter Pieter Dirkx.

For some further reading you can go here

Ways the Mongolian death worm kills

So mostly the Mongolian death worm spends it time under the surface of the sand, waiting for pray,

As potential prey nears it shoots out of its hiding place just beneath the surface, without warning and spit a stream of corrosive venom at its victim. Apparently this venom is so strong it can dissolve metal.

If that does not work, it can also electrocute you from a distance
Unfortunate victim

Legends surrounding the Mongolian Death worm

The lore of the Mongolian death worm had been passed down from generation to generation amongst the Mongolians for years but only became known to the western world around the 1920’s when famous palaeontologist Roy Chapman Andrews described the lore in his book, although he was not convinced of the worm’s existence. For more information regarding Roy Chapman Andrews click here.

Then Prime minister of Mongolia Damdinbazar also described the Mongolian death worm in detail to a western explorer in 1922

In his book “Mongolské záhady”, Mackerle chronicled the worm from second-hand reports. The creature is 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, moulting 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.” Although he never witnessed it himself (not through lack of trying), but Ivan Mackerle eventually determined the Olgoi-Khorkhoi could be real.

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Danger waiting just below the surface


As I mentioned earlier, there are no evidence of the existence of these creatures,

most sightings are secondhand hand stories told I would imagine around camp fires but here goes

There is told of a small boy who was followed by a worm like creature on his way back to the village, he was later found dead. After failing to return his family went looking for him and surmised via tracks that the worm was responsible. They decided to go look for the worm to exact their revenge but never returned either.

During the 1920’s onward there were many expeditions into the Gobi desert looking for the elusive worm, a local guide spoke of another guide from another expedition party that mentioned that a whole village upped and moved when rumours surfaced of the sightings of a Mongolian death worm in the area.

In one of the expedition by Freeman, their local interpreter told them about an incident that happened to another team of explorers that travelled to Suji’s home village. One of them was poking the sand with an iron rod and then suddenly felt strange. Upon reaching him, he was found dead. Others in the party felt the ground suddenly shake and then saw something round coming out of the sand. They ran for their lives.

I did warn you it was a lot of of second hand information.

Then there is Yuri Orlov who claims to have witnessed first hand the Mongolian death worm during an expedition during 1946 – 1949 deep into the Gobi desert. I could not find the exact account from him about what he witnessed so I will leave it up to you whether to believe it or not.

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Dead man tells no tales?

Science vs myth

Many notable Cryptozoologist have conducted search parties into the Gobi desert to find the Mongolian death worm, actually the Mongolian death worm is to Mongolia what the Loch Ness Monster is to Scotland.

The first person outside of Mongolia to mention the Mongolian death worm is palaeontologist Roy Chapman Andrews during his trip to Mongolia,but he did not believe that such a creature existed and wrote it down to myth and lore.

In 1990 – 1992 Ivan Mackerle conduct many expeditions into the Gobi desert to find evidence of the existence of the Mongolian death worm, but apart from only stories he came back empty handed. He even tried a motor driven thumper and small explosives to lure any worms out but to no avail.

A joint expedition in 2005 by the Centre for Fortean Zoology and E-Mongol investigated new reports on 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.

After the Mongolian government lifted the ban to search for the worm, Roger Freeman conducted another expedition in 2005 but also came back empty handed.

Reality-television series Destination Truth conducted an expedition from 2006–2007 – no luck either

in 2009 David Farrier a New Zealand TV entertainment reported accompanied another expedition to find the mysterious Mongolian death worm but found nothing, he did however get to interview locals about the creature and published it on his website

National Geographic series – Beast Hunter host David Spain also featured the Mongolian death worm on one episodes, putting camera’s at strategic locations in order to capture a sighting of the worm

Here is the video to see for yourself what he caught on tape – very interesting

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Beast Hunter Pat might have caught something on his camera

A common understanding though is that locals believe the Olgoi-Khorkoi is real and will avoid them to the point of moving their homes, it is debatable though whether they believe that it can electrocute a person but definitely spit venom. this brings us to the next theory.

Some scientists believe the Mongolian death worm is actually a death adder. Death adders are one of the most venomous snakes in the world. their venom causes paralysis and complete respiratory shut down within six hours. It also comes as no surprise that they are native to Australia (almost everything there is deadly 😉 ), also New Guinea and surrounding islands.

It is totally possible for a specie of death adder to have evolved to have a reddish colour and stay underground during the day because of the heat to exist in the Gobi desert. Especially since scientists would argue that a worm like creature would not be able to survive in the desert, it would need a touch either leather like or scaly skin to be able to withstand the temperatures and terrain.

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Australian Death adder

For more information on the Death Adder you can go here

Popular media

Since being brought into Western focus after the 1990’s the Mongolian death worm has been mentioned in several books, from Tolkien’s the Hobbit and the Land of Crimson clouds by Akady and Boris Strugatsky to mentions in different television episodes but the Mongolian death worm does have one movie behind its name

Mongolian Death worm

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Hope he was happy with the actor they got to play him

When people start drilling for oil in Mongolia they found something else instead! To check out the movie details you can go to Rotten tomatoes


So if you decide to go to the Gobi desert watch out for Olgoi-Khorkoi! Lying just beneath the surface waiting to strike with metal corrosive venom and electrocution. No survivors as yet so I cannot help with a “how to survive” guide.

On a serious note, I think something like the Mongolian death worm does exist but fear and secondhand stories had added embellishments creating a creature that fits very well into the realm of myth and legend. The death adder theory sounds the most plausible and maybe it is even a whole new snake specie yet to be discovered.

Tell me what you think?

I just want to add a thank you to Gugo78 whose picture of the Dune sand worm depiction I used for my cover because it was so awesome and fitting

Also check out Karl Shuker’s blog post on the same subject, he is a well known cryptozoologist and an expert in the field.

Last but not least, be sure to read my other blog posts as well, where I explore Trolls, Unicorns and more

Happy reading and as always, comment and share!

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