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Hunting the Mongolian Death Worm

A British expedition searches for the killer sand dweller

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Mongolian Death Worm

An artist's depiction of the Mongolian Death Worm.

IT LIVES BENEATH the sands of the Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia. The blood-red creature surfaces only occasionally, but when it does – beware. The Mongolina Death Worm lives up to its name. It spits a yellow, acid-like saliva at its victims. And should you get close enough to touch it, you're not lucky, you're dead, for the Mongolian Death Worm can pump out jolts of electricity powerful enough to kill a camel.

That's the legend, anyway.

For generations, natives of the area have sworn to the reality of the creature they call Allghoi khorkhoi. The name means "intestine worm," because it has been described as resembling the intestine of a cow. Those who claim to have seen it further describe it has being deep red in color and measuring between two and five feet long.

Killer sand worms? It sounds like fiction and, of course, mainstream science has long considered the Mongolian Death Worm to be nothing more than a part of colorful local lore. In fact, some cryptozoologists were skeptical as well, simply because the claims sounded too fantastic. Besides, aside from the "sightings," there was no other evidence – no photos, no traces. But very often such lore is based on something real.

Operation Death Worm

Other cryptozoologists, in fact, find the eyewitness testimony compelling – so compelling that in late April, 2005 they lauched an expedition to the Gobi Desert to see if they could find hard evidence for the existence of the elusive creature.

Operation Death Worm, an expedition of British scientists, was sponsored by the Centre for Fortean Zoology and led by cryptozoologist Richard Freeman. Team members include Chris Clark, physicist, Jon Hare, science writer and Dave Churchill, artist and designer. They kept the world apprised of their hunt and their findings on their Internet blog, Cryptoworld - Operation Death Worm - Mongolia, 2005.

Surprisingly, after four weeks the group said they are convinced that the worm really does exist. "Every eyewitness account and story we have heard describes exactly the same thing: a red-brown worm-like snake, approximately two feet long and two inches thick with no discernable head or back (tail)," the blog says. Unfortunately, no photos were snapped of the monster nor other tangible evidence uncovered. And if it does exist, whether or not it can spit acid and generate electricity remains to be seen. Freeman promised a full report when he's safely back in the U.K.

The expedition chose May for the their hunt since many sightings have been said to take place between May and September (the majority in June and July). Throughout May, they interviewed dozens of witnesses, including at least one who promised he could show the team where to find worm tracks and burrow holes. The plan was to dig into the holes, if identified. But it wasn't to be. They saw hundreds of skinks and lizards, but no Death Worm.

However, the cryptozoologists did find two animals previously unknown to science: a dragon-like lizard and a two-meter-long horned snake.

The team suspects the Death Worm in fact might be an as-yet-unidentified lizard or snake of some kind, according to their May 26 post.

The team hopes to mount a second expedition in July, 2006, when they plan to zero in two areas where numerous sightings have been reported. Meanwhile, keep an eye on their website for the latest news and full report.

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