In the West, when deserts and giant killer worms are discussed, “Dune” by Frank Herbert or one of the film interpretations are the first thing to spring to mind. In certain areas of Asia, it’s the Mongolian death worm.
Much like Bigfoot, thousands of sightings of the death worm have been reported but no concrete evidence exists. It lives in the Gobi Desert, is supposedly about six feet long and hibernates for much of the year. It rises to the surface in the heat of the summer months, particularly after rainfalls, and eats rodents before retreating underground.
The death worm has spikes at both ends and is bright red in color… at least, it’s been bright red for the last sixty years or so. The earliest reports of it, from the 1920s, had locals describing the beast as grey. The dramatic color change indicates remarkably fast adaptation (although to what external stress one could only guess) or that the creature is imaginary and prone to change over time in the way most stories do.
What makes the Mongolian death worm particularly interesting is its ability to discharge either electrical jolts or concentrated venom (claims differ) at victims with great accuracy. The attack is known to be strong enough to kill camels, but no person has ever been verified to have been injured by one.
Oh, and have I mentioned that it’s poisonous to the touch? So much so that merely being brushed by one is a guarantee of an immediate agonizing death. At least, that is the assumption, as again, no person can be found to have ever been injured by one of these creatures.
Still, the notion is appealing to adventurous zoologists. Unlike most fantastic beasts, the key traits of the creature are mirrored in nature. Creatures exist which can generate electric shocks, or spit venom, or have poisonous skin secretions. Hibernation is a known phenomenon. And every once in a while someone is inspired to mount an expedition to bring back footage… and inevitably they are met by failure.
The Mongolian death worm ranks among the most believable of mythical creatures, but for people stranded in the Gobi Desert in the middle of summer they’d be best served to focus their attention in other directions.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite movie or television show that’s not set on Earth?