Mongolian Death Worm from 12 Monster Myths From Around the World
12 Monster Myths From Around the World
Mongolian Death Worm
Like the “graboids” from the 1990 horror flick "Tremors," these burrowing desert creatures are said to have terrorized nomads in the Gobi Desert for centuries. Ranging from 1 to 2 meters in length, the Olgoï-Khorkhoï, as it’s called in Mongolian, is a supposed red serpentine beast that spits either venom or electricity, and is deadly to the touch. Numerous expeditions, one as recent as 2009, have attempted and failed to run this terror of the Gobi to ground, but that hasn’t stopped continued speculation about its existence in the cryptozoology community.
Although no species of bear is native to Africa—at least since the Atlas bear was hunted to extinction in the 1800s—English colonists in the Nandi region of Kenya relayed reports of an apparent bear-like beast that locals spoke of with great fear. The animal, which the Nandi people called a chimiset or kerit, was said to snatch children and eat the brains of livestock. A scattering of eyewitness accounts, describing a large hairy animal with a short snout and sloping shoulders, made the rounds in the first decades of the 1900s, but have since trailed off in frequency. Cryptozoologists like Karl Shuker have a floated a couple theories about the taxonomy of this “bear:” it may have been a species of giant hyena that was thought to have gone extinct in the last geological epoch; or it may have been a holdout population of another extinct mammal, the chalicothere (pictured), which was a broad shouldered relative of the rhinoceros and horse.
Florida Skunk Ape
The South’s very own Bigfoot, the so-called Skunk Ape is a foul-smelling bipedal primate said to inhabit the swamps of southern Florida. Sightings of the hairy animal peaked in the 1970s but persist to this day, most recently with a purported video that was shot in June of this year near the Myakka River in Sarasota County. In 2000, an anonymous woman claimed to have photographed the Skunk Ape (pictured), and submitted the photos to the Sarasota County sheriff’s department. Cryptid researcher and co-author of Cryptozoology A to Z, Loren Coleman, obtained the photos and published them on his website.
Lake Thunderbird in Norman, Oklahoma is man-made, and there is no known species of freshwater octopus, but that hasn’t stopped a recent monster myth from taking root there: in the lake’s murky depths resides a giant killer octopus responsible for several recent drownings. The “Oklahoma Octopus”—or an alleged population of such—has also been blamed for drownings in Lakes Oolagah and Tenkiller.
Imagine, a real-life population of dinosaurs inhabiting the deepest jungles of the Congo River basin. Dozens of expeditions have attempted to spot this supposed long-necked aquatic sauropod, long described by tribespeople around Lake Tele in the Republic of the Congo. The “Congo dinosaur” has captured the Western imagination from the early 1900s to the present, but as yet no proof of its existence has surfaced.
Loch Ness has Nessie and Lake Champlain has Champ. Hundreds of sightings of America’s most famous lake monster have shaped the local folklore such that the apparent creature is a small cottage industry in the region. Champ is the mascot of minor league baseball team the Vermont Lake Monsters and is celebrated at an annual “Champ Day” in Port Henry, N.Y. The best-known photograph of the alleged beast (pictured) was taken by vacationer Sandra Mansi in 1977.
A small bipedal ape is said to haunt the dense mountain jungles of Sumatra. Called orang pendek—Indonesian for “short person”—the mysterious species is said by local farmers to be not more than 5 feet tall and have broad, powerful shoulders and arms. This undocumented primate—if it exists—may be a new species of orangutan or gibbon. Some cryptozoologists speculate it may even be a surviving population of Homo floresiensis, a “hobbit”-like species of human that inhabited the Indonesian island of Flores as recently as 13,000 years ago (reconstruction at left).
Africa isn’t the only continent thought by some to harbor living dinosaurs. Bipedal carnivorous reptilians, said to resemble small Tyrannosaurus rex, have been the stuff of aboriginal legend in the Australian Outback long before colonizers arrived on the scene. Called a “burrunjor,” the more-than 20-foot-long cryptid was once blamed for livestock deaths, and a few reports of sightings (sans photographs, of course) have surfaced over the years. It has been speculated that the beast is a thought-to-be extinct species of giant monitor lizard, called Megalania, or simply a large crocodile.
Okanagan Lake in British Columbia is home of Canada’s most famous putative lake monster, Ogopogo. The 40- to 50-foot serpentine animal rose to moderate fame in the 1920s before being eclipsed by the Loch Ness Monster in 1933, but it had been the subject of First Nations legend since at least the 1800s. Said to live near Rattlesnake Island, “Ogopogo” has been captured by grainy video and photographs a number of times, and on a few occasions has been observed—reportedly, anyway—by a large number of people at the same time. Ogopogo is a mascot of sorts for the lakeside town of Kelowna, B.C., and verifiably exists in statue form by the town’s wharf.
Iliamna Lake Monster
Halfway between Katmai and Lake Clark National Parks lies Iliamna Lake, Alaska’s largest lake and home to yet another collection of lore about freshwater monsters. Unlike Nessie and Ogopogo, the character of these aquatic beasts has been described over the years as fishlike. According to the book Hidden Animals: A Field Guide to Batsquatch, Chupacabra, and Other Elusive Creatures by Michael Newton, Inuit natives long feared fishy beasts that were said to attack boats. Since the 1940s, numerous sightings by plane of large creatures—estimated at 20 feet or more—have been reported. The monster, affectionately known as Illie, may be a species of undiscovered freshwater fish, although more likely it is one of two things: white sturgeon, which can grow up to 20 feet, or a population of Pacific sleeper sharks, which may have swum up the 100-mile-long Kvichak River from Bristol Bay.
Folk wisdom in parts of Tanzania has held for hundreds of years that the lion is only the second most ferocious big cat in East Africa. The Mngwa, a gray feline the size of a donkey and with the coloration of a gray tabby, had routinely been blamed for the deaths of natives when Britain took over the administration of the German colony after WWI. Feline paw prints larger than a lion’s, but resembling a leopard’s, had been observed in putative mngwa territory as late as the 1950s, according the book Cryptozoology A to Z. Whether or not such an enormous member of the big cat family existed in recent times, it’s unlikely that a present-day population has escaped detection. If it ever existed, the Mngwa is likely extinct.
Until only about 2,000 years ago, mainland Australia was home to wolves and tigers—sort of. The thylacine, known as the Tasmanian wolf or Tasmanian tiger, was a marsupial predator that looked like a smaller cross between the two, but was closely related to neither. (The species persisted in Tasmania into the 20th century, and the last known one died in captivity in 1936.) However, reports of a striped, dog-sized animal resembling a feline have persisted in Queensland since the 1870s. Hopeful cryptozoologists believe that this mysterious animal may be evidence that the thylacine held on longer than believed, or that a larger cousin, the thylacoleo—or "marsupial lion"—may have survived past its supposed expiration date 30,000 years ago.