Most cryptozoology enthusiasts are familiar with Mothman— the humanoid beast said to be a herald of impending doom. But did you know that Russia is home to a nearly identical creature?
On April 26th, 1986 a horrific nuclear accident occurred at the Chernobyl Power Plant. Reactor Number 4 became catastrophically unstable after employees performed a simulative power outage safety test. A disastrous series of events unfolded which caused an uncontrollable chain reaction. Colossal amounts of energy were released causing the activator core to explode. For nine days, fire consumed the devastated structure and spewed out astronomical levels of radioactive contaminants. Humanity felt the dire implications of a fission calamity. Dozens of first responders agonizingly perished from radiation exposure, cancer rates skyrocketed and babies were born with appalling birth defects. Pripyat, a once-thriving city, had become an uninhabitable toxic wasteland and would remain so for the next twenty-thousand years.
Some believe residents had been pre-warned of the dreadful fallout. In the weeks preceding Chernobyl’s cataclysmic incident, a series of anomalous episodes took place. Locals who lived in close proximity to the eventual ‘exclusion zone’ repeatedly encountered a mysterious creature. Witnesses described its appearance as resembling a giant mutilated headless man with piercing red eyes. Petrified onlookers dubbed the curious aerial fiend The Blackbird of Chernobyl. Those who happened upon the sinister entity suffered from haunting nightmares and menacing phone calls. Citizens began to live in constant crippling fear that they may be the next victim to behold this nefarious figure. An abysmal winged monster was terrorizing the formerly quaint town.
For decades, the existence of Sasquatch has been highly debated. Skeptics scoff at the idea of North American bipedal hominids while believers cite supporting evidence including print castings, hair samples and video footage. Sightings of these enigmatic forest dwellers date back centuries, spanning across nearly every continent on Earth. However, society continues to dismiss the cryptid as merely a mythological creature or hoaxer’s feeble attempt at trickery. Yet would public perception shift if government agents produced a document listing Bigfoot as a legitimate species? Several decades ago, that precise scenario occurred.
In 1975 the United States Army Corps of Engineers debuted Washington Environmental Atlas, a manual which provided comprehensive information about the region. The book required over three years of research and a budget of $200,000 (which inflation equates to nearly one million dollars in 2019). Comprising the 114-page encyclopedia are maps, geological data, and zoological reports. An excerpt from the paperback declares: “The Washington Environmental Atlas identifies and describes many resources and amenities important to the citizens of the State of Washington. The environment is described not only in terms of the preferences and values of people and agencies, but also in terms of the structure and function of basic ecosystems. Accordingly, significant effort was devoted to a map overlay of ecological life zones, species lists and habitats.”
For those of you who are unaware, ‘Down the Chupacabra Hole’ is a play on Alice in Wonderland’s magical imagery. After all, the concept of entering a previously hidden word where things aren’t quite what they seem rings true for conspiracy theorists. For nearly two years, I have envisioned a chupacabra-white rabbit hybrid greeting readers who stumble upon my little corner of the internet. I am happy to announce we finally have our official mascot!Thank you to the wonderful Gazoo Shop who created such incredible artwork for DTCH. They specialize in animations, photography, graphic design and video production. If you’re a fan of enigmatic undiscovered species, you’ll love Gazoo’s other illustrations.
Landlocked between Russian and Chinese borders sits the picturesque country of Mongolia. Most associate this part of the world with Genghis Kahn, Tuvan throat singing or delicious cuisine. Encompassing the southern region is the Gobi, one of Earth’s largest deserts. The barren East Asian tundra spans across over half a million square miles. Temperatures here are extreme and range from 120 degrees Fahrenheit to well below freezing. Other perils include poisonous scorpions, seasonal flooding and fierce sandstorms. Despite extremely harsh conditions, many animals thrive here. Gazelle, bear, marbled polecats, jerboa, and highly endangered snow leopards inhabit the inhospitable terrain. Some say there is an unknown species also residing in the Gobi- a killer cryptid known as the Mongolian death worm.
Locals call the creature olgoi-khorkhoi, which translates to “intestine worm”, a name derived from its visceral appearance. Based on eyewitness testimonies, death worms are said to reach five feet in length with large spikes protruding from both ends. Indigenous people claim the invertebrates lay eggs inside of a camel’s stomach. Upon hatching, they absorb the color of their host’s blood and results in brightly saturated red-hued bodies. Simply brushing against the parasite results in excruciating pain and a near instantaneous demise. Reportedly, the soil-inhabitant can also kill prey from a distance, through shooting an electrical discharge or by spitting lethal venom. Those who are stricken by the deadly spray turn a sickening shade of yellow before perishing.
Death worms live underground and create distinctive waves of sand upon the surface whilst roaming. For ten months of the year, they hibernate and then become active in June and July. Native Mongolians report seeing the creatures surface after heavy rainfall. If larger food sources are unavailable they will consume rodents and other types of vermin. It is believed the appendage-lacking brutes are exoskeletal and shed their skin when in danger. Researchers speculate it may be an amphisbaenidae, a carnivorous reptile better known as worm lizards. These burrowing saurians reside throughout sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and several Caribbean islands.
Westerners first heard of death worms in 1926 following the release of On the Trail of Ancient Man, a book written by American paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews. Four years prior to his publication, Andrews joined the American Museum of Natural History’s Central Asiatic Expedition. Government officials had alerted the United States institution of a terrifying legless serpent wreaking havoc in rural areas. Even Mongolia’s leader wholeheartedly believed in its existence. Prime Minister Damdinbazar publicly stated: “It is shaped like a sausage about two feet long, has no head nor legs and it is so poisonous that merely touching it means an instant death.” Such a prominent and highly respected figure speaking openly about a supposedly mythical breed greatly piqued the museum’s interest.
Prior to the group’s historic embarkment, a mandatory cabinet meeting was required. Professor Andrews and foundation representatives met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs as well as the Mongolian Premier himself. Permission for their extensive undertaking was only granted on the condition they would obtain a specimen of Allergorhai horhai. Upon both party’s agreement, the journey commenced. Throughout the 1920s a team scholars combed the Central Asian plateau in its entirety. While hunting for the enigmatic wriggler, Andrews became the first person to discover fossilized dinosaur eggs. Regardless of being unable to find evidence during their search, the archeologist stated every person gave a nearly identical description, down to the most “minute detail”.
Andrews was not the only explorer to seek the elusive ground-dweller. Ivan Mackerle, esteemed cryptozoologist and a leading expert on the Loch Ness Monster, traveled to Mongolia in pursuit of olgoi-khorkhoi. Mackerle visited the territory in 1990, 1992 and 2004 to interview nomads. An elderly woman shared several encounters she heard from local fishermen. When stalking prey, the creature will move half its body above the sand. Then their upper half begins to inflate and a toxin-filled bubble forms and is used to spew venom at unsuspecting victims. Although the questioned senior citizen appeared incredibly sincere, she admitted her information was based on others’ experiences.
One particularly intriguing account involved a small boy who was playing with his bright yellow ball, which unfortunately caught the limb-lacker’s attention. Gobi residents claim this particular color attracts the slithering beast. When the curious youngster approached it, he reached out and gently stroked the flesh. Within mere seconds the unsuspecting child was deceased. His parents soon discovered their son’s corpse and immediately recognized the post-mortem symptoms. Furious and grief-stricken, they decided to hunt for the slug-like perpetrator. Neither parent ever made it back to the village alive. Townspeople suspected they had been killed by the vengeful fiend.
During his final voyage, Mackerle became familiar with another layer of the centuries-old enigma. While visiting a Buddhist monastery he was warned of writhing executioners’ supernatural abilities. Monks believed the ferocious annelids were filled with evil energy. Stranger yet, they advised the investigator that a firsthand encounter would destroy him. In spite of brushing off their ominous words, Mackerle suffered from terrifying nightmares about wriggling crimson carnivores the same evening. Upon waking, he felt a burning sensation on his back. Covering his flesh were dozens of inflamed boils. None of these painful wounds were present hours earlier and could not have been inflicted by any known insects. Mackerle was convinced his affliction was caused by the wicked one’s spirit. In fact, the researcher was so traumatized by this incident that he never returned to Mongolia.
Zoological director, Richard Freeman, was captivated by tales of the massive oriental grub. In 2005 his organization, Centre for Fortean Zoology, ventured to the eastern sector. Freeman soon learned the cryptid is very much real to nomadic tribesmen. His interpreter informed him of an entire village shifting positions after local inhabitants set eyes upon the terrifying scarlet monster. Over 1,000 miles of the Gobi were scoured by investigators in hopes of unearthing proof of death worms. Excursion members came up empty-handed but Freeman firmly believes verification has not come forward for strictly political reasons. From 1945 through 1990, Mongolia was under communist rule. Throughout the decades-long reign, authorities criminalized searching for the leech-entity. Those in power insisted aforementioned endeavors were a waste of resources since the animal “did not exist”.
Nearly a century after the initial quest for Mongolia’s murderous maggot, more questions than answers still remain. Countless individuals have embarked on nearly identical crusades only to return empty-handed. Scientists argue the geographic environment rules out any possibility of annelid or nematode presence. High temperatures and an arid setting do not support the theory of such lifeforms’ existence. If an unknown species is inhabiting the Gobi it’s more likely a class of burrowing lizard. Cryptozoology enthusiasts remain open-minded citing complications have hindered any discoveries. Given the desert’s precarious surroundings, a lack of human population and restrictions to the area, it’s entirely plausible an unidentified living organism has simply avoided detection. However, until conclusive evidence comes forward, olgoi-khorkhoi will remain a mystery.
Do you believe the Mongolian death worm exists or is it merely a mythical legend? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this bizarre cryptid.
Within central Africa is a territory known as Congo Basin, a sprawling tapestry of dense jungles, flowing streams, flooded bogs and vast savannas. Over ten-thousand varieties of tropical plants cover the land, thirty percent of which are unique to this area. Inhabiting these five hundred million acres are a plethora of endangered wildlife including gorillas, elephants and chimpanzees. A total of four-hundred varieties of mammals call the region home. According to many indigenous people there is another elusive species that roams the deep Congo, a creature known as Mokele-mbembe.
In the Lingala language this name translates to “one who stops the flow of rivers”. Based on eye-witness accounts, the semi-aquatic monster is described as closely resembling a sauropod. It possesses a long snake-like neck which is supported by a round grayish-colored body. They can reach heights of over thirty feet and frequently pluck leaves from tall trees. Some allege there is a spike atop the ancient being’s head. Natives both revere and fear this enigmatic and territorial beast. Some claim Mokele-mbembe is supernatural in nature and should be avoided at all costs.
Westerners first began catching wind of the unaccounted herbivore over two hundred years ago, a time when dinosaurs remained undiscovered. Explorers who traveled to the distant landmass heard legends from nearby citizens regarding an unidentified forest-dwelling animal. One early account occurred in 1776 when French missionaries discovered huge footprints in a rural location. These tracks were similar to the size of an elephant’s, about three feet in circumference, with long claw-marks present. Each church member was perplexed as to what could have created such bizarre impressions. An escorting priest then shared he previously encountered the source firsthand. According to the man of god, he observed a prehistoric-looking brute feasting on vegetation.
During the early nineteen hundreds a German Captain, Ludwig Freiherr von Stein, was visiting the remote district. Trusted Congolese leaders warned von Stein of an enormous reptile that lived nearby. Independent sources all recounted an identical character adding further validity to such grandiose declarations. Despite extensively searching the surrounding wilderness the respected commander was unable to find hard evidence of Mokele-mbembe. Von Stein interviewed many tribesmen and chronicled his findings. In 1959 science writer Willy Ley published this section of von Stein’s report:
“The animal is said to be of a brownish-gray color with a smooth skin, its size is approximately that of an elephant; at least that of a hippopotamus. It is said to have a long and very flexible neck and only one tooth but a very long one; some say it is a horn. A fewspoke about a long, muscular tail like that of an alligator. Canoes coming near it are said to be doomed; the animal is said to attack the vessels at once and to kill the crews but without eating the bodies.The creature is said to live in the caves that have been washed out by the river in the clay of its shores at sharp bends. It is said to climb the shores even at daytime in search of food; its diet is said to be entirely vegetable. This feature disagrees with a possible explanation as a myth. The preferred plant was shown to me, it is a kind of liana with large white blossoms, with a milky sap and applelike fruits. At the Ssombo River I was shown a path said to have been made by this animal in order to get at its food. The path was fresh and there were plants of the described type nearby. But since there were too many tracks of elephants, hippos, and other large mammals it was impossible to make out a particular spoor with any amount of certainty.”
By 1932 news of the alleged saurian was spreading throughout Europe and the Americas. One British naturalist toured Likouala in hopes of catching a glimpse of the obscure giant. While traveling by canoe he began hearing intense and frightening sounds. These bellowing roars were completely different from any organism he had previously encountered. Although a lengthy investigation was conducted the thunderous source was never identified and the researcher returned home empty-handed.
That same year Ivan T. Anderson, famed zoologist and biologist, embarked on a journey to the mysterious land. As he and his endemic friends leisurely paddled down a river they began hearing haunting noises, comparable to loud rumbles produced by an earthquake. Suddenly the water beneath burst into an eruption of bubbles and a gargantuan shape emerged. Anderson said its head alone was the size of a hippopotamus and resembled something that should have gone extinct thousands of centuries ago. His aboriginal companions were familiar with this primitive entity. They informed their traumatized companion that the mythical breed goes by the name Mokele-mbembe.
Less than two decades after this bizarre incident an equally intriguing sighting took place. One warm summer day a group of English soldiers went swimming at Lake Barombi in Northern Cameroon. As the men were cooling off in the picturesque oasis an enormous figure surfaced nearby. Terrified, the troop frantically swam towards land. Once safely on shore they watched in horror as a pair of massive reptiles emerged from the murky abyss. Each possessed scaly skin and long necks with the larger specimen bearing a horn. Observers were utterly perplexed as to what these strange amphibious habitants might be.
Another fascinating case involves a reverend named Eugene Thomas. Since the 1950s he had journeyed to Congo Basin repeatedly on various mission excursions. Over time the clergy built a sincere relationship with local residents. Twenty years into his frequent trips one group of pygmies recounted a disturbing tale. Apparently, not long ago, abominable reptilian beasts began to intrude on their territory. Fishing, a vital source of sustenance, became increasingly difficult with creatures’ constant interference. In order to protect themselves they made the decision to erect a spiked fence around their waterside settlement.
Soon after, a rogue vertebrate broke through the defensive barrier. Alarmed tribal members began to throw spears and fatal wounds were inflicted. Dozens of victorious warriors harvested its colossal carcass succeeding the slaying. That night a feast ensued and many men, women and children consumed its meat. Those who ate the flesh quickly perished of a terribly agonizing sickness. Remaining pygmies who had not ingested the tainted fare were horror-stricken and utterly terrified. Following this tragedy, frightened survivors drew the conclusions that Mokele-mbembe was a paranormal spirit. Interestingly, during the early 1980s, remains of a sharpened fence were found surrounding the village.
Japanese trailblazers trekked to the exotic continent in 1988. Their goal was to capture footage of the fabled Congo inhabitant. Jose Bourges, a renown environmental official, led the expedition. While filming areal footage over Lake Tele, a videographer noticed something anomalous beneath the plane. He examined the strong wake and attempted to focus on whatever was creating this disturbance. Unfortunately, in his eager and excitable state, the cameraman did not initially remove the lens cap. Ultimately only fifteen-seconds of footage was captured. Viewers of the brief clip are torn: some believe it’s merely an elephant, others feel something entirely different was recorded.
Writer Rory Nugent visited Africa to study the world’s largest swamp. In December of 1985 he spotted a peculiar form moving across the lagoon. Closer inspection revealed it was in fact the legendary critter. Nugent moved his boat to get a better view and watched in fascination while taking several photographs. Before he could get closer look accompanying Congolese guides demanded him to stop at gunpoint. Back at camp they instructed him to destroy all the film which had been shot. Due to superstitious beliefs, locals felt that keeping the pictures would anger Mokele-mbembe and put them in great danger.
Doctor Roy Mackal, biochemist and evolutionist, dedicated his life to the pursuit of cryptozoology. Mackal was determined to prove the existence of supposed African dinosaurs. Interviews were conducted with tribes throughout multiple nations. These groups had no communication with each other nor the outside world. However, each person shared identical descriptions of the creature ranging from physical appearance to behavioral traits. During another excursion he presented flashcard illustrations to dozens of residents. Some were familiar, such as hippos, others like American black bears were completely foreign. They recognized domestic inhabitants but could not identify overseas varieties. Shockingly, when shown a rendering depicting a brontosaurus, they positively identified the sketch as Mokele-mbembe.
Science teacher Peter Beach was determined to uncover tangible proof of the shy vegetarian. Whilst exploring a muddy shoreline in 2006 he stumbled upon abnormally large footprints with prominent claws present. Surrounding canopies with abundant foliage had been completely stripped at heights in excess of eighteen feet. Giraffes, the only reasonable culprit, do not occupy this part of the country. Perplexed, Beach took snapshots to document his peculiar findings. Plaster castings were made from the unique impressions. Further analysis of the tracks has brought forward more questions than answers.
By 2009 researchers once again undertook the quest for Mokele-mbembe. Credible informants relay that during dry seasons the cryptid hides in natural caves. Air passages are dug along the riverside and eventually dry out becoming similar to concrete. Such structures ensure they have ample air supply to last through lengthy hibernative states. Investigative parties located several of these formations along the muddy embankment. Implementation of a fish finder provided further fascinating discoveries. Numerous serpentine figures moved below the dismal depths. Experts were extremely baffled by the specimens’ astonishing size. Unfortunately, severe thunderstorms forced the team to abruptly abort their mission before definitive data could be obtained.
Much of the Congo remains unseen by human eyes. Earth’s final frontier is filled with dangerous predators, deadly insects, armed militias and extreme weather. Such factors cause much hindrance on further exploration of this rugged terrain. It was not until 1998 that the four-thousand pound Javan rhino was recognized. Only five years ago, in 2013, a quarter-ton pygmy tapir was positively identified. It’s entirely plausible that an unknown species is avoiding detection within the depths of Africa. However, until hard evidence surfaces we can only theorize and evaluate spectators’ testimonies. For now Mokele-mbembe will remain one of the world’s greatest mysteries.
Do you think it’s possible that dinosaurs still exist? Share your thoughts in the comment section!