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.
When one thinks of the Sunshine State three things typically come to mind: Disney World, spring-breakers and elderly retirees. Yet most vacationers never set foot outside the infamous amusement parks or pristine beaches. Just beyond major tourist destinations are millions of undeveloped wetland acres. Gators, Burmese pythons, wild boar and endangered panthers call the region home. Some individuals claim that there is another species inhabiting Florida’s swampy terrain, an unaccounted Bigfoot-like creature called Skunk Ape. Native tribespeople were familiar with this beast long before European explorers arrived. According to Seminole legend, a monstrous being referred to as ‘hairy man’ roamed the encompassing bush. Supposedly, in the early 1800s, one particularly violent battle between early settlers and a Skunk Ape resulted in several men’s fatalities. Encounters with the elusive cryptid continued for centuries but gained notoriety after a series of sightings occurred over sixty years ago. On December 22, 2000, Sarasota County Sheriff’s department received two mysterious photographs from an anonymous source. Dubbed the “Myakka Skunk Ape Photos,” these unnerving images depict a large bipedal hominid. Accompanying the peculiar portraits was a letter from the photographer. She identified herself as a senior citizen who snapped several pictures in her backyard and had concerns for the safety of her young grandchildren. Witnesses describe the bog-inhabitants as having muscular bodies covered with red-tinged fur. They are estimated to reach heights of over seven feet tall and weigh a staggering four hundred and fifty pounds. Many who have experienced firsthand nocturnal confrontations recount glowing red eyes. Skunk Ape’s name derives from its unpleasant scent. Those within close proximity frequently report a strong foul-smelling odor, similar to methane gas or rotten eggs. Over three hundred and twenty observational reports have been filed with the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization. Washington, California and Florida, respectively, comprise the top three states where Sasquatch sightings most frequently occur.My partner, Clint, and I traveled to an undisclosed rural Southwestern location in search of the reclusive animal. Our tightly packed truck more closely resembled a circus clown car than an expedition vehicle. With enough supplies to survive post-apocalypse, the journey away from civilization began. Idly peering out the passenger-side window, I realized this landscape was a stark contrast from my days on the Jersey Turnpike. A seemingly infinite mosaic of picturesque farmland and grazing cattle sprawled hypnotically. As the miles progressed, my mind drifted into daydreams of Skunk Ape. If this revered brute truly exists then it most certainly could thrive in such a remote place. Suddenly my cryptozoological musings abruptly halted as we made a sharp righthand turn. Completely covering the bumpy dirt road was a thick oak hammock canopy. Spanish moss hung from twisted tree limbs and created a hauntingly beautiful scene. In the distance we could see a quaint lakeside cabin; we finally reached the destination. Our fearsome protectors, two toothless senior chihuahuas, curiously inspected their new territory. While we unstrapped our canoe from the roof racks a back-woodsy looking woman slowly approached us. “Y’all taking that thang out on the water?”, she asked through her thick southern drawl. Confused, Clint replied we were planning to, and asked her if there was problem. The woman laughed and said, “Naw, it’s fine but I seen gators here bigger than that dingy”. It wouldn’t be long before we realized this lady wasn’t exaggerating.Later that night I sat alone on the front porch serenaded by a symphony of crickets, tree frogs and howling coyotes. Thousands of stars shimmered above casting an ethereal glow atop the water’s rhythmic surface. Despite the balmy and tropical evening temperatures, there was a deep chill which I could not ignore. An unshakeable sensation washed over me: something had been closely watching. Leering from the abysmal darkness a sentient presence could be sensed. Unexpectedly, a tree branch snapped from deep within the shadows. With my heart racing, I hastily gazed towards the tree line ahead. Dead dried leaves and palm fronts crunched beneath what sounded like two heavy feet. Frozen by a state of apprehensive excitement, I remained still and listened intently. The swift movements traveled further away until they eventually became inaudible.On the following morning we ventured to a National State Park. Many bizarre and unexplained disappearances take place within these sites each year. Below the sun’s pleasant rays, we briskly walked towards a nearby thicket. With each step the scenery became more wild and dense. After hours of hiking whilst scouring for prints or hair samples, a popup thunderstorm quickly developed. Towering nimbus clouds shaded the area and cool gusts of wind provided much-needed relief from overly persistent misquotes. Onwards we noticed an unusual structure erected amongst the trees. In the middle of nowhere, miles away from any designated trails, stood a massive cage. Galvanized steel beams supported the peculiar enclosure. Weaved wire paneling wrapped around all four sides creating a barrier from the outside world. Standing about fourteen feet tall, this industrial cell starkly contrasted against the surrounding greenery. Lush foliage consumed the weathered metal and produced a dilapidated appearance. I couldn’t help but wonder what purpose the holding pen might provide. Perplexed, we cautiously turned to look at each other. At that precise moment we noticed an eerie silence radiating throughout the forest. Instead of chirping birds, rustling branches and buzzing insects, an ominous stillness engulfed us. It felt as if someone had pressed a universal mute button. Intense feelings of dread formed in the pit of my stomach.Hastily we checked the time only to realize several hours had somehow passed. Both of us felt extremely disorientated and pulled out a trusted compass for guidance. Instantaneously, the device spun erratically in every direction when attempting to relocate our main route. By this point the dreary skies completely opened and colossal raindrops started plummeting down. For a lengthy period it seemed we were merely running in muddy circles. Thankfully, the distant parking lot slowly came into view. Relief ran through my veins once I spotted the truck: we were not going to be a chapter in one of David Paulides’ latest Missing 411 installments.During my week-long expedition I searched for Skunk Ape by foot, car and boat. Although I was unable to find definitive proof of such a creature, I am more confident than ever about its existence. Take Florida’s cougar population for example. Millions of people reside here but few residents have ever set eyes on the rare felines. An animal with intelligence that parallels or surpasses humans’ could most certainly choose to remain undetected. After all, they inhabit inaccessible areas teeming with gators, poisonous snakes and deadly insects. Perhaps on a future voyage my luck may change. This quest for Swampsquatch is far from over and I hope to one day come face-to-face with these enigmatic jungle-dwellers.Do you believe in Skunk Ape or have an experience you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!