How I Lost Cred with a First-Grader

It was a school visit in Maine. I had just spent a hour telling a roomful of elementary-aged students everything I knew about earthworms and worm farming. As I watched the kids file out of the cafetorium, two boys of about 7 years of age approached me.

“Have you heard of the Mongolian Death Worm?” one asked abruptly.

“N-n-no, I don’t think so,” I replied, searching my rather unreliable gray matter database for any archived information on the species.

“It’s huge!” said the boy. “Like, ten feet long.”

“And it spits acid!” said the other boy. “And gives electric shocks!”

“Cool!” I said. “I’ll have to look it up when I get home.”

As they headed off to catch up with their class, I heard the first boy say to his friend, “I can’t believe she never heard of it.”

Whoa. I let him down, I thought. With all the worm research I’d done, how could I not know about such an amazing and deadly creature?

So I looked it up later. I learned all I could about the Mongolian Death Worm, and I learned a new word:

cryp·to·zo·ol·o·gy [krip-toh-zoh-ol-uh-jee]
the study of evidence tending to substantiate the existence of, or the search for, creatures whose reported existence is unproved, as the Abominable Snowman or the Loch Ness monster.


The short version is, there is no such thing. It’s a Gobi Desert legend, like the New Jersey Devil or Nessie. Not real. Or maybe it’s real, but not an earthworm. More like a skink or venomous snake and therefore beyond the scope of my annelid research. So there.

I hope it’s not real because it’s scary lethal–and not very photogenic.

Spend two minutes with the Mongolian Death Worm on Animal Planet (video)

Above images from Cryptidz.wikia and Non-alien creatures.wikia

There was a 2010 horror movie featuring it that is rated 3.4 stars out of 10 on imdb. Missed that. Yay.

In an odd twist, a similar-looking creature plays a part in fellow author A.J. Paquette’s novel Paradox!

Skeptoid Here’s where I learned a skeptic’s point of view about the legend. Also learned that the Mongolian language is written using the Cyrillic alphabet. Who knew?

Conclusion: There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy. Or not.


Grover’s Mill, New Jersey!

The marker is bigger than I thought!

The marker is bigger than I thought!

Grover’s Mill! Yeah, I went there, 75 years later. There’s a park and a plaque, and signs along a path with background info about Orson Welles and the panic broadcast of 1938, all on the exact spot where the Martians were said to have landed!

Grovers Pond is adjacent.

Grovers Pond is adjacent.


The War of the Worlds–Seventy-five Years Later

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has produced a show about that fateful night when young actor/director Orson Welles’s radio production of H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds sent so many people into a panic. AND IT’S ON TONIGHT AT 9:00pm, or 8:00pm Central where I live!

worlds_film_landing-nologo.jpgWill you watch with me?

Here’s a very tiny snip:

Should I point out that the actual anniversary is tomorrow, not today? Nah.