Friday, August 22, 2014

Supernatural Friday: Talking About Worms--the Monstrous Kind

I am not talking about the kind you put your fishing hook, or the kind that you might find in your cat or dog. No, these worms are terrifying and monstrous. The old English form of the word worm (or wyrm) refers to a humongous snake or dragon. Like the Lambton Worm from the northeastern part of England.

Lambton Wrym: This gigantic worm terrorized the above mentioned region in medieval times. The story goes, that John Lambton, heir of the Lambton estate in County Durham, decided to go fishing one Sunday morning. He had been warned by a mysterious old man that no good could come of skipping church. But the young man ignored the advice and went fishing anyway. He had no success in catching anything out of the Wear River, then he pulls in a strange fish. The eel-like creature had the head of a salamander and nine holes on each side of its skull. Lambton said he’d caught "the devil." On the advice of the old man, he decides not to return it to the river. Instead, he throws it down a well.

When Lambton became a man, he went off to fight in the Crusades. All this time though, the creature thrived underground and had grown to an immense size inside the well, poisoning the water and when it emerged, it started to terrorize the land by eating livestock, along with the occasional village child. It approached Lambton Manor, where John's father manages to placate it on a daily basis by filling a stone trough outside the building with fresh milk for it to drink. In between assaults on the surrounding countryside, the creature relaxes by wrapping itself around the base of a hill.

Various villagers and knights try to slay the monster, but discovered that slicing off sections of the worm is ineffective as the creature seems to be able to reattach lost parts without much permanent damage (or more likely grew the part back like a lizard?). The worm also would catch some of the foolhardy in its coils and slowly squeezed that person to death (like a boa constrictor or python?).

Young John came home from the Crusades to find his father's land in ruin from the worm. He vows to destroy the creature and seeks the aid of a local witch. The witch tells him that he is responsible for the worm's existence by his actions as a boy. The witch’s' advice is to go to the local blacksmith and have his armor covered with razor-sharp spear points. Then he must find the worm as it lay wrapped around a great rock down by the river to fight it. She warns Lambton that if he is successful in his quest, he will be required to kill the first living thing he sees after his victory, or the Lambton family will be cursed for nine generations with no heir dying peacefully in his bed.

Brave Sir John takes her suggestions to heart and they prove to be the keys he needs to defeat the beast. When the animal gets a hold of him in its coils, it cannot squeeze him to death as the spear points on his armor drive into the creature's body. Because he is fighting the worm at the edge of the Wear River, any parts cut off fall off into the water and are swept downstream, so the beast cannot heal itself by reattaching/ The monster is killed.  It has been arranged that at his bugle signal, one of his hunting hounds will be released. It will run to him and John will slay it to save his family from the curse. Unfortunately, John's father forgets about the signal and runs out himself to greet his son after the victory. John does not have the heart to kill his father and the family is cursed for nine generations.

Also, did nine generations of Lambtons die violent deaths? Some of them may have. Given that the Lambtons were involved in such actions as the English Civil War, however, a premature end to their lives doesn't seem all that unlikely. The curse may also have been self-fulfilling: It is said that by the ninth generation one Lambton slept with a horse whip by his bedside to defend himself in fear that his servants might take actions to make the curse come true.

There’s a song about the myth: one might like to listen to.  

The Mongolian Death Worm: This cryptid has gained status in the past 90 years. It is alleged to exist in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia. The creature is believed to exist by traditional inhabitants of the area. An expedition in the 1920s was sent out to try and discover and capture one of these beasts. The expedition met with failure.

It is described as a red worm ranging from two to five feet in length, with a thick body. It can kill at a distance, spewing acid, poison, or causing an electric shock. Biologists who have studied the area cannot find an indigenous animal to equate the myth with this creature..

The Minhoc√£o: This means "big earthworm" in Portuguese. This giant subterranean worm-like cryptid inhabits the earth beneath South American forests. Though enormous earth worms, there are reports of them also being aquatic. There is a type of tentacle like appendage that protrudes from the head and it has been reported to prey on large mammals, namely cattle, capturing them from below the water where the bovines came to drink. Its body length can vary in size, from seventy-five to a hundred and fifty feet, and it also is known for the enormous tunnels it leaves behind. These tunnels suggest a diameter of up to ten feet. Buildings collapsing into the earth have been blamed on the tunnels left by this creature. These tunnels can sometimes flood and created subterranean water bodies. The Minhocao is featured in the game "Final Fantasy" as a "sand worm."

Unlike their mythological cousins, there are giant earthworms that actually exist and are not dragon or snakes.  They live in Australia, Japan and South America. The giant Gippsland earth worm is found only in the Bass River valley of South Gippsland in Victoria, Australia. These huge worms regularly reach sizes of 10 feet. The longest specimen on record was measured at 14 feet long. These rare earthworms are so large that it is possible to hear the gurgling sound of their movement through the earth when they are disturbed.

In New Zealand, there is another large worm known as the North Auckland worm that reaches a length of 4.5 feet. These worms have the added surprising, some might even say creepy, feature of glowing in the dark. By some accounts, the light the worms emit is said to be bright enough to read by.

Tales of enormous earthworms surface from time to time in various areas of Japan. One such account is Hyogo prefecture, on Honshu Island, which has many historical accounts of worms at five feet long. One tale comes from the year 1712, in what was then known as Tamba province (now part of Hyogo). A huge landslide occurred in a village, after which two giant earthworms were found in the debris. One of these worms measured five feet in length. The other was larger, at ten feet long. Another landslide that occurred in the same general vicinity allegedly unearthed a long worm around fifteen feet. A more modern report from Mikata-gun, which is located in the mountains of Hyogo prefecture, dates from 1996 when a farmer uncovered an earthworm 3.3 feet long and 0.8 inches thick while planting a tree on his rural property. It was the first time the surprised farmer had ever encountered such a large worm in all his years in the area. 

Giant worms have been reported from other parts of Japan as well. In Okayama, one woman said she had seen a worm ten feet long in a field that was being tilled. The worm had apparently been disturbed by the farming activity. Another farmer in the same area brought up a still thrashing piece of a worm that had been hacked off during farm work. The piece is estimated to have come from a worm up to 13 feet long. The rest of the worm could not be located.
Another of the largest known species is the South African giant worm that normally grow to around six feet long, but there is evidence that they maybe larger. In 1967, a South African worm was found by the side of a road in William’s Town, measuring at an incredible twenty-two feet in length, though its diameter was still only around 2 cm. This remains the longest earthworm ever confirmed.

So, the next time you start digging in your garden, take care. That earthworm you unearthed, may not be as small as you think. And it just might be hungry for human flesh!


Brian Crim said...

Loved this blog. I am reminded of the Stoker tale, "The Lair of the White Worm".

Pamela K. Kinney said...

I remember that too, Brian Crim.