Lake Placid Snot Monster Is Gross, Mysterious

At 6:30 a.m. on July 3, two friends of mine were taking a pre-work hike on a trail near Henry’s Woods, in Lake Placid. They saw what they thought was a piece of cloth lying on the trail. As they got closer they could see that the object glistened—like a big ropey moose snot, one of them said. Then it moved.

In the front were multiple “heads,” or feelers, that reached out and probed the duff. The “body” crawled behind. As my friends looked even closer, the unsettling thing appeared to be not a single organism but a snakelike mass of thousands of slimy, silvery little worms.

One of them shot the above video. They showed me the hellbeast on their phone last weekend, and we tried to solve the mystery. The woods were wet and shady, primarily beech and maple, on a north-facing slope—typical Adirondack cover. Still, this did not resemble any animal, vegetable or fungus I’ve ever seen or heard of. So we forwarded the images to Ezra Schwartzberg, an entomologist based in Saranac Lake.

As Ezra began to dig into the scientific literature, my husband Googled worms moving together and came up with this link. He thought the creature(s) must be fungus gnat larvae (Sciara militaris). Ezra consulted with another entomologist, Phil Pellitteri at University of Wisconsin, and confirmed the I.D. 

The fly can apparently damage some plants but is mostly harmless. It’s not entirely clear why the larvae move in this way. Whatever the reason, it’s horrifying.