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Ice Worms ~ Tall tale or real? : Articles & Resources

In 1898, E.J. "Stroller" White, a young journalist struggling to increase sales of the paper The Klondike Nugget (1898-1903) reported the discovery of a new bizaare creature - ice worms!

Sales of the paper soared as White continued to write about these creatures that not only became the talk of the town, but also the interest of scientists. Bartenders in town began serving 'Ice Worm Cocktails' and especially loved to trick newcomers by pulling a long worm (a piece of spagetti) from a piece of ice and dropping it in the drink.

Robert Service propagated the legend by mentioning ice worms in several of his ballads, but especially The Ballad of the Ice-Worm Cocktail

icewormIce worms are, in fact, real, but are nothing like the ones described by Stroller and Robert Service.

You can check these links to read more about ice worms.

Exploring the Mystery of Glacier Ice Worms

The Legend

This article by White appeared in the Whitehorse Star on March 8, 1907. 

The ice worm differs in appearance and habits from a fish worm, a ring worm or a tape worm; also from a worm fence or the worm of a moonshine still. It incubates only when the temperature reaches 75 degrees Fahrenheit, below zero. It grows very rapidly and has been known to attain a length of three and a half feet in 20 days.

When the temperature moderates to 50 below, the ice worm experiences a "gone" sort of the-morning-of-the-5th-of-July feeling and at 45 below it staggers up to the ropes and announces that it is of no use to continue the go.

At from 68 to 88 below zero the ice worm is fat, juicy and succulent and tastes not unlike the Saddlerock oysters they used to drive overland from Baltimore to chicago.

The chirp of the ice worm is not made with the mouth but from a whistle on its tail. The head end is always too busy to engage in vocal exercise, being constantly at work boring more house room in the solid ice in order that it may have room for growth and expansion.

The Sourest of all Doughs once informed the Stroller that he and his native wife, Limpin' Grouse, were accustomed to dry ice worms and makes a soup of them following mild winters when the temperature did not drop to exceed 60 or 65 below zero.

He said dried ice worms were vastly superior to stuff shipped into the country during the first years of the mining excitement and labeled "Specially Prepared for the Klondike."

Some years ago and while at Dawson, the Stroller received a request from London to forward a sample of the Yukon ice worm by express but the express company refused to accept the shipment on the grounds that the worms might become remains and develop too much strength before reaching their destination.

Incidentally, Mr. Abbe, you might mention in your dictionary that ice worms flourish best and that the tail whistle concert is loudest and most harmonious when the ice is covered with from three to five inches of blue snow.

Dictated by E.J.W. Typewritten by Ann JonesSource