In 1959, Colonel Remy Van Lierde of the Belgian Royal Air Force was on helicopter patrol. He had flown in over 400 missions, his eyes trained to spot friend and foe below. That skillset that would help him with the ensuing ordeal over the Katanga region of the Congo, for what he saw next shocked him and his copilot: A truly gargantuan snake, estimated by his account to be over 50 feet in length.
This measurement would easily have made it the largest snake alive on Earth, dwarfing today's titans of the slithering world, like the green anaconda and the reticulated python. Green anacondas average around 15 feet in length; reticulated pythons, meanwhile, have been known to regularly stretch beyond 20 feet, according to the Natural History Museum in London.
But experts are less convinced. Is this Congo cryptid really on the frontiers of science, or merely a wartime illusion?
According to experts, there's no scientific evidence that a 50-foot snake exists. Still, Van Lierde's wild story — which continues to circulate on podcasts and internet forums today — captures our collective fascination with the biggest snakes who ever lived.