Picture this: You’re out in the woods on a fair autumn afternoon when you’re stopped in your tracks by the horrific sight of the devil’s fingers emerging from the earth. Your mind flashes back to that day in third grade when you stole Jimmy Patterson’s lunch and blamed Amy Johnson for it. The devil has finally come to take you back with him.
As the fingers come out of the earth, they seem as if they’re looking for you. They get closer and closer until they, suddenly and with seeming pain, deflate, leaving behind the putrid smell of rotting flesh. You’ve been saved from damnation—or you’ve simply encountered one of the world’s most visually horrifying fungi.
This time-lapse video, shot by Belgian photographer Kris Van de Sande, captures this exact scenario by following the hatching and maturity processes of the devil’s fingers (Clathrus archeri). Also known as octopus stinkhorn, this fungus is unique in its shape. It hatches from an egg-like stage and develops four to eight arms which move freely. Its reddish inner skin is dotted with black spores and exudes a horrid smell that’ll make you feel as if you’re in a horror movie.
In real time, the devil’s fingers life cycle takes place over several hours. But with this time-lapse version available, why prolong the horror?
This story was updated, with minor edits, on October 13, 2020.