The novel is in part inspired by the legend of the Lambton Worm. In the folklore, John Lambton, heir to Lambton Estate, did battle with a giant worm (or dragon; dragons are sometime called worms in folklore). The worm in question was eel-or-lamprey-like, with nine holes on either side of its slimy head. After his fight, Lambton discards the worm in a nearby well. Similarly, in The Lair of the White Worm, the worm in question lives in pit on an estate. The worm is used to dispose of murdered or killed people; once a body is thrown to it, it eats it up.
Released in 1911, The Lair of the White Worm had a highly abridged re-release in 1925. The re-release cut the book by 100 pages and 12 chapters.