The genus Furia is described with uniform, threadike bodies, with either end covered in backward-facing hooks that they use to embed themselves in a victim's skin. The infernalis species are grey in color, with black extremities.
Furia infernalis reside mainly in marshlands in Russia and Sweden, no further north than Finnish Lapland. The worms will climb up shrubs and sedges, and their bodies are light enough to be carried away by the wind. When the wind carries them to a suitable host, they burrow under the skin, leaving a black mark. Symptoms include inflammation, gangrene, numbness, and swelling, and if left untreated, the worm can cause death anywhere from fifteen minutes to two days. The pain they cause is so excruciating that it can drive the victim to madness.
Furia infernalis have been known to infect humans, cattle, sheep, and other animals, but are especially infamous for their infection of caribou. In 1823, Swedish Laplanders reported approximately 5,000 caribou deaths attributed to the parasites, and one man in particular claimed his herd of 500 caribou was killed off by the Furia before he could cull them himself. The wolves that ate the infected caribou also contracted the parasite, and several humans who worked with infected animals were affected as well. A ban on fur and animal trades was placed in Sweden that year to avoid the spread of the worms.
Anthropological information Edit
The reputation of Furia infernalis was previously widespread, despite its unproven existence. Remedies included rubbing a poultice of curds or cheese, which the worm would burrow out into; careful dissection of the muscles where it had entered to remove it; or even amputation of the body part it had entered.
The caribou were later discovered to suffer from a different kind of parasite, not the Furia, and no specimen of the parasite has ever been recorded. Naturalist Carl Linnaeus, who originally included the Furia infernalis in his work Systema Naturae, renounced its existence later in his life. However, it was never removed from Systema Naturae, and so remains the only creature in the entire work that remains unverified by science.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Linnaeus, Carl. Systema naturae per regna tria naturae :secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis, Holmiae : Impensis Direct (1759). Pg 647.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Brooke, Sir Arthur de Capelle. A Winter in Lapland and Sweden, John Murray (1827). Pg 94-100.