|Average length||0.5 inch|
|Place of origin||Northern Sweden, Finland and Russia|
|Locomotion||Airborne (carried by the wind)|
Burrowing (inside the host's flesh)
|Behind the Scenes|
Furia infernalis is the scientific name assigned to a deadly parasitic worm species by Carl Linnaeus, the famous 18th century naturalist who invented the modern taxonomic system for animal classification, as published in his Systema Naturae. The species is notable for "falling from the sky" upon its victims, as its tiny weight allows it to be carried by the wind.
Biology[edit | edit source]
The worm is described as a small legless creature with a thread-like body which has the same thickness from end to end. Both ends are armed with a row of sharp backward-curving spikes or bristles which it uses to pierce the skin of its victims and penetrate the flesh, provoking severe inflammation, agonizing pain and death if not treated quickly. In at least some cases, the victim dies within no more than 15 minutes. If an animal is killed by the worm, those who eat its carcass risk being infected too, which implies that the worm is capable of surviving in the digestive tract.
According to the writings of naturalists such as Reverend William Bingley, Prof. Peter S. Pallas and others, Furia infernalis is half an inch in length, flesh-colored with black extremities, and has the habit of climbing upon vegetation to be carried by the wind towards its next unfortunate victim.
|“||It creeps up the stalks of sedge-grass, and shrubs in the marshes, whence it is often carried off by the wind; and if the naked parts of the skin of any person happen to be directly in its course it immediately adheres, and buries itself within. The first sensation is said to be like that arising from the prick of a needle, this is succeeded by a violent itching of the part, soon after acute pain, a red spot and gangrene, at last an inflammatory fever, accompanied with swoonings. In the course of two days, at the farthest, death follows, unless the worm be extracted immediately, which is very difficult to be done. The Finlanders say, however, that a poultice of curds, or cheese, will allay the pain, and entice the animal out.
— William Bingley, Animal Biography (1804)
History and Pathology[edit | edit source]
To the inhabitants of the Swedish marshlands, the Furia worm is a source of great terror, as it's said to fall suddenly from the sky (being carried by the wind due to its light weight) and rapidly bury into the flesh of its victims.
The typical response of those afflicted is to feel a sudden acute sting, followed by painful inflammation of the flesh in whatever part of the body (arm, leg, hand, etc.) into which the worm has buried itself. The infection is fatal if not treated. Treatment may involve carefully applied incisions and attempts to physically remove the worm. Curiously, applying a curd poultice also seems to be an effective measure. Since the worm kills so quickly, amputation of the affected area may also be attempted as an extreme measure.
Linnaeus himself was famously attacked by this creature in 1728 (when he was 21 years old) and suffered the typical symptoms of the mysterious infection, but fortunately survived.
In 1823 it's said that the Furia worm provoked the death of over 5000 reindeer in Lapland, causing severe prejudice to the farmers. The wolves and other carnivores who fed upon the dead reindeer caught the infection and died as well. Other domestic animals such as sheep and cattle are also known to have died from it.
Cryptids in the Systema Naturae[edit | edit source]
It's well known that early editions of Linnaeus' book contained an entire section devoted to mysterious creatures which the author considered to be nothing but superstitious legend. The purpose of this section - the Animalia Paradoxa, as Linnaeus called them - was to provide an explanation on why these species weren't included in the mainstream text. Famous species classified as Animalia Paradoxa include legendary beings such as dragons, unicorns, hydras, phoenix and sirens - but also a number of species later proved to actually exist such as pelicans, the deathwatch beetle and the paradoxical shrinking frog.
The Furia worm, however, was not included in this section. It was rather classified as a real worm, belonging to class Vermes, order Intestina, and therefore a relative of horsehair worms, earthworms, roundworms, flukes, leeches, hagfish and shipworms.
By the time the Systema Naturae was revised for its 10th edition (the one currently regarded as the basis of zoological taxonomy), the Animalia Paradoxa section was no longer included. The legendary beasts thought to be non-existent were simply omitted while the existent ones (such as pelicans and shrinking frogs) were included in their respective correct classes. The genus Furia remained unchanged, classified among Vermes. It's therefore the only animal in the book whose existence remains unconfirmed.