Episode 121: Uninvited Guest

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

Before we start i wanted to give you a quick reminder about this. Year's live tour which kicked off this summer chattan. I had a blast bringing lor two stages on the west coast but there are so many more shows on the way this september will be performing in five more cities austin atlanta chicago madison and minneapolis plus. Each venue has a small number of v._i._p. Tickets available which come with a limited edition lapel pin tour poster and priority access to the meet and greet line after each show grab your tickets before they sell out head over to lord podcast dot com slash tour and i can't wait to see you later this year and now on the show <music> <music>. The autopsy began at eleven a._m. But it didn't go according to plan the crown of students who had filled the medical theater were there to learn what they could from the subject on the table table but the work turned out to be more complicated than the lecturers had expected for the longest time the dead man's chest refused to give way to scalpel blades finally though shortly before the lecture was scheduled to end one of the medical instructors manage to cut through the corpses abdomen but when he did he signed with frustration it was just one more example of the same condition they had seen so many times before a sandy diaphragm ram the classroom emptied. All of the students had decided that lunch was a better use of their time and migrated out of the room when the theater was empty one student silently crept back inside his name was james paget in like all the other students he attended saint bartholomew's is in london because he wished to become a physician but he was also a bit more curious than most of them sneaking down to the corpse on the table he he carefully took a sample of the infected tissue that his instructor had called sandy diaphragm then pulling out a hand lens he gave the sample closer look and then con has breath there was more to the tissue sample than the small crystal like grains that earned the condition its name paget would later later go on to use a more powerful microscope and then right up his findings in a paper which he presented to a student group in february of eighteen thirty five sadly when he was beat to the finish line by one of his professors who discovered what paget was researching and then used his official connections to have his own paper submitted the royal society james paget's curiosity might have started the race but he lost because he didn't know the shortcuts what he discovered though confirms something that few of us are ready to accept. We like to imagine that we live in a bubble that our bodies are safe and clean and free from harm but if there's one thing that james paget's and others over the centuries have learned it's that we are far from the masters of our our own domain. We are in fact constantly at risk a heartbeat away from losing control vulnerable to a chance encounter that could threaten our wellbeing all being our comforts or our very lives. It's a threat that has taken the lives of countless people over the course of history and while some have made their life's work to study it most have been woefully unprepared for just how insidious it can be. We'll never see it coming but the effects have the potential to be absolutely devastating. I'm erin monkey and this is <hes> <music> <music> in the world of the ancient greeks one of the most important places in society where the temples they were places of worship and sacrifice build with those who came to pay their respects and those who worked within them to help make sure everything ran smoothly. There were priests as you might expect but there were also assistance known as acolytes who helped them do their job and one of the things we've learned about acolytes is that they weren't necessarily paid for their work instead. They were allowed to earn a living through a barter system in exchange for regular meals and place to stay. They showed up and perform their jobs. They lived off the system so to speak and that earned them another name peres sita's which literally means eating at another table in the millennia sense that term has trickled down to us from greek to latin and then to the french finally giving us a word. We've all heard before parasites today. That word has a bit of an unhappy connotation and for good the reason but back in the days of the ancient greeks it was originally a neutral term these acolytes metaphorically eight from another person's table in order to support it themselves and that was a normal and accepted part of temple life but around the fourth century b._c. That started to change the writers of a number number of greek comedies began to use the term in their place to refer to dinner guests who turned out to be a bit too difficult to kick out freeloaders we might say and the connotation stuck but etymology assign cultures around the world have been aware of parasitic relationships for thousands of years and in many cases they've treated them with respect in ancient china the relationship between a master and a student was often represented by the image of a wasp and the worm room in the literature of india that same respect can be found through positive use of the parasite and host metaphor then they built those metaphors by watching watching the world around them modern historians have studied ancient egyptian documents that describe intestinal worms and roman physicians recorded observing observing similar creatures inside farm animals and fish even though they had yet to be bundled under the modern term of parasites people have known about them for a very long long time and have studied and labeled them like any other creature for nearly as long but the real scientific exploration began when people i started to study how parasites spread for a very long time everyone subscribed to a theory known as spontaneous generation it was an idea put forward by aristotle's and his followers to explain where lower life forms came from humans and animals are born through reproduction but less complex life he suggested simply arose spontaneously for a very long while that theory was applied to parasites creatures like worms and bugs seem to thrive been a wet muddy environments so naturally they must spontaneously appear there but in eighteen thirty two french scientists discover that parasitic worms i actually lay eggs and most horrifying of all that ingesting those eggs can cause someone to become infected. Naturally there were <hes> brave scientists who wanted to put that idea to the test the italian scientist giovanni battista grassi infected himself with roundworms james and then studied his own feces days later looking for new eggs. Which of course he found and i know that sounds disgusting but he's far from the worst i defender in medical history that prize could very well belong to shimizu keough he was a japanese physician and scientist has to conducted his own experiment in nineteen twenty two by eating over two thousand roundworm eggs then he gathered hundreds of eggs from parasite he found inside a pig and fed those to his brother and while half of me wants to know how the other half of me just wants to stop thinking about it. Entirely what's fascinating about kino's work though is that when the eggs began to reappear it wasn't just in his feces both he and his brother developed bad coughs and they found parasites in the mucus that was expelled from their lungs. The worms had burrowed out of their digestive system and into their lungs which is horrifying yes but it also widened our understanding of how these creatures work but even that simple idea that someone needed to ingest the eggs of a parasite in order to become infected was eventually thrown out the door in eighteen ninety six german scientists named arthur loose was managing managing his own experiment when he became infected even after being careful not to eat his subjects it turns out his infection happened in a much more frightening way hi touch his parasite of choice happened to be the hookworm and after accidentally brushing his hand over part of the sample he developed an intense pitch in that hand the hookworm said latched on drilled in and then began to burrow into his body as a scientist. I'm sure he was absolutely the fascinated as a human being though i can't help but wonder if he screamed even just a little one last story about these wonderful a little hookworms the discovery that loose made was terrifying yes but it provided answers to an age old medical mystery for a very long time miners and laborers in the construction industry who spent a lot of time in the mud and soil would sometimes develop what was referred to as plumbers each or tunnel disease red had issued lines that grew just below the surface of their skin. It's probably safe to assume that it was called tunnel disease because of where they contract it but there's there's also a bit of irony there because what was happening was literal tunneling you see some forms of hookworms can't burrow from the skin to the digestive system get trapped just below the surface in sort of dig their way along leaving those red infected tunnels behind them clinically it all makes sense since and giving it names like ground itch or tunnel disease certainly helps remove the mystery. There's one other name for the infection that masterfully captures the full horror of the symptoms also hinting at something darker and more terrifying they called it the creeping gene eruption uh it's one thing to know that parasites exist we can accept that and even find a way to move forward but we're the true darkness creeps in is when we realized just how devastating they can be and we can thank one of the students of arthur loose for showing us that charles wardwell styles tells wasn't german like his mentor he was born in spring valley new york in eighteen sixty seven and after studying with loose at the university of leipzig he returned to to america to continue his work in the field of parasitology and it was just a few years after that in nineteen to that he applied his skills to a civil war mystery andersonville georgia was home to the largest confederate prison camp ever created at its peak in eighteen sixty four it had become home to over forty five thousand people and nearly a third of them died as a result of the horrible conditions. Just how bad was it honestly. It's a miracle that that more of them didn't die. Prisoners weren't given enough food. So many of them starved or became. Ill they were never given new clothing so they would either take clothing being from the dead or be left to suffer through cold weather with little to no clothing at all they weren't allowed to cook the food that they did have and with no utensils they often then had to eat with their hands in camp with no sanitation constant rain and mud in weakened immune systems that was a recipe for disaster before the war was over the confederates sent in experts in infectious disease to figure out what was killing so many of the prisoners after months of study eddie and countless postmortem examinations he concluded that it was score buick dysentery but for a very long time that conclusion didn't sit well with others in in the medical world charles styles brought his newfound knowledge of parasitology to bear on andersonville and reexamined the evidence in the end he rejected the dysentery diagnosis and instead claimed that many of the deaths and anderson could be blamed on the hookworm which is horrifying to consider while these prisoners noor as we're fighting for enough nutrition to survive there were colonies of hungary parasites thriving inside their gut a short while later the north american hookworm was recognized as a serious health threats and given the scientific name for americans most though simply called it the american and killer but hookworms aren't the only parasite with a history in the new world and over the years styles would identify many of them. There are so many parasites that i can tell you about on the surface all of them acting pretty much the same way a parasites invades a host and then eats at their table so so to speak and if that's the metaphor you wanna walk away with it'll do a good job of encapsulating much of the parasite world but there are other more insidious insidious versions as well just about. Everyone knows what a barnacle is right technically. It's an arthropods an invertebrate. That has an exoskeleton insects. Spiders shrimp and lobster are all arthropods then so are barnacles. You've seen them before. They tend to look like crusty. Rusty hockey pucks that cling to the rocks just below the surface of the ocean or on the hall of a ship. They can even be found on wales. Got it good because there is a particular type of barnacle known as the rizal failure and it's different from most of its peers. It has no hard shell and it doesn't look anything like them. Either instead it has adapted to be a parasite and what it does is utterly horrifying. The rizal failure will l. attach itself to a crab in a very barnacle like way but that's where the similarity stop after that it begins to grow route like filaments that spread throughout the crabs body slowly taking control in the end the barnacle will not only control the crabs brain but also its reproductive system guiding it to meet with another infected crap which of course produces more rizal phalia the frightening thing is that once the barnacle has taken control the the crab will forever think of itself as a female barnacle and it will care for the barnacles eggs as if they were its own it's the natural world's version of the alien and from the ridley scott movie franchise infecting a host body and using it to just date its own offspring which then dramatically burst out of course and it's also the darker side of the coin in most instances people have viewed them in a simple transactional way there's parasites and there's a host and everything thing that happens is contained within the intimate relationship that they have with each other while still retaining their own identity but the rizal failure breaks that idea and replaces it with something much more complex and dangerous because it's not just our bodies that are at risk but the very world we live in parasites. Let's have the power to change lives destroy communities or transform cultures and given the right circumstances they can even alter the course of history <music> <music> henry didn't get a fair started started life born in wales in eighteen forty one his mother abandoned him and his father and grandfather both died before he was five but after a decade in the workhouse he escaped and traveled to america where he planned to start a new life. The next decade was a blur he fought for the confederates in the civil war but was captured and sent to a prison camp in chicago there he converted to the union side but was soon discharged after he became too sick to fight in eighteen sixty four he managed to join up with the us navy quickly working his way to the position of ships record keeper and it was there that he learned that he had a talent for recording stories stories in fact he was better than good. When the war was over he spent a brief amount of time traveling through the ottoman empire but when he returned he took up the pen hanan began to write tales of the american west his accounts of federal military attacks on the native americans of the great plains might have been over hyped and glorified but they landed ended him a writing gig at the new york herald as an overseas correspondent in eighteen sixty nine fate came knocking on his door. It was the owner owner of the newspaper and he had a mission for young henry stanley the travel to africa and search for dr david livingstone he was a british missionary and explorer or who had set off three years earlier to find the true source of the nile but much of the world believed he had vanished the truth was the british consul in zanzibar knew exactly where or he was and stanley's boss wanted him to get an exclusive interview culmination of that journey is well known even if you don't know the details stanley made his way south from egypt through the rainy season between the mud disease and small skirmishes with locals defending their land roughly seventy five percent of stanley's party he died before reaching their destination but when they did and stanley saw livingstone for the first time he claimed uttered that now famous question dr livingstone livingstone. I presume today. It's clear to historians that stanley was a gifted liar who was prone to crafting his own fantastical version of real life. Ifa vents livingstone never recorded that phrase of greeting in stanley mysteriously destroyed the pages of his diary that covered that day so we only have his word to back it up in fact. The chances are good. It never happened at all but his retelling of their real meeting was enough to convince the new york herald to send stanley back to africa africa in eighteen seventy four the mission. This time was to map more of the waterways that livingstone had started and so stanley spent three years following the congo ongo river all the way to the atlantic and then he headed to europe to find a financial backer to continue selling it as an investment into the politics of the congo after england ignore the offer king leopold the second of belgium jumped at the chance for the next five years stanley became the chief agent responsible for for organizing what would become one of the world's most brutal imperial outposts of european power the belgian congo and sadly he was a horrible representative of europe to the people of africa through the eighteen eighties and nineties stanley criss crossed back and forth across africa creating a highway that allowed imperial troops to easily march in and take control he was less than agent of progress and more a harbinger of colonialism it said that stanley would shoot local people without warning and that he had a knack for stealing ivory and olive. It made him a superstar back in england. He'd come full circle lived out everyone's dreams after starting life as an orphan in a workhouse in wales he found himself being welcomed home to reception at london's royal albert hall royalty aristocrats and members of the wealthy elites all crowded around to shake his hand and congratulate him. I'm on his accomplishments. There was fan mail and awards and magazine covers and of course the book deal which turned into a national bestseller in eighteen eighteen ninety five he was elected to the british parliament and four years later he was knighted by queen victoria herself and that's the story of henry stanley or at least the one that history remembers the most but stanley's journey across africa did more than earned him medals and applause. You left a trail of destruction an catastrophe in his wake that is almost impossible to quantify and at the center of much of it was something we would only be able to see under a microscope stanley's highway across africa opened the way for imperial troops to march in and take control it provided an easy route for slavers to go deeper into the the continent and steal human beings from new native groups but it also spread something that had remained isolated until his arrival the trypanosomiasis recites sites the symptoms caused by its infection earned the nickname the sleeping sickness patients i experienced fever and headaches as well as swollen lymph lymph nodes and internal organs like the liver and spleen then the parasite crosses into the brain bringing on mental confusion and overwhelming sleepiness after the patient falls into a coma death is close behind for much of the eighteen hundreds that parasite was trapped in pockets along the coast of western western africa sure folks would get sick but because they rarely travelled outside their small regions the parasite never migrated that is of course until stanley arrived to blaze an easy accessible highway from the atlantic ocean to the interior of africa. You can see where this is going right. Stanley arrived with over seven hundred soldiers and servants and early on they unknowingly encountered the parasites then as they traveled from place to place. They infected the inhabitants of each new community. They met over and over the parasite found new hosts spreading like wildfire with stanley ed holding the match. It wouldn't be until nineteen o three that a microbiologist named david bruce discovered the carrier of the parasite abiding insect called all the seat see fly today. Historians believe that the wave of sleeping sickness that followed stanley's wake contributed to an outbreak that took the lives of millions of people across across africa just in the area around lake victoria alone the parasite was responsible for nearly a quarter of a million deaths which has caused some to talk talk about it within the framework of what's referred to as the revenge of nature that the world around us has a way of keeping humanity in check after all all humans have a history of damaging ecosystems and altering the very landscape of the places we live. Some people believe that parasites are one in way the world exacts revenge true or not. It's certainly invites us to stop and think about the consequences of our actions because sometimes it seems the world around us bites back <music> <music> <music>. There's a hidden world inside each of us a world of organs and systems and the careful balance lintz between sickness and health. We can't see much of it with our naked eyes but it's there just beneath the surface one good example apple is a parasite called taco plasma gandhi which can be ingested through contaminated drinking water. It's primarily carried by cats but can also live inside inside human beings and according to most parapsychologists over half of all people on the planet carry them usually without symptoms or at least the sort sort of symptoms you might expect but one study from two thousand seven hints at a darker impact. It seems that the presence of the parasite can and actually have an effect on our behavior over the course of this eleven year study jaroslav pfleger discovered that people infected by the parasite behave differently differently from those who aren't men who are infected apparently tend to ignore rules more often and exhibit jealousy and suspicion they tend to be more opinionated opinionated and argumentative about those opinions infected women share that same suspicion and anxiety but also become more outgoing and persistent assistant take from that whatever you want but it's clear that parasites can alter our minds just as well as they do our bodies and maybe maybe that's why parasites are so frightening to us yes the things they can do are horrifying to consider the disease and damage that they can cause but it's there near invisibility that frightens us the most. We might not know that we've been invaded until it's too late and by the time we know there's work to do that. Work has already become overwhelmingly difficult looking back on history. It's that gap between infection and awareness that holds the most opportunity opportunity for tragedy. We certainly saw that in henry stanley's tale it could take weeks for an infected member of his party to show any symptoms at all and by then and fly from each new region had taken a bite picked up the parasites and moved it onto someone else by the time they knew it was too late still even though they were unaware of their role in the spread of the sleeping sickness stanley and his european backers were more than happy to treat the outbreak break as an invitation to keep going in fact they use the medical emergency as a convenient excuse to ramp up their colonial efforts. The gop people sick then flooded in under the pretense of helping them get better which only continue the cycle. It's a perfect demonstration of how powerful parasites it's can be. They invade a host these on its resources and then leave them too weak to stop the infection from spreading. They've taken control long before the host knows what has happened in can take extraordinary effort to flush them out in the end. I suppose henry stanley's tail has taught us a difficult difficult lesson to accept. Not all parasites are microscopic stories of curious scientists and colonial explorers seem like a logical place to find parasites hiding in the corners until the time is right. I get that and they certainly given us a lot to think about but i have one more story for you and it's a lot closer to home. Maybe to close stick around after this short sponsor break and i'll tell you all about it. This episode of was made possible by casper five years ago. Casper asper revolutionized the mattress industry make it easier than ever to buy a premium foam mattress and today they're building on that legacy with a new line of mattresses that combine the best of both worlds introducing the hybrid collection casper's new hybrid mattress combines the pressure relief of their award winning foam with durable yet gentle springs it offers the best of both worlds luxuriance comforts and resilient support and after sleeping on the new hybrid. I can confirm they've done it. They've taken a winner and they've leveled it up to something. More benefits fits the hybrid collection include increased airflow for cooling advanced edge support elevated lift support and durability for all body types and even though it has springs these mattresses. There's still arrive right on your doorstep. Inside a magically small box you can be sure of your purchase with casper is one hundred nights risk free sleep on trial. If you don't love it they'll pick it up for free and refund. I do everything they even have free shipping in the u._s. And canada start sleeping ahead of the curve with casper get one hundred dollars toward select mattresses by visiting casper dot com slash lor four and using the promo code laura at checkout terms and conditions apply. That's casper dot com slash lor offer code lore. This episode was also made possible. The great courses plus the great courses plus offers limited monthly access to thousands of lectures in virtually any category all taught by some of the world's leading professors and experts explore for everything from gardening and painting to writing fiction and photography and it's easy to just pick a course and then watch it on any device anytime anywhere right now on listening to a course called the real history of secret societies created in partnership with history network. This is an amazing deep dive into secret societies orders brotherhoods that have played covert but major roles throughout history groups like the knights templar the illuminate the black dragons and so many more start learning with with the great courses plus today and right now. They're giving our listeners. A special limited time offer a free month of unlimited access but the only way to get this offer is by signing up through my i special u._r._l. Just visit the great courses plus dot com slash lor today create an account and then pick your first course start learning on your own terms. That's the great courses plus dot com slash lor and finally this episode was made possible by fracture fracture wants to change the way you think about printing in your photos forever instead of printing on photo paper fracture prints directly onto glass turning your favorite photographs into works of art fractures are so minimal that they look good in any any decor and ordering one is just as simple upload. Your image placed the order and a few days later you'll have everything you need to display that piece of art including a wall hanger and if you ordered a small or medium print also get this really cool stand for shell for a desk in fractures may great gifts to and they're made right here in america inside a green and modern earn carbon-neutral factory so you can feel good about what you're buying and they're absolutely gorgeous. I know this because i've got one of their prince sitting on a shelf right here by my desk and i love it. I think you will too right now. Listeners can save fifteen percent off your first order by visiting fracture me dot com slash lor and using the offer code laura one five when you do. They're going to ask you how you heard about fracture so don't forget to tell them that lor sent you enjoy that fifteen percent off your first order today. That's fracture me dot com slash lor four offer code laura one five <music> <hes>. We don't know her real name in most articles about her. She's listed as simply a woman from ontario. Although at least one scholarly paper has given her the pseudonym edith beckett's but it's her story that's important and i don't want to skip it just because we can't name her. I'm sure you'll understand edith. Breath was a woman who lived in ontario canada in the middle of the nineteen hundreds and one day in one thousand nine hundred forty two. She did what a lot of people do. She went grocery shopping for her. Though this particular trip to the store was just a walk down the streets were a peddler was selling sausages think new york city hotdog vendor but uncooked uncooked. I imagine she did this because it was convenient. Maybe the closest butcher was too far out of her accessibility. Perhaps she only had a few minutes to to grab something before work. We don't know her specific situation but that's okay. The important thing is that we know who she purchased the sausages from it turns out. The peddler made it himself. He bought the pork from a meat packing facility in town and then used his own grinder in tools to finish the job. I don't know oh if he always sold his own sausages from one location all the time or if he traveled around town ringing a bell like some sort of a weird meat-based ice cream man but but on that particular day he was there to sell some of his product edith she took them home of course later got them out to cook up for lunch. Her family family was waiting and it had been a long day but she probably had done this. One hundred times before she knew the recipe by heart all she really needed to do is taste it to know if if the seasoning was right chapter small piece into her mouth and nodded just a few more minutes and it would be ready or family aided up to the court documents specifically state that they enjoyed it which i'm sure was a good thing but within a few hours edith wasn't feeling well just edith no one else she was feverish and sweaty after struggling with nausea for an hour or so she began to vomit violently and then there was the diarrhea as well or stomach felt as if a hot iron had been dropped inside it of course there was probably a moment when edith assumed it was food food poisoning but one look at her family who had all eaten the same meal as her told her that couldn't be the case they were fine while she was in agony any and it only got worse from there by the end of the week. Nothing had changed. She was still experiencing all the same extreme symptoms that had plagued her since the the beginning or fever spiked and her body aches so badly that she could barely get out of bed and soon after her heartbeat began to weaken edith was dying and no one could figure out why but we know why don't we that very same parasite that james paget had studied at saint bartholomew palamu back in eighteen thirty five known today as trike analysis by rallies had hitched a ride inside edith's body it turns out that it was probably that little taste she took before the sausage was fully cooked because inside one gram of infected meat can be more than thousand track annella larvae just waiting for a new home once inside the parasite will invade the small intestine and from there it will spread outward the muscles quickly become home to a small colonies known as nurse cells sort of like swollen cyst filled with fluid and those cysts grow larger and stronger as time goes by eventually giving birth to new larvae repeating the process. The good news is edith survived. I don't know how but i guess that she managed to get medical help and time and that's a good thing. Don't get me wrong but there's no silver lining here. Edith's health would never be the same like an old tree that's been gutted by infestations or body continued to suffer from digestive issues for the rest of her life and that's not all it turns out that even though the adult try cannella might die off eventually those nurse cells don't waiting inside them or thousands of dormant larvae just waiting for their current host to die okay so that they can infect a new one in those nerve cells can survive for over three decades. Don't get me wrong. Not all parasites are actually bad. There are parasitic fungi that grow on plants like mushrooms and leeches. Parasitic bloodsucker are still used effectively in medical treatments today a day with those are small exceptions in a big scary world a world. That's often too difficult to see with the naked eye so stay i safe wash your hands and maybe cook that meet just a little longer because no one wants to play host to an uninvited guest <music> <music>. This episode of lor was written and produced by me aaron minke with research by carl nellis at music by chad lawson. There is much more to lower than just podcast. There's a book series available in bookstores an online and two seasons of the television show on amazon prime video check. Let them both out. If you want more lore in your life i also make to other podcasts aaron mckie's cabinet of curiosities and unabashed cured and i think you'd enjoy both of them. Each one explores other areas of our dark history ranging from bite sized episodes to season long dives into a single topic. You can learn more about both of those shows and everything else going on over in one central place. Though world of lore dot com slash now you can also follow all the show on twitter facebook and instagram just search for lor podcast all one word and then click that follow button when you do say hi ni- like get when people say hi as always thanks for listening <music> <music>.

Coming up next