Incubus migitus urbanus

RANGE: Dark street corners. Darker alleys. Vacant lots. Abandoned buildings. Just outside the window. Was that the wind? Beneath the broken street light. Lurking in that doorway. What was that? Only a shadow. Only a cat. Footsteps. Behind you. Don’t panic. Don’t run. Don’t scream. Getting closer. Turn. Turn, now. That face! Those crazy, burning eyes! Oh no, it’s him!
HABITS: Every night is Hallowe’en as far as this nocturnal goblin is concerned, and he really knows how to treat a trick. He appears only when you are alone. He is the cause of those mysterious howls, crashes, and random booms that echo in the city at night. He rattles your doorknob and taps at your window and creaks in the hall. He knocks over trash cans, smashes empty bottles, and calls in false alarms. He fills your head with horrible headlines as he pounces from the shadows to ask you for a light. You leave him huddled in the back seat of the last train, and by the time you’re home, he’s under your bed, breathing in time with the steam in your radiator pipes. And the worst of it is, he doesn’t exist, he can’t exist, and nobody knows that better than you, as his heavy hands open your attic window, and his footsteps echo in the hall.
HISTORY: At the turn of the century, William Randolph “Citizen” Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer (that prize of a journalist) were locked in a titanic struggle for the hearts, minds, and pennies of the American newspaper reader. Between them, they invented Cuba, comics, sex, graft, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Night Mayor. This last quickly acquired a family, with whose roving members city dwellers are by now all too familiar: Hugger Muggers, Fire Bugs, Street Gangs, and the rest, all of whom prove the axiom of fairy historian J. M. Barrie: if enough people believe in them, they can come true.
SPOTTER’S TIPS: Night Mayors usually roam the streets of any city in which there is a newspaper circulation or TV ratings war going on. They are frequently spotted in urban centers frequented by hick tourists, who are always on the lookout for something to feel superior about. In cities where a paper is owned by Rupert Murdoch or an “eyewitness” news team is “working ’round the clock,” you probably can find a Night Mayor before local news of import.

*The Night Mayor—a harmless but highly publicized urban terrorist.


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