Usurious horribilus

RANGE: Anywhere between inexplicably expensive and temporarily exorbitant, the High Interest Wraith can be found on either the downturn or the upswing. Wherever a small deposit will hold or no serious offer is refused, he makes his mortgaged home.
HABITS: He whispers in our ears with unnatural, will-melting charm: Ever think you could own a potentially lucrative and prestigious dew worm ranch? Well, for a limited time only, at a price you can afford! Sound good? That’s not all . . . If you buy now, we will throw in that second house you’ve always dreamed of and never thought you could afford. That’s right! A vacation home for you and the family, fabricated of longlasting pressboard, with plenty of air holes for the kids! Originally designed to house prize Labradors, these genuine jerry-built units are selling for just twice the original cost! For customers who act after reading this, we also have available a limited number of US Army surplus jeeps, originally advertised for fifty dollars— now they can be yours at a price so surprising you will be amazed! A flickering light in the night, he sings to us in a voice full of promise: If after you have taken advantage of these amazing offers you still have any money left wasting away in outmoded savings accounts, we are prepared to give you one year’s free investment management! If you are not completely satisfied with your investments after fifty-two weeks, you may file for bankruptcy in any recognized court. . . Just a minute there, friend . . . Money-loving High Interest Wraiths are about to foreclose on Oklahoma. Again.
HISTORY: A European fairy of no fixed nationality, the High Interest Wraith’s interest has varied with the times but has always remained a couple of points above prime. His coffers have fattened in many a famine; plagues have contributed to the health of his accounts. He has been an architect of the American economy ever since arrival here. The High Interest Wraith has constructed Teapot Domes, pyramid schemes, tax shelters, investment houses, decorative financial columns, ground floors to get in on and collapsible financial structures, but never, never, a wage/price ceiling. Like, many fairy folk, he is a shape shifter, and in 1929, he changed himself from a bull into a bear, whereafter thousands of investors came crashing to the street from the sills and ledges of the castles in the air which he had made for them. Today, he sometimes disguises himself as a tv pitch man, a telephone solicitor, and an economic advisor with a smile as broad as a Laffer curve.
SPOTTER’S TIPS: By these signs shall ye know the High Interest Wraith: depressed bond market, men in top hats selling apples, fewer housing starts, station wagons full of farmers heading for California, tightened money supply, big movie musicals featuring aquatic ballet, inventory financing difficulties, and boxcar-riding folksingers.


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