Fantastic Beast: Cockroach Where to find it: Cupboards, electronics, bathrooms, crevices, etc.
For millennia, witches and wizards have been trying to grasp the utter fantasticality of the Cockroach: originating some 320 million years ago, it has been thought that roaches were in fact the makers of “Nicholas Flamel’s” immortalizing Philosopher’s Stone — whose only combatant is a misty, near intangible substance called Raid, which must be carefully squirted from an inanimate beast called a Canister. Though influential figures like Kafka, Papa Roach and Vincent D’Onofrio have speculated on the true nature of these ubiquitous yet enigmatic beasts, the cockroach continues to baffle, to amaze, and to move. Perhaps instead of trying to understand the roach, we should simply try to emulate his/her/their resilience. The Spanish folk song, “La Cucaracha,” describing a roach who’s lost a leg but continues on, inarguably said it best: “The cockroach, the cockroach / Can no longer walk / Because he doesn’t have, because he lacks / A hind leg.”
Fantastic Beast: Squirrel Where to Find it: Park, occasional street tree
Upon a stroll through New York’s famous lush lump of nature, Central Park, you may find yourself thinking, “What, pray tell, is that enchanting, otherworldly creature carrying the rejected bit of a bread wand from a local Pain Quotidien, and nibbling at it until, magically, it disappears?” That, friends, is a Squirrel. With miens suggestive of a kindness and purity of character (Hufflepuffs, naturally) and tails of fluff that curl into a hypnotic Spira Mirabilis, New Yorkers see the Squirrel as a symbol of the gentility, tranquility and divine mystery of the natural world. Because, for New Yorkers, “nature” is an idea that — in this Concrete Jungle where you never really feel brand new, where big lights will in fact tire you — is always just beyond reach. The sighting of one such beast is at once warming yet melancholic, a gift and a loss.
Fantastic Beast: Pizza Rat Where to Find it: the subway, the Internet
Though most rats are muggle-ishly underwhelming in their abilities (despite folkloric attempts to mythologize them into greatness through the mythos of the “Rat King”), a recent piece of Big News took New York by storm. One particularly fantastical rat was able to perform a super strength spell (of debated legality; I, Pimpla Dippindots, have written think pieces for Vermin Mic such as The Moral Dubiousness of Pizza Rat and Pizza Rat: Pioneering or Problematic?) on itself to carry a large slice of cheese pizza down a few stairs. Before you go congratulating the Pizza Rat as a triumphant figure, it should first asked: why would a self-proclaimed Pizza Rat so willingly squander the pizza he’d worked so hard for? The most prominent, and honestly, viable theory: that the rat was a protégé of Peter Pettigrew’s who never truly wanted pizza, and that the whole act was just a matter of training for his work as an underling to New York’s own Voldemort. Others have postulated that the slice in question came from Sbarro, and that the rat who discarded it merely had discerning taste. I must say, friends, I am really on the fence with this one.
Fantastic Beast: Bed Bug Where to Find it: Bed
This beast, it is often said, is among the most fantastic the curious kingdom of New York beasts has to offer. Much like Harry Potter himself, they have been known to outlive the Avada Kedavra curse used against them by hired professionals. (Unlike Harry, it has not yet been proven that this is due to the ferocity of their mothers’ love). Bed bugs are often compared to vampires for their bloodsucking proclivities, though some have argued that they lack the sex appeal of the latter. This fact comes as a constant disappointment to New Yorkers, plagued by the fact that bed bugs are a far more common bedfellow here.
Fantastic Beast: Elmos Where to Find it: Times Square
Times Square, the epicenter of the Dark Arts in New York City, is full of these horrific, blindingly red, bulging-eyed, upright beasts who attempt to straddle the line between human and animal in order to convince uninformed passersby that they’re worthy of (costly) photos. Perhaps what’s most upsetting about these creatures is their multilayered duplicity: while they imitate another Elmo — a childish puppet on a puzzling television program about a road made of small seeds — they are actually different monsters entirely. Indeed, beneath each of these hirsute beasts lurks a sweaty, itchy human. Such chimeras may be fantastical, but is it really all that fantastic to be a walking lie? Avoid them if you can, but beware not to seek shelter in the nearby Beautiful: the Carole King Musical. It’s a trap.
Fantastic Beast: Cecil the Lion Where to Find it: Five months back in everyone’s Facebook accounts
New York may not be home to many beasts — barring the gargantuan Elmos — of the large or imposing order. But what beast, really, is larger, more imposing, and more bafflingly fantastical than collective memory?
Fantastic Beast: Pigeon Where to find it: Perches, sky, Home Alone 2
I, Pimpla Dippindots, must make a confession. Though I am wary of resorting to first person accounts in matters as serious as Pigeon, these creatures are so majestic that I simply cannot stop myself from returning to the origins of my acquaintance with them. Upon arriving in New York, I stepped out of the vast Floo Network in Grand Central Station and saw the beast I’d only heard of in myth. Like a living broomstick that happens to drop little turdlets (for dropping turdlets, friends, is part of the unsavory gift of life!), this sleek silver beacon of freedom was soaring above me, set against the grand, starry ceiling of Grand Central, its beady red eyes glistening like gems in the window-light of a dewey New York morning. As I marveled, I brought a Sbarro slice to my lips, only to see that the pigeon had dropped a turdlet ‘pon it, and to flick my slice “way over yonder,” as the Carole King lyric goes. Only later would I realize that the pigeon was neither being malicious nor careless, but was actually looking after me: Sbarro, as an aforementioned Pizza rat theory concurs, does not have the best slices.
Fantastic Beast: German Cockroach Where to find it: New York
“But we already discussed cockroaches,” you say! Well, yes. But we haven’t discussed a more puzzling species of cockroach — a species that provokes a startling array of questions re: fantasticality. For they’re called German Cockroaches. And yet, and yet! You may have seen them toting around their glistening oothecae (egg sacks!), cannibalizing one another or eating each other’s feces here in the city of New York! Magizoologists such as myself have been trying to determine what aberrant magic the beasts used to cross the great Atlantic. And in fact, after extensive research, we think we have an answer: teensy boats.
Fantastic Beast: A dying, majestic sea mammal Where to find it: Gowanus Canal
For trauma tourists, the Gowanus Canal has become legend. In this sludge-filled vein of the grand archipelago of the five boroughs of NYC, anything that finds its way in may have a hard time finding its way out. They say it’s a combination of thick sediments of sewage and Grindylows that trap unsuspecting creatures, but luckily the city has been making efforts to clean up this putrid Whole Foods-adjacent hellscape.
Fantastic Beast: Street Meat Where to Find it: Carts/styrofoam containers
This is a beast that — even by experts such as myself — can hardly be described, for it is actually a composite of many beasts who’ve come together to create a potent, pungent super-beast. The Street Meat is made even more powerful by standard red and white sauces. But despite its potential to have a (digestively) inflammatory personality, its favorite pastime is languishing atop a bed of lettuce, enjoying symbiotic cohabitation with a slice of tomato.