99 episodes

American Hysteria explores the moral panics, conspiracy theories, urban legends, and fantastical thinking that shape our culture and why we end up fearing and believing in the unreal. Using sociology, psychology, biology, and a whole lot of research, poet-turned-podcaster Chelsey Weber-Smith charts their own journey from fantastical thinker to flexible skeptic, while detailing the sometimes hilarious, sometimes horrifying stories of American freak-outs from the Puritans to the present, and the complex social issues around race, gender, sexuality, and class that they often act to cover up.

American Hysteria chelsey weber-smith

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.3 • 1.7K Ratings

American Hysteria explores the moral panics, conspiracy theories, urban legends, and fantastical thinking that shape our culture and why we end up fearing and believing in the unreal. Using sociology, psychology, biology, and a whole lot of research, poet-turned-podcaster Chelsey Weber-Smith charts their own journey from fantastical thinker to flexible skeptic, while detailing the sometimes hilarious, sometimes horrifying stories of American freak-outs from the Puritans to the present, and the complex social issues around race, gender, sexuality, and class that they often act to cover up.

    Urban Legends

    Urban Legends

    The kids' book series Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was based largely on urban legends, and when I read them for the first time I realized that I had heard them before, but as something true that happened to a friend of a friend. For our season four finale, I will be sharing my own journey with contemporary myths, from that first book series through the 1998 teen slasher Urban Legend, the landmark work of Mr. Urban Legend, and the man who finally got to the bottom of the most memorable story from my mom’s own childhood: The Bunny Man (I’ll let her tell you about it). So come sit around the midnight campfire, listen to some of the greatest hits, and see what they have to tell us about ourselves and our society, and what they have to do with the tangled mess of conspiracy theories we find ourselves in today.

    Become a Patron to get access to Chelsey's other podcast Walk with Me

    Head to tryfirstleaf.com/hysteria to get 6 bottles of wine for $29.95
    Finding You is out May 14th

    American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith
    Sound design by Clear Commo Studios
    Research and co-writing by Riley Smith
    Co-produced and edited by Miranda Zickler (listen to Shiny Little Corners now!)
    Voice acting by Will Rogers

    Follow American Hysteria on social media:
    Twitter: @AmerHysteria
    Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast
    Find our merch at americanhysteria.com

    • 1 hr 1 min
    Rewind: The Momo Suicide Challenge

    Rewind: The Momo Suicide Challenge

    In preparation for our season finale next week on Urban Legends, we wanted to replay our deep dive into the 2018 viral internet urban legend about "Momo", a creepy humanoid figure with giant eyes, an uncanny too-wide smile, and grotesque chicken legs. Momo was somehow believed to be involved in mysterious texts that teens and kids were receiving on messaging apps, giving them escalating dangerous challenges sometimes ending in self-harm and suicide. Obviously, these kind of stories abound in the days of the viral internet, but they are actually part of a much older folklore tradition. Next week we will look at the last 50 years of American urban legends to see how we started to figure out that many of the stories we love to tell are simply too good to be true.

    Become a Patron!

    Follow American Hysteria on social media:
    Twitter: @AmerHysteria
    Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast

    • 13 min
    Horror Movies, pt. 2

    Horror Movies, pt. 2

    The genres of modern scary movies known as slashers, meta-horror, torture porn, and social thrillers, each tell us about the anxieties of the generation in which they came to exist. Like part one, this episode explores the themes present in some of the most important films in the horror canon; themes of feminism and satanic ritual abuse, of Reagan-era morality and greed, of moral ambiguity in times of war, and those that are coming to define the smoldering culture wars we find ourselves in today. With a never-ending series of sequels, each new American terror resurrects our collective fear, making it perfectly clear that horror never dies.

    Become a Patron to get access to Chelsey's other podcast Walk with Me

    Check out Hark here to experience podcasts in a new way!
    Head to tryfirstleaf.com/hysteria to get 6 bottles of wine for $29.95
    Check out the Queery podcast today!

    American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith
    Sound design by Clear Commo Studios
    Research and co-writing by Riley Smith
    Co-produced and edited by Miranda Zickler
    Friggin incredible voice acting by Will Rogers and Miranda Zickler
    (Check our Miranda's band Kuinka and their new single All Mine)

    Follow American Hysteria on social media:
    Twitter: @AmerHysteria
    Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast
    Find our merch at americanhysteria.com

    • 56 min
    Rewind: Monsters

    Rewind: Monsters

    We need a little extra time for Horror Movies II, so here is a re-release of a very related and very important episode. Monsters come from the darkness, from the depth of lakes and swamps, from the shadows of forests and hills, and live too in the dark parts of all of us. However, this episode is less about Bigfoot and more about the idea of the monstrous, and how it has been used as a tool to demonize black folks since the first slave ships landed in America, both through folktales and famous works of fiction. We also explore how Darwin's theory of evolution affected white Americans and led to the actual creation of human zoos that displayed African people as both the missing link and blood-thirsty monsters.

    Become a Patron!
    Follow American Hysteria on social media:
    Twitter: @AmerHysteria
    Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast

    • 36 min
    On Haunted Houses with Carmen Maria Machado

    On Haunted Houses with Carmen Maria Machado

    Carmen Maria Machado is the author of three books, the award-winning Her Body and Other Parties, a collection of vibrantly haunting short stories, In the Dream House, a bestselling memoir and examination of queer relationship abuse, and most recently, a graphic novel horror story called The Low Low Woods. She has also taught several courses at the University of Pennsylvania, most relevant today, a fiction course called The Art of Haunting. Today we are over the harvest moon to talk to Carmen about haunted house motifs in American horror movies, the emotional core of these stories, and our personal experiences with various kinds of ghosts, both the scary and the beautiful.

    Get yourself a copy of Carmen’s books!: In the Dreamhouse, Her Body and Other Parties, and The Low Low Woods

    Next time on the show: Horror Movies pt. 2

    Head to TryFirstLeaf.com/HYSTERIA to get six customized wines delivered to your door for just $29.95!

    Become a Patron to watch our entire Live Variety Hour and our brand new podcast Walk with Me

    Produced by Miranda Zickler
    Sound design by Clear Commo Studios

    Follow American Hysteria on social media:
    Twitter: @AmerHysteria
    Instagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast
    Find our merch and more at americanhysteria.com

    • 55 min
    SATANIC PANIC EMERGENCY RE-RELEASE

    SATANIC PANIC EMERGENCY RE-RELEASE

    Lil Nas X and the sexy-ass Satanic imagery featured in Call Me By Your Name has sparked a mini Satanic panic, especially after his Satan Shoes went viral, the ones that contain a drop of human blood. This two-part re-release of our Satanic Panic episodes dives deep into evil cartoons, toys, and games, heavy metal's backward messages, the suspicion of hypnotized teenaged devil worshippers, fake memoirs by alleged members of Satanic cults, and the unfortunate union between feminist and fundamentalist therapists that caused a wave of false accusations of outrageous ritual abuse committed against children. ENJOY.

    Follow us on social media
    IG: @americanhysteriapodcast
    Twitter: @amerhysteria

    • 1 hr 9 min

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5
1.7K Ratings

1.7K Ratings

Rosalie000009 ,

Can only listen to interview episodes!

Great show with tight narration and amazing content - however I can only listen to interview episodes because those are the only episodes where the host’s voice sounds natural! I really can’t get by the sing-songy ‘reading a book report’ tone of her monologue in other episodes - which is a bummer bc the content is amazing! Agh!

Nancyinatx ,

Insightful and eye opening perspective

This is my first time reviewing a podcast but after listening to the season 4 finale I felt it necessary. The team and host do such an amazing job and each episode is loaded with really interesting and insightful perspectives and facts. Pure gold, baby! *chef’s kiss*

Countfeeback ,

It’s ok.

If you like You’re Wrong About, this is similar in that it purports to get at the larger cultural forces driving various moral panics, but it’s not as good. This is partially research and content but also delivery. The host typically finds the easiest and most obvious causes for the cultural phenomena she covers, whereas the genius of You’re Wrong About is how it dives deeply into counterintuitive narratives. The host delivers her scripted lines in a series of declarative statements which makes the podcast feel like you are listening to a formal speech, which further simplifies the very complex intersections of culture, societal changes, and politics which create moral outrage.

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