206 episodes

American Hysteria explores how fantastical thinking has shaped our culture – moral panics, urban legends, hoaxes, crazes, fringe beliefs, and national misunderstandings. Poet-turned-podcaster Chelsey Weber-Smith tells the strangest stories from American history and examines the forces that create the reality we share, and sometimes, the reality we don't.

American Hysteria American Hysteria +

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.3 • 2.9K Ratings

Listen on Apple Podcasts
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American Hysteria explores how fantastical thinking has shaped our culture – moral panics, urban legends, hoaxes, crazes, fringe beliefs, and national misunderstandings. Poet-turned-podcaster Chelsey Weber-Smith tells the strangest stories from American history and examines the forces that create the reality we share, and sometimes, the reality we don't.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    The Average Person Swallows Eight Spiders a Year in Their Sleep

    The Average Person Swallows Eight Spiders a Year in Their Sleep

    For this Urban Legends Hotline episode, we are dissecting the myth that the average person swallows a certain number of spiders in their sleep by following this false fact's bizarre and mysterious trail on the early internet, looking at other spider-related urban legends, searching for pop culture references to spiders in mouths, as well as old newspaper articles about the alleged dangers of swallowing spiders, and analyzing the surprising theories behind American's fear of these eight-legged freaks.

    Thanks to listener Rebekah for her submission!

    Become a Patron to support our show and get early ad-free episodes and bonus content
    Or subscribe to American Hysteria on Apple Podcasts
    Find us on Instagram @americanhysteriapodcast
    Leave us a message on our Urban Legends Hotline or get your mitts on some merch at americanhysteria.com

    Sound Designer and Associate Producer: Riley Swedelius-Smith
    Producer and Editor: Miranda Zickler
    Voice Actor: Will Rogers
    Written, Produced, and Hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 1 min
    Rewind: Believing in the Blair Witch (Updated!)

    Rewind: Believing in the Blair Witch (Updated!)

    This is an update on the new developments surrounding one of my favorite movies of all time, The Blair Witch Project, paired with our 2019 minisode. When news broke that the film's production company Lionsgate will be reviving the franchise with genre giant Blumhouse, the three original actors took to social media with a serious bone to pick. The Blair Witch Project masqueraded as real found footage of three college students who went missing in the woods while recording a documentary on the local legend. The story of the missing students and the lore of the Blair Witch were both widely believed during its monumental release, and we are covering just how the directors and marketing team were able to pull off one of the greatest hoaxes in American history, creating an original urban legend and facilitating its spread while also using a truly unorthodox method of filming, essentially becoming the Blair Witch, that encouraged true fear out of the actors.

    Become a Patron to support our show and get early ad-free episodes and bonus content
    Or subscribe to American Hysteria on Apple Podcasts
    Find us on Instagram @americanhysteriapodcast
    Leave us a message on our Urban Legends Hotline or get your mitts on some merch at americanhysteria.com
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 24 min
    Pretendians: Indigenous Identity Fraud with Robert Jago and Angel Ellis

    Pretendians: Indigenous Identity Fraud with Robert Jago and Angel Ellis

    For this episode, the hosts of the new podcast Pretendians, Robert Jago and Angel Ellis, explain Indigenous Identity Fraud, the phenomenon of scam artists pretending to be indigenous in order to receive certain kinds of benefits. We talk about the motivations of these Pretendians, how they get away with it, the effects these charlatans have on the indigenous peoples they attempt to emulate, and how these living caricatures overshadow the true identities of various indigenous communities.

    Listen to Pretendians wherever you get your podcasts!

    Become a Patron to support our show and get early ad-free episodes and bonus content
    Or subscribe to American Hysteria on Apple Podcasts
    Head to americanhysteria.com to get merch and leave us a message on our Urban Legends Hotline

    Producer and Editor: Miranda Zickler
    Associate Producer: Riley Swedelius-Smith
    Hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 53 min
    A Terrorist Attack on the Furries with Nicky Woolf

    A Terrorist Attack on the Furries with Nicky Woolf

    Fur and Loathing is a new investigative podcast from Nicky Woolf about an unsolved 2014 chlorine gas attack on the world’s largest Furry convention, an assumed safe place for those who create animal avatars using elaborate costumes. Nicky takes me through the case, shares his experience at a recent convention, discusses misconceptions and urban legends about the Furry community, and explains a dark subculture that lurks in the fringes of this otherwise inclusive and colorful world.

    Subscribe to Fur and Loathing wherever you get your podcasts!

    Become a Patron to support our show and get early ad-free episodes and bonus content
    Or subscribe to American Hysteria on Apple Podcasts
    Head to americanhysteria.com to get merch and leave us a message on our Urban Legends Hotline

    Producer and Editor: Miranda Zickler
    Associate Producer: Riley Swedelius-Smith
    Hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 52 min
    Long Live the Ray Cat with Emperor X and Matt Kielty

    Long Live the Ray Cat with Emperor X and Matt Kielty

    Reporter and Radiolab producer Matthew Kielty and musician Chad Matheny (AKA Emperor X) were both part of a 2014 episode of the 99% Invisible podcast called Ten Thousand Years that asked the same question we did in our Talking to the Future episode: how do we communicate warnings about nuclear waste to humans ten thousand years in the future when language, symbols, and familiar technologies have all fallen away? Matt was a contributor to the episode, helping bring the strange story to a much larger audience while Emperor X created a folk song containing lore about the Ray Cat (that biologically edited feline who would turn colors when getting too close to radiation). Could a catchy earworm stay stuck in the collective American head for ten thousand years to help warn future generations? We’ll discuss their experiences with nuclear semiotics, the rise of the Ray Cat and the associated public response, as well as how these thought experiments can be vital to imagining and creating a more hopeful future.

    Follow @EmperorX on Instagram or check out his website
    Follow Matthew Kielty on Twitter @Matt_Kielty
    Check out Ten Thousand Years from 99% Invisible

    Become a Patron to support our show and get early ad-free episodes and bonus content
    Or subscribe to American Hysteria on Apple Podcasts
    Head to americanhysteria.com to get merch and leave us a message on our Urban Legends Hotline

    Producer and Editor: Miranda Zickler
    Associate Producer: Riley Swedelius-Smith
    Hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 58 min
    Talking to the Future: Nuclear Semiotics

    Talking to the Future: Nuclear Semiotics

    How do we warn people 10,000 years in the future about nuclear waste sites that will remain extremely dangerous for longer than human civilization has existed? When language, symbols, and technologies are lost to time, how can we get our message across? Atomic Priesthoods, Radiation Cats, Forests of Thorns, manufactured folklore, these are just a few of the unorthodox ideas of government-sponsored academics trying to answer this baffling puzzle.

    Become a Patron to support our show and get early ad-free episodes and bonus content
    Or subscribe to American Hysteria on Apple Podcasts
    Find us on Instagram @americanhysteriapodcast
    Leave us a message on our Urban Legends Hotline or get your mitts on some merch at americanhysteria.com

    Sound Designer and Associate Producer: Riley Swedelius-Smith
    Producer and Editor: Miranda Zickler
    Voice Actor: Will Rogers and his daughter Zoe
    Written, Produced, and Hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 hr 7 min

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5
2.9K Ratings

2.9K Ratings

480753146 ,

Spiders Georg

One of my favorite pods! Can’t believe they forgot to mention Spiders Georg in their most recent episode though.

Tbony47 ,

Nuclear Semiotics - AWESOME

This is one of the BEST shows I’ve ever listened to. Great story telling, music, facts, honestly everything was amazing.

oldjohnhall ,

Get this host a voice coach

Oooof it’s hard to handle. When the whole show depends on the hosts voice, I wish they’d hire someone that doesn’t sound like a sarcastic millennial know it all.
Honestly I’d probably read these if they were in a magazine cuz the content seems pretty good but I can’t get passed it, it’s too much. Very bad, unlistenable.

Such a shame

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