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American Hysteria

American Hysteria

Author: chelsey weber-smith

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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.

206 Episodes
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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
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
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
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
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
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
For some context for our upcoming series that we have not yet revealed, we will revisit excerpts from our past episodes: Horror Movies pt. 1, The End of the World, and Alien Abductions pt. 1 and 2. We encourage you to listen to the full episodes! Become a Patron to support our show and get early ad-free episodes and bonus content Or subscribe to American Hysteria on Apple Podcasts Sound design and Production by Riley Swedelius-Smith Edited by Miranda Zickler Hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith Check out our new merch line Folk Devils United Leave us a message on our Urban Legends Hotline Thank you to our sponsors: Factor’s delicious, ready-to-eat meals make eating better every day easy. Head to factormeals.com/americanhysteria50 and use code americanhysteria50 to get 50% off. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Amanda Montell is the host of the podcast Sounds Like A Cult as well as the author of the new book The Age of Magical Overthinking: Notes on Modern Irrationality, a collection of personal essays on various cognitive biases, those flawed ways of thinking that were very important for early humans but now cause all kinds of problems in our technologically advanced world. Amanda explains why these cognitive biases originally existed, how they manifest in the personal and political, and what we can do to understand, combat, and maybe even harness them to our advantage. Get a copy of The Age of Magical Overthinking Follow Amanda Montell and her new podcast Magical Overthinkers on Instagram 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
Sarah Marshall joins me to chat about how, in 1968, one unsuspecting young woman’s bustline almost caused a stock market bust when thousands of Wall Street employees became obsessed with watching her walk to work. I also tell Sarah about an absurd 20-year-long craze called Girl-Watching that taught "genteel" men the "refined art" of covertly checking out women, as well as the avant-garde artist and feminist responses to the treatment of Francine Gottfried who would come to be known as the Wall Street Sweater Girl. 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
In the late 1950s, an organization known as SINA started a campaign with the mission of clothing naked animals for the sake of decency. Today we will look at this bizarre moral crusade and its leader, whose life you'll have to hear about to believe. 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
John O'Connor is the author of The Secret History of Bigfoot: Field Notes on a North American Monster, a cross-country adventure and investigation into the lore around Bigfoot as well as the personalities of those who spend their lives chasing this elusive creature. Get John's book here Producer and Editor: Miranda Zickler Associate Producer: Riley Swedelius-Smith Hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith Go to factormeals.com/americanhysteria50 and use code americanhysteria50 and use code americanhysteria50 to get 50% off your order Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Gang Initiations pt. 2

Gang Initiations pt. 2

2024-03-0453:481

For the second part of this Urban Legends Hotline episode, we are continuing to explore various tall tales of ruthless gang initiations from the 1990s onward, as well as looking at the sweeping anti-gang laws of the 80s and 90s that had devastating effects on communities and categorized entire neighborhoods as gang associates, enacting severe punishments based on erroneous assumptions and outright lies. Call for a Ceasefire and Help End Civilian Suffering Leave us a message on our Urban Legends Hotline Become a Patron to support our show and get early ad-free episodes and bonus content Or subscribe to American Hysteria on Apple Podcasts Sound designer and associate producer: Riley Swedelius-Smith Producer: Miranda Zickler Voice Actor: Will Rogers Written, produced and hosted by by Chelsey Weber-Smith Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Gang Initiations pt. 1

Gang Initiations pt. 1

2024-02-2601:00:572

For this Urban Legends Hotline episode, we are answering a listener message about a story of street gangs initiating wannabes with frightening rituals including driving around with their headlights off and murdering the first good samaritan who gives them a courtesy flash. We'll explore several scares that have flared up due to different versions of this urban legend, as well as real crimes wrongfully blamed on these initiations, all leading to the feeling that street gangs were creeping into the suburbs, looking for human sacrifices. Leave us a message on our Urban Legends Hotline Become a Patron to support our show and get early ad-free episodes and bonus content Or subscribe to American Hysteria on Apple Podcasts Sound designer and associate producer: Riley Swedelius-Smith Producer: Miranda Zickler Voice Actor: Will Rogers Written, produced and hosted by by Chelsey Weber-Smith Thank you to our sponsors: Factor’s delicious, ready-to-eat meals make eating better every day easy. Head to factormeals.com/americanhysteria50 and use code americanhysteria50 to get 50% off. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
'Gang Initiations' is the topic of our upcoming series, and this episode will provide extra context using excerpts from three previous episodes—Urban Legends, Drugs, and Dangerous Teens. Become a Patron to support our show and get early ad-free episodes and bonus content Or subscribe to American Hysteria on Apple Podcasts Thank you to our sponsors: Factor’s delicious, ready-to-eat meals make eating better every day easy. Head to factormeals.com/americanhysteria50 and use code americanhysteria50 to get 50% off. Sound design and co-production by Riley Swedelius-Smith Produced and edited by Miranda Zickler Hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith Check out our new merch line Folk Devils United Leave us a message on our Urban Legends Hotline Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Live at SF Sketchfest, Sarah Marshall tells me about the urban-legendary alligators in the sewers of New York City. But of course, that's only one of the many manholes we open. Make sure you listen to You're Wrong About! Leave us a message on our Urban Legends Hotline Check out our new merch line Folk Devils United Become a Patron to support our show and get early ad-free episodes and bonus content Or subscribe to American Hysteria on Apple Podcasts Producer and Editor: Miranda Zickler Associate Producer: Riley Swedelius-Smith Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Today I'm joined by paranormal corespondent Jim Perry of the podcast Euphomet and Sapphire Sandalo of the podcast Stories With Sapphire as well as the TV shows Ghost Town Terror, Paranormal Caught On Camera, and Paranormal Nightshift. We'll discuss what it’s like to work on very different kinds of projects in the supernatural sphere and get a little behind the scenes look at classic reality ghost shows. We’ll talk about the dream of diversifying away from the formulaic industry of ghost bros and Christian-influenced endings to allow the paranormal to take different forms, understood in different ways by very different kinds of people. Donate to PCRF Learn more about Sapphire's work Learn more about Jim's work Go to Quice.com/hysteria to get free shipping and 365 day returns Hosted Chelsey Weber-Smith Producer and Editor: Miranda Zickler Associated Producer: Riley Swedelius-Smith Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In this episode I tell podcaster Sarah Marshall a truly wild story I uncovered about the first recognized case of Munchausen Syndrome (Factitious Disorder) in the United States. An alleged professional wrestler and American folk anti-hero called the Indiana Cyclone faked symptoms of injury and illness while blowing through hospitals across the country from the 1950s to the 1970s, leaving a bizarre kind of terror in his wake. Catch Sarah and I at SF SketchFest on Feb 2nd and Feb 3rd! Make sure you listen to You're Wrong About and You Are Good (duh duh duh!) Check out our new merch line Folk Devils United Become a Patron to support our show and get early ad-free episodes and bonus content Or subscribe to American Hysteria on Apple Podcasts Leave us a message on our Urban Legends Hotline Hosted Chelsey Weber-Smith Produced and Edited by Miranda Zickler Music direction by Riley Swedelius-Smith Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Pop culture correspondent and major Pro Wrestling fan BJ Colangelo and I discuss the quirky history of this manly soap opera, its changing landscape in terms of gender and sexuality, as well as the complicated psychology of kayfabe, in which staged performances are presented as genuine. Read BJ's Review of The Iron Claw Check out her podcast This Ends at Prom Check out our new merch line Folk Devils United Become a Patron to support our show and get early ad-free episodes and bonus content Or subscribe to American Hysteria on Apple Podcasts Leave us a message on our Urban Legends Hotline Hosted Chelsey Weber-Smith Produced and Edited by Miranda Zickler Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Sea Monkeys

Sea Monkeys

2023-12-1858:531

The novelty pets known as Sea Monkeys have delighted and disappointed millions of American children since they were first marketed in the early 1960s, with the nostalgia-fueled craze returning decade after decade, even after the creator was linked to Neo-Nazi activities. Described in the highly exaggerated ad copy as the most lovable pets in America, these tiny, allegedly monkey-like aquatic creatures are actually nothing more than microscopic brine shrimp, usually used as fish food in pet stores. In this episode, we will look closely at the history of Sea Monkeys and their ingenious but controversial creator, and take you through the comic book ad copy that marketed junky novelty items directly to children using language both deeply misleading and hilariously hyperbolic. Get our Folk Devils United merch here Become a Patron or subscribe on Apple Podcasts to support our show and get early ad-free episodes and bonus content Call our Urban Legends Hotline and share a teenage tale you heard growing up This episode was written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith Sound design by Clear Commo Studios Research Assistant: Riley Swedelius-Smith Producer and Editor: Miranda Zickler Voice Acting by Will Rogers Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
This is a rerelease of last year's holiday special! Find our new merch at americanhysteria.com/merch They usually go something like this: A cranky career woman from the big city who has lost the true meaning of Christmas arrives in a small town where she falls in love with a handsome handyman or baker or Christmas tree farmer and together they vanquish whatever big business force threatens the idyllic community. The Christmas spirit leads her to let go of her own ambitions and embrace a more traditional lifestyle and of course, someone's dad is always Santa. Sound familiar? We will explore the history of Hallmark, the formula that makes these cheesy productions so successful, the Christmas Movie Wars of the last few years, as well as the controversies over diversity and "family-friendly" entertainment. Become a Patron to support our show and get early ad-free episodes and bonus content American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith Co-produced and co-edited by Miranda Zickler Co-researched and co-edited by Riley Smith Sound design by Clear Commo Studios Voice acting by Will Rogers Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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Comments (94)

Laura Bogart

whoah. I never knew there were reasons other than being a greedy con artist for people to appropriate Indigenous identity. But especially in decades when people were hanging certain ethnicities, while romanticizing Natives, I can see why someone would escape into that identity. But con artists and, like, Coachella have no excuse

Jun 23rd
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Bre Lope

Francine on our money - "In bust we trust"

Apr 27th
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Laura Bogart

This is a great episode

Apr 5th
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Laura Bogart

Behind the Bastards did a deep dive into Kellogg, as did Sawbones. It's even worse

Mar 9th
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pepsifester

Come on! please announce spoilers before they occur. I haven't seen the Blair witch project, now the twist is ruined. come on Chelsey, you are better than this. 😇

Feb 19th
Reply (1)

Laura Bogart

beautiful episode

Jan 31st
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Laura Bogart

The last 10 or so minutes of the episode are so very important

Nov 19th
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Namelessmess

Why. Why with the voice. This show has topics that I’m so interested in but the choice to use the stilted, unnatural delivery is off-putting, annoying and purposeless. The unnatural pauses do not connect with natural written or spoken language flow and are so distracting. Every few months I come back and hope it’s changed and it never has and so I do not subscribe. Please stop it. The episodes with Sarah show that you can use a human, interesting vocal tone. The decision not to is baffling.

Oct 31st
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S. E. Wigget

In the 1970s, the TV show Fantasy Island had an episode with a sinister dummy that comes to life. It's not quality tv.

Oct 20th
Reply (1)

Katie the Book and Yarn Dragon

ooph.

Sep 17th
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Katie the Book and Yarn Dragon

This was an excellent episode.

Sep 16th
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Kat Whitacre

I loved my furby - I saved up my allowance for months to get it. I still have it, though it doesn’t work.

Jul 31st
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pepsifester

I found my first chick tract this weekend. I love this series

Apr 18th
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Chris Withington-Brown

you are not crazy! we had the jingle for tiny Beany babies in Australia and it drove us nuts. haha

Jan 2nd
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Maciej Gieradka

Omg the host does this slow voice acting that's so difficult to listen to.

Jun 13th
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Phil Barksdale

kept waiting for the seance. Your shows are usually so good. This was just like listening in to a slumber party that I had no interest in

May 9th
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A Gannon

Thanks for Red River Valley. My roots are there. It made me cry to hear it.

Mar 24th
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alli lent

anyone looking for "why are dads" it's now called "you are good"

Feb 18th
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alli lent

listen to Qanon anonymous if you're interested in learning more about Qanon while also being wildly entertained! (it's not pro Q, no worries)

Feb 16th
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alli lent

"let's make 2020 better than 2019" you have no idea what's in store.. don't know if that's funny or sad, so let's go with both 😂😭

Feb 11th
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