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American Hysteria

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.

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The Illuminati

For this episode, we'll explore the mother-of-all conspiracy theories, the Illuminati, an alleged secret society and their evil world domination plan known as the New World Order. Chelsey takes a stroll down memory lane with friend Austin Smith, to a time when they believed in the Illuminati and found what seemed like proof. We’ll explore the history of the theory itself, why some people are more prone to believing than others, and how at the heart of the theory lies a dark ideology that has affected our culture into the present.Check out A Culture of Conspiracy by Michael Barkun for further readingAmerican Hysteria is written and produced by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosShow art by RoacheVoice acting by Will RogersThanks to my guest, Austin Smith, check out his new book of poemsBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

36mins

26 Nov 2018

Rank #1

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War On Christmas Special

This is a surprise early Season Three premiere! Merry Whatever y'all! Learn about the history of America's relationship to Christmas, and the several wars that have been fought in the name of and against this always controversial holiday, as well as some of the darker sides and forgotten traditions that may change your perspective on the season of giving for good.American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosResearch and cowriting assisted by Riley SmithCo-Produced by Miranda ZicklerShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

55mins

26 Dec 2019

Rank #2

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Satanic Panic: Part One

This episode is part one of our two-part series on perhaps the most mystifying moral panic in US history, the 1980s and early 90s 'Satanic Panic.' For this episode, Chelsey covers the rise of organized Satanism beginning in the late 60s, as well as the adversarial countercultures of the hippies and the metalheads, and their apparent Satanic crimes that would be hailed as proof of their evil, as well as proof that teens, as well as children, were in serious moral peril. Satan was allegedly hypnotizing the youth with secret messages in backwards rock songs, teaching them occult magic in Saturday morning cartoons, and causing suicides through a popular role-playing game, all while helping religion blur into politics for good. For part two Chelsey will cover what came next, a serious investigation into an imagined network of Satanic cults ritually abusing children in daycare centers all over the country. Chelsey will try to understand this shocking decade in history, why it happened, and the cultural issues it was really about. Part two is coming after the holidays.American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

37mins

10 Dec 2018

Rank #3

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The End of the World

It has been said that the apocalypse is as American as apple pie, and for our season finale we are exploring different versions of the end of the world, the hyper-religious, the new age, and the scientific, as well as Chelsey’s personal experience with the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse. The stories we tell about the end of time tend to involve not only a series of cataclysmic, devastating events, but also the saving of an elect few, and the punishing and death of the rest. While none of the end times predictions have come to pass, major leaps in technology have opened us up to both the potential nuclear war and the potential for climate disaster, terrifying realities that prove more difficult to face than our fantasies. What comes next is up to us. American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosResearch assisted by Riley SmithShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

44mins

25 Mar 2019

Rank #4

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Mind Control

For our season finale, I am going to step into the unknown recesses of the mind, especially my own. I’ll share my upsetting brush with a self-actualization program that taught me that life is empty and meaning when I was ten-years-old. I’ll give a partial history of psychology’s changing ideas about how we think about thinking. Then we’ll look at the Cold War beginnings of this concept called brainwashing when American POWs suddenly became communist sympathizers, and how the US government tried their hand at the same thing. After that, we’ll check out the human potential movement and the new age philosophies that helped influence the Manson Family’s murders. Moving into the 1970s, we’ll follow a kidnapped heiress turned domestic terrorist, and see how the mass deaths at Jonestown influenced her fate. We’ll meet the man who invented cult deprogramming, paid for by families to abduct their wayward loved ones back. At the close, I’ll share more about my modern-era spiritual journey and how it’s informed my own mental health. Does life have meaning? Who knows, and who cares. Come hang out for more more special episode, and let’s get weird, man.American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosResearch and cowriting assisted by Riley SmithCo-Produced by Miranda ZicklerShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

58mins

21 Oct 2019

Rank #5

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Quackery

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Lifestyle-brand ‘Goop’ and the expensive products it peddles are just the newest in a long line of medical quackery leading back to the 1800s. America has a long history with selling and buying Snake Oil, bogus cures to any ailment you can imagine, starting with the cowboy showman of the wild west, who sold to the masses through traveling vaudevillian performances. In addition to fake cures, historical American doctors and scientists also have a dark history of identifying and pathologizing both biological and mental illnesses that simply didn’t exist, ones that said much more about the culture’s values than it did about the people who were said to be ill. At the same time, the rich were being diagnosed in spades with a disorder known as Americanitis, leading to much more luxurious treatments. American alternative medicine, as dubious as it may be, formed as citizens rightly grew suspicious of the flawed medical establishment. Though fake cures are not grounded in science, researchers are actually finding that alternative medicine does work to help relieve us of our pain, just not in the ways you might think.American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosResearch and cowriting assisted by Riley SmithShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

40mins

1 Jul 2019

Rank #6

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Pornography

Pornography has existed all over the world for all recorded time, and now porn websites are visited by an estimated 60 million Americans every month. With each new technological advancement, porn soon follows, and each generation subsequently fears for our vulnerable women and our uncontrollable men. For this episode, we’ll spend most of our time in the 1970s, also known as the “Golden Age of Porn,” when America was introduced to Andy Warhol’s Blue Movie, Deep Throat, Playboy, and Hustler. We’ll explore the subsequent feminist and fundamentalist fallout and the war on porn in the 1980s, spurred on by a surprising gruesome advocate. Porn has long been charged with corrupting the youth as well as normalizing, glorifying, and even causing sexual violence. Today we ask the question: What does porn do to us, or more accurately, what can porn make us do? American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosResearch and cowriting assisted by Riley SmithCo-Produced by Miranda ZicklerShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

36mins

23 Sep 2019

Rank #7

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Talking to the Dead

For the season two premiere, we are exploring the rich American history of Spiritualism, a massive 80-year trend of popular culture lasting from the Civil War to the Jazz age in which mediums began speaking to, and then speaking for, the spirits of the dead. A sudden craze of magical, fun, gross, and sexy parlor room séances swept the nation, materializing during the awe-inspiring age of invention and scientific inquiry. But the movement also had a political side; for the first time women were given a voice for social and political change, a voice that just happened to be channeled from beyond the veil. How they used that otherworldly voice, however, was both revolutionary and problematic, much like the progressive movements we experience today. American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosResearch assisted by Riley SmithShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

33mins

3 Jun 2019

Rank #8

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Monsters

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. American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosResearch and cowriting assisted by Riley SmithShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

36mins

29 Jul 2019

Rank #9

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The Gay Agenda

The purse-carrying, tutu-wearing purple Teletubby Tinky Winky was outed as a homosexual in 1999, capping off a decade of conspiratorial anti-gay writings and videos that influenced politics straight up to supreme court. Accused of using kids shows and public schools to influence impressionable minds and recruit new young homosexuals, the gay militants were secretly powerful agents of a massive conspiracy to bring down traditional American values and take over the country. The creation of the Gay Agenda theory borrowed from a long history of devastating misinformation and a concerted effort to rid America of this apparent moral disease without mercy, a process that began as the first puritans encountered tribal communities with ways shockingly different than their own, and began their own anti-gay crusade that has lasted centuries.American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

36mins

4 Feb 2019

Rank #10

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Teenage Sex

In 1996, Scream taught American teenagers the first rule to surviving a horror movie. Never, ever have sex. Classic slasher movies have their roots in an urban legend we all heard growing up: a guy and a girl are parked on a deserted lover’s lane making out while a hook-handed killer is on the loose. The 2000s gave us urban legends about dangerous teen sex games, Rainbow parties and sex bracelets, as well as bans on high school dances over grinding and twerking, and with the recent outrage over teen sexting, it seems that kids these days are out of control. But since the invention of the American teenager, rumor and outrage has swirled around this reckless developmental stage. Through looking at the start of teenage culture in the 1920s, when risqué dance trends and controversial make-out parties scandalized the nation, we’ll find the roots of these modern moral panics, and see how our battles around sex education have left them in an uneducated limbo, creating suburban legends to make sense of their parents’ utter horror at their private lives.American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

36mins

18 Feb 2019

Rank #11

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Satanic Panic: Part Two

*Please be aware that this episode talks about child sexual abuse* We recommend listening to part one of Satanic Panic first. In 1980s America, when 60% of people believed that devil worship was a serious problem, two new characters, Stranger Danger’s murderous pedophile and the Satanist, blurred into a new villain and psychological archetype: The Satanic pedophile. In part one, we saw how Satanic hysteria was sown through pop culture, sensational media, and religious hucksters, causing the widespread fear of Satan’s influence over children and their behavior. We touched on the cultural anxieties that were raging during this time, with women beginning careers and leaving kids in daycare for the first time in history, and the Moral Majority pushing fundamentalism into the political sphere. For part two, Chelsey covers ‘satanic ritual abuse’, the belief that Satanic cults were using daycare centers as fronts to physically, sexually, and emotionally abuse children in horrifying religious rituals allegedly described by the children themselves. This moral panic has been called the Salem Witch Hunt of our modern era, including the longest and most expensive trial in US history, with some of the accused wrongly imprisoned for twenty years. Chelsey will try to understand this shocking moment in our recent history, how something like this could have happened, and the cultural issues it was really about.American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

37mins

7 Jan 2019

Rank #12

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Drugs

When a security camera caught footage of a 31-year-old Florida resident eating the face of a homeless man, the news and social media dubbed him the Miami Zombie, and it was widely speculated that he was under the influence of a new synthetic drug called Bath Salts, a claim that was later found to be false. Hysterical drug rhetoric has long talked of zombies and monsters and aggressors with superhuman strength and an imperviousness to police bullets, and panic around drug use has long been manufactured by politicians with specific groups in mind, to dehumanize those who appear to cause a threat to the established social order, marking them inhuman groups in need of social control and even long-term imprisonment. Many of us were drafted into the War on Drugs as kids and teens through faulty programs implemented by D.A.R.E. police officers, and taught to mimic this unreasonable rhetoric that has caused irreparable harm to many American communities and continues to do so to this day.American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosResearch assisted by Riley SmithShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersThanks to Sarah Deutsch for advisingBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

34mins

11 Mar 2019

Rank #13

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Dangerous Teens

Despite how these last few years have felt, schools are still statistically the safest place our kids and teenagers can be. Our evolving archetype of the goth mass shooter that was born out of the Columbine massacre isn’t accurate to who those young men really were, nor what they hoped to to achieve. From the Reagan and Bush era wars on crime and drugs came another kind of juvenile threat known as Superpredators, as The Central Park Five case demonized black kids as a violent mob wrecking havoc all over the nation, eventually leading social scientists and politicians to predict that their numbers would explode into the hundreds of thousands. With this in mind, when we demand political actions again extremely rare, though devastating, event of the school mass shooting, the angry young white men we have come to view as the most common perpetrators are not the ones stopped by the rising presence of school police. Today I ask the question: When we panic about school shootings on both the left and the right, who are the invisible victims of our collective outrage? *Note: This episode states the chance of a K-12 student being killed by a school shooter as 1 in 614 million. This is the risk faced each day, not for an entire lifetime. My apologies for not making this clear. Thanks to statistician Chandler Piché for reaching out.*American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosResearch and cowriting assisted by Riley SmithCo-Produced by Miranda ZicklerShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

39mins

9 Sep 2019

Rank #14

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Germs

In a real sense, germs are our only modern predator and they are invisible and impossible to detect; what could be scarier? America has adjusted to the threat of germs by not only working toward cures and vaccinations, but by making uncleanliness in general a cultural symbol meant to separate social others from the affluent. Anxieties about race and immigration, about gender and sexuality and class, played out in the way products were marketed, as well as in how public policy and public opinion were formed, leading to several needless quarantines and travel bans throughout history. American’s obsession with cleanliness has become a kind of religious ritual, and scientists and psychologists now believe that the fear of germs may influence all our political and moral opinions without us evening knowing it. American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosResearch assisted by Riley SmithShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

35mins

17 Jun 2019

Rank #15

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Burgers

Welcome to our season three premiere! Whether we’re conscious of it or not, hamburgers have always been an American symbol, a metaphor for our special brand of cognitive dissonance as well as our obsession with masculinity, dominance, and conquering. We have heard a lot about the horrors of factory farming, but this episode hopes to look at our relationship to meat and animals in a different way. We’ll look at the plains of the west where colonizers killed millions buffalo to make way for the cows we know today, the cowboy fantasies enshrined by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows, the beef scandals that have rocked our nation since the 1800s, the fast food chains that put a smiling face back on meat, and the War on Burgers that conservative forces are invoking today. we’ll see how our long term attachment to our culinary contribution to the world is really a kind of long term hysteria, an attachment to an original manifest destiny, a story that has long disguised hard truths with happy meals.Please consider donating to the One Spirit Lokota nonprofitAmerican Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosResearch and cowriting assisted by Riley SmithCo-Produced by Miranda ZicklerShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

47mins

17 Feb 2020

Rank #16

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Ted Bundy

AFTER SHOCK: This 1970s rockstar biopic of a man whom we can all agree should be deeply reviled isn’t a new or shocking concept in America, the country with the world record for serial killers in the last 100 years. Zac Efron's sculpted and lovable Ted Bundy personifies an ongoing American obsession with this allegedly handsome killer turned celebrity, a man who confessed to 30 murders and brutal sexual assaults. What does it mean that these boogeymen for which we carry pepper spray, check our backseats, and deadbolt our doors have also become our sex symbols and household names? And what of women who love serial killers? How different are we from them when we cannot seem to look away?American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosResearch and co-writing assisted by Riley SmithBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

12mins

22 Jul 2019

Rank #17

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Phantom Clowns

For most of us living in the US, clowns have become much more associated with horror than the laughter of kids. The “killer clown” epidemic went viral in 2016, with reports across the nation of evil clowns trying to lure children into the woods, attacking adults, and threating harm to local schools, but as you might guess, they were all hoaxes or hysteria. However, it wasn’t the first time that America was invaded by Phantom Clowns. For this episode, I will trace the history of our relationship to the clown as a cultural archetype, explore a strange theory of creepiness known as the uncanny valley, and try to understand why these particular creatures emerge from the woods when they do.American Hysteria is written, produced, and hosted by Chelsey Weber-SmithProduced and edited by Clear Commo StudiosShow art by RoacheVoice Acting by Will RogersBecome a Patron for extra episodes, interviews, and videos monthly!Follow American Hysteria on social media:Twitter: @AmerHysteriaInstagram: @AmericanHysteriaPodcast Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

37mins

21 Jan 2019

Rank #18