American Hysteria is a podcast exploring our moral panics, urban legends, and conspiracy theories, how they shape our psychology and culture, and why we end up believing them. Host Chelsey Weber-Smith explores the sometimes hilarious, sometimes distressing stories of modern and historical American freak-outs, why we fear the wrong things, and what these bizarre panics might be covering up.

Recent Episodes
January 21, 2019
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.

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January 7, 2019
Satanic Panic: Part Two
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.
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December 10, 2018
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.'
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November 26, 2018
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
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