American Hysteria is a documentary podcast about moral panics in the United States and beyond put out by Skylark Media. It's hosted by Chelsey Weber-Smith, a mildly conspiracy minded millennial turned skeptic, who explores our collective histories of fad fears, moral crusades, and urban legends. I think we've all come in contact with a belief that looks and feels like a major discovery only to find out later that the facts supporting it were shaky or outright false. Hopefully, we avoided making an ass of ourselves and moved on. But a lot of ideas have staying power long past when common sense should have kicked in. The Illuminati were a secret society in Bavaria that disbanded hundreds of years ago, so how did they become a Godless secret cabal who've somehow controlled the world for the past hundred and fifty years? There has never been a substantiated case of Halloween candy poisoning in the USA, so why does it remain a yearly concern? And how did clowns become creepy? (hint: it predates Pennywise)

If there is one thing that I like about the show it's that it takes a broad view on what its subject matter is. Contemporary phenomena like the Mandela Effect and Vaping, and forgotten panics like Parrot Fever and the Mad Gasser of Mattoon are all worthy of attention. My only criticism of this podcast is that the episodes tend to end with preachy summations of the societal and structural forces at work in creating whatever the episode's topic is. It's a bit to close to being told how to feel. If you want to relive some of the more embarrassing moments of our collective history or you missed out on them the whole series can be found here.


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