Rating: 4 out of 5.


Cackling witches in Puritan communities calling forth Satan. Sea serpents squirming along coasts to snack on bathers. Ape creatures slinking through forests and leaving behind mysterious footprints.

In America, tall tales of monsters walking among us have existed for hundreds of years. Real or fictional, human or inhuman, monsters and other terrors directly reflect the events within American culture. As a society changes, its anxiety changes—and its monsters change, as well. Thus, any confrontation with America’s monsters is, in truth, a confrontation with the history of fear in America.

Grab a flashlight and go monster hunting in the safe company of Adam Jortner, award-winning professor of religion at Auburn University, with the 10 eerie and illuminating episodes of American Monsters. You’ll encounter chilling tales of living houses, sentient plants, psychotic toys, brain-eating zombies, and otherworldly beings whose mere name is enough to drive people insane. Along the way, you’ll learn how monster stories change how Americans think and what Americans do, how they shape the history of our country, and what secrets about human nature these inhuman monsters can share.

American monsters are mythical, but in many ways monster stories are frighteningly real. The most terrifying thing about them: what they reveal about the monsters within us. 

My Take:

This is another one I listened to back in October for my personal fright fest! It is appropriately scary, but it’s also academic. I appreciated Jortner’s take on how our monsters change with popular culture. Everything is very well researched and I learned a lot.

If you want to liven up your Halloween movie marathon, this is a great start. It’s fantastic academic insight into the history of what frightens Americans. I’ll never look at a scary movie or horror novel in the same way again.


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