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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2021 Audible Originals, LLC (P)2021 Audible Originals, LLC.

About the Creator and Performer

Adam Jortner is the Goodwin-Philpott Eminent Scholar of Religion in the Department of History at Auburn University. He received his B.A. in Religion from the College of William and Mary, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of Virginia.
Dr. Jortner is the author of Blood from the Sky: A Political History of Miracles in Early America, and The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier, which won the James Broussard Prize from the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic. He is also the author of numerous book chapters and articles on religion and early America, and has received grants and fellowships from many organizations, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Antiquarian Society, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Dr. Jortner is a frequent contributor to the American history podcast BackStory and a former script editor for the children’s television show Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?

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What listeners say about American Monsters

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Great entertaining listen

I started this on a whim just to have something to listen to while I made dinner, and ended up staying up late to finish it! I love cultural history and I loooove horror, so this was right up my alley. It is informative, entertaining, and thought provoking. The narrator does a great job, like it was the best kind of class lecture, that class that you actually look forward to going to!

There were some things I was already familiar with, but I also learned quite a lot. When he first started talking about the Winchester house I was really bummed out because I thought it was going to be another unfounded repetition of the "legend". So I was really relieved when it took a turn and he acknowledged the actual historical evidence that shows it was entirely fabricated late in Sarah's life. That story is a real pet peeve of mine because Sarah's real story is so interesting yet she's been turned into a silly caricature.

I found the first part really interesting, contrasting the Satanic Panic with the Salem witch hysteria and showing how little American psyche's have changed in 300 years. I also thought his interpretation of early monster movies was very interesting as a reflection of the national mood.

Overall it's a great listen if you're into history or spooky stories.

18 people found this helpful

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Eureka!

They’ve finally found a cure for insomnia! Just a few minutes of one of these lectures and you’ll be sleeping like a baby! Oh, and don’t worry, they are so boring that the subject matter won’t give you nightmarezzzzzzz!

10 people found this helpful

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an important fact the writer got wrong.

Good analogies on the Monsters and the times they where created. In the Slender Man story though, the writer/narrator talks about how two girls in Wisconsin killed one of their friends, then claimed that Slender Man made them do it. This is not entirely true the the girls took their friend into the woods, stabbed her 14 times but luckily the friend survived. To me this is a very big oops. This made me wonder how many of the other facts in his stories where off or just wrong. still worth listening too.

9 people found this helpful

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Never experienced such a nosedive...

The lectures begin with a no-holds-barred Five Stars...Excellent revelations on Salem Witch Trials, Colonial belief (as well as skepticism) on Ghosts with a great segue into the Satanic Panic and Child Care cases that gripped the Networks...as well as, sadly, law enforcement and the Courts. All of which turned out to be a perfect chimera. When Jortner sticks to the facts, he is superior. But he cannot resist opinion and conclusion and precipitously descends into the ho-hum racial polemic of too many virtue signaling professors...to use his words “finger wagging” An annoying peroration borrowing heavily from the same tiresome narrative that white America (and even democracy) was, is, and forever will be, monstrous.
Give me a Break.

9 people found this helpful

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Great Overview of the History of Horror in the U.S

If you enjoy a good horror story, this book will teach you a lot about where those images come from in America, and how they have been cultivated over the history of the nation. It’s a very quick but fascinating read. In addition to looking at the historical roots of things like spirits and witches, Jortner also spends a great deal of time looking at how movies, televisions, and novels have shaped the images. The popularity of monsters, and the way that those monster stories are told, has a lot to do with the stresses, fears, and problems of American society. Therefore, it should not be surprising that racism and civil rights are often underlying themes of the monster tale. Another fascinating theme is whether or not we can really govern ourselves when the people in charge in the stories often show themselves to be idiots. American isolationism, the Cold War, the proper role of science in our society… all of these themes pop up again and again as do stories about what happens when teens or women start to get a little independence in our dangerous world. Each section fascinated me and my only complaint is that the book wasn’t longer.

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Less Is More Sometimes

Overall it was good, and I enjoyed the narrator's voice, but it focused too much on race at times.

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Entirely Speculative

This is somewhat of an entertaining listen, albeit entirely speculative and arbitrary. It’s tiresome how it tries to prop up a political narrative with what is obviously rank speculation.
As to the performance, I find myself lisping incessantly after listening to this speaker.

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Terrible leftist propaganda piece

I hope you are not getting paid to actually teach college students. Your self loathing and racism is on full display in this title. I started a book about Monsters and ended up with a heavily biased opinion piece, that touted left wing think. Not to mention using Jordan Peele, a known racist, as your "go to" authority on horror, was telling. Very disappointing.

2 people found this helpful

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How scary stories reflect American culture

I'm not really into horror, but this was actually an interesting look. I thought it would essentially be a catalog of American cryptids. Far from it, it's a look at how Americans over the centuries think about monsters, and what scary stories they come up with. What is their relationship with monsters? How do the concerns of the era affect what they are afraid of? How are prejudices reflected in horror mythos? And why, historically, have people been so quick to believe the worst about their neighbors?

2 people found this helpful

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Spooky and relevant!

I really enjoyed this course on American monsters. Interesting, albeit brief, review of the American monster story. I think this could have been a 12 to 18 hour course with a focus on the nature of ghost stories in America, body horror, and other rabbit holes. Regardless, it was a good course that left me wanting more.

2 people found this helpful

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  • P. Pensom
  • 05-31-22

Entertaining but infuriating

This set of lectures were in part stimulating, but also infuriating. Adam Jortner comes across as a likeable and engaging essayist, but I think that American academics simply don't realise quite how hyper-racialised their discourse has become in recent years. Some of his points regarding race are pertinent and well made, but viewing everything through such a lens is tiresome in the extreme. Jortner is far more interesting when he allows himself to break free of contemporary orthodoxy and eschew the constant pigeon-holing necessary for sustaining such a worldview.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Stephen Silk
  • 09-24-21

Excellent!

Not just a history of the American monster story, but it’s intertwined with a history of the American culture that drove (and drives) them, with its ever-changing fears, no mater how ridiculous they seem later.