American Monsters

Hosted byIan Punnett

American Monsters

About the show

Ian Punnett was joined by Professor of History, Scott Poole, for a discussion of how the monster, in all its various forms, has been a staple of American culture since the earliest settlers of the country. "Academics ought to take monsters seriously," Poole said, explaining that, regardless of the veracity of their existence, the belief in these entities "has real world effects in the material structures of society." To that end, he was reticent to provide "an abstract definition of a monster" because their identity and meaning have changed over time. "Monsters are products of the context that they come out of," he said, noting that, during different eras, monsters could be sea serpents, serial killers, or "the thing with a thousand eyes."

Tracing this concept back to the very beginnings of America, Poole observed that the early Puritan settlers arrived in the New World actually expecting monsters, which is what informed their perception of the Native Americans. He cited a long standing written history in Europe which suggested "monstrous races that were out beyond where the maps ended." As such, Poole said, when the settlers arrived in the New World, their intention was not to convert the Native Americans, but to eliminate the "monsters" which they so greatly feared. Beyond the Native Americans, he said, early settlers believed they were surrounded by Satanic forces and, thus, were troubled by the concept of witches as monsters and even regarded black bears as "diabolical creatures."

Looking at monsters in modern times, Poole pointed to the emergence of zombies in pop culture as a glimpse into the psyche of the contemporary populace. He observed that the popularity of zombies coincides with America becoming greatly fearful of viral outbreaks as well as obsessed with body image. He likened the zombie to "the ultimate nightmare of American culture's fascination with bodily fulfillment," since it is a decaying version of the human form that is "hungry all the time." Additionally, he surmised that zombies represent "our relationship with the dead" as well as people who are disconnected from society. Over the course of the evening, Poole also discussed the societal implications of other "monsters" like Bigfoot, werewolves, and the Jersey Devil.

The Phoenix Flash

In the first hour, astronomer Dr. Sky and researcher Lynne Kitei discussed the mysterious flash which appeared in the Phoenix sky during a TV news traffic report. Dr. Sky said that there appears to be no meteorological reason for the event and also dismissed the idea that it could have been caused by methane gas being released from Earth, despite similar reports which happened prior to the Japanese earthquake last year. He also expressed skepticism that it was UFO related, since the flash was a "ground up event" and did not display the characteristics of classic UFO reports. Kitei revealed that she actually appeared on this same FOX station over the weekend and that she was told that both the local utility companies and the nearby Air Force base had no explanation for the flash.


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A seemingly innocuous newscast in Phoenix on Thursday morning has yielded a baffling enigma as, over the shoulder of the reporter, a bright flash of light appeared in the sky. Meteorologists and electric companies have dismissed prosaic explanations for the event, which is drawing comparisons to the famed Phoenix Lights incident which occurred in the same skies nearly 15 years ago. More on the story, including video of the incident, at the Huffington Post.

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