Charleston City Paper profile: “Monster Mash-Up”

In Charleston, they’re always looking for “things that go bump in the night.” Nothing could be better than a profile in the hometown newspaper.

Ask someone about their nightmares, and you may find out more about that person than you ever wanted to know. Historian Scott Poole, author of Monsters in America, believes that a society’s fears can be equally telling. Throughout history, our cultural anxieties have manifested themselves as various kinds of monsters, from sea serpents to serial killers, vampires to ventriloquist dummies. Poole says these characters serve as a kind of map to where the bodies are buried in American history. “I’ve always taken my monsters seriously,” Poole says. “Part of the message of this book is that the reader needs to do the same.”

A tenured professor of American history at the College of Charleston, Poole has been a fan of monsters for as long as he can remember. “I’m kind of a lifelong horror nerd, so in a way this is an outgrowth of spending my childhood watching shock theater and my teenage years watching Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees,” Poole says.

While he considers himself to be a monster scholar, Poole doesn’t have an exact definition for them. “I actually make a point in the book that I’m not going to give a definition,” he says. “And the reason for that is I actually believe that the monster is so closely related to its social context that at different times the monster has meant different things. There’s no one single meaning.” But one thing they do have in common: They unsettle us, whether they’re inherently evil or not. (Read more >>>)

Monsters might unsettle us, but that they fascinate us is no less true. Get your own copy of Monsters in America in hardback or on Kindle today.

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