American Scary

A History of Horror, from Salem to Stephen King and Beyond

Coming Soon


By Jeremy Dauber

Formats and Prices




$41.00 CAD

"America is the world's biggest haunted house and American Scary is the only travel guide you need. I loved this book."
—Grady Hendrix, New York Times bestselling author of How to Sell a Haunted House and The Final Girl Support Group

From the acclaimed author of American Comics comes a sweeping and entertaining narrative that details the rise and enduring grip of horror in American literature, and, ultimately, culture—from the taut, terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe to the grisly, lingering films of Jordan Peele
America is held captive by horror stories. They flicker on the screen of a darkened movie theater and are shared around the campfire. They blare out in tabloid true-crime headlines, and in the worried voices of local news anchors. They are consumed, virally, on the phones in our pockets. Like the victims in any slasher movie worth its salt, we can’t escape the thrall of scary stories.
In American Scary, noted cultural historian and Columbia professor Jeremy Dauber takes the reader to the startling origins of horror in the United States. Dauber draws a captivating through line that ties historical influences ranging from the Salem witch trials and enslaved-person narratives directly to the body of work we more closely associate with horror today: the weird tales of H. P. Lovecraft, the lingering fiction of Shirley Jackson, the disquieting films of Alfred Hitchcock, the up-all-night stories of Stephen King, and the gripping critiques of Jordan Peele.
With the dexterous weave of insight and style that have made him one of America’s leading historians of popular culture, Dauber makes the haunting case that horror reveals the true depths of the American mind.

  • Praise for American Scary:

    "America is the world's biggest haunted house and American Scary is the only travel guide you need. I loved this book.”
    Grady Hendrix, author of How to Sell a Haunted House and The Final Girl Support Group
  • "American Scary—a rigorous history of American horrors, real and fictional—is clear-eyed, unflinching, comprehensive in scope and detail, and entertaining as hell. A remarkable achievement."
    Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World
  • “Vividly written and encyclopedic in scope, American Scary traces the history of horror through sources both classic and surprising, from Washington Irving and Jordan Peele to Emily Dickinson and the literature of the Holocaust. Jeremy Dauber uses his engaging style and deep knowledge of the genre to illuminate the question that lies beneath the gore: the way the things we fear reflect who we are, as individuals and as a nation.”
    Ruth Franklin, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life
  • “Scary-smart, scary-deep. Dauber understands and captures that the true threat of American horror is us, the audience. His book is equal to the best of the genre it chronicles.”
    Joshua Cohen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Netanyahus
  • “Dauber serves up a lively, vivid examination of American history through the chilling lens of the horror genre—or perhaps it's an examination of horror through the twisted lens of American history. Unmatched in its scope and brilliance, American Scary is a vital and wildly entertaining chronicle that will keep you hooked—and maybe a little scared—in the best way possible.”
    Robin R. Means Coleman author of Horror Noire: A History of Black American Horror from the 1890s to Present
  • "The American character defies description in many cases, but we are an obvious nation when it comes to our fears. With depth and dexterity, Dauber gets at the heart of our delusions of damnation, our obsessions, and confessions. American Scary synthesizes for both scholar and fan what it is we're afraid of, and why we always come back for more. A must-have for any horror completist."
    Meg Elison, author of Number One Fan
  • Praise for American Comics:

    "The first book about comics that covers events I was there for, where I’m not shaking my head at how wrong it is. A really good history of all the different strands of comics that came together over the last hundred and twenty years to become American Comics."
    Neil Gaiman
  • "An entertaining and richly detailed new history of comics . . . both opinionated and frequently funny . . . the story Dauber tells is a mighty one."
    Michael Tisserand, New York Times Book Review
  • "Until now one could only dream of an engaging, analytic history encompassing the entire medium. That sounds like a job for Superman, but Jeremy Dauber has gotten there first . . . His perceptive, critical overview is enlivened by a jaunty style that bops from the political cartoons of Thomas Nast in the 1860s to the demise of an equally influential gadfly, Mad magazine, in 2018."
    Michael Saler, Wall Street Journal
  • "An entertaining, big . . . comprehensive survey of the comics industry, from its inception in early twentieth-century newspapers to the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe megamovie crossover empire."
    Scott Bradfield, New Republic
  • "Dauber lets his love for the medium shine through . . . [and] makes a compelling argument that we can view, through the lens of comics' content, how America sees itself."
    Cliff Cumber, Washington Independent Review of Books

On Sale
Oct 1, 2024
Page Count
480 pages
Algonquin Books

Jeremy Dauber

About the Author

Jeremy Dauber is a professor of Jewish literature and American studies at Columbia University. His books include Jewish Comedy and The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem, both finalists for the National Jewish Book Award. More recently he is the author of Mel Brooks: Disobedient Jew and American Comics: A History. He lives in New York City.

Learn more about this author