Inspired by a recent question about the Seven Basic Plots and so forth: Can you tell me what the origin of the "Creepy Little Town" or "Something's Not Right Here" story type is? I'm wondering if it's a uniquely American trope in origin.
It's about a town that preserves a surface normality, sometimes total and saccharine, sometimes odd and off-kilter. A traveler, a former resident, or a suspicious outsider inside the town detects that something is strange and soon discovers a big old vat of hidden evil. All the townspeople are complicit, either because they're frightened, they're deluded, or they too are evil.
is a good example, and I'm certain Stephen King wrote plenty of others along the same line; The Stepford Wives
is a different kind. The Wicker Man
is also a classic (of course it isn't an American movie, at least not the good one from the '70s). Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" is another. (I wouldn't exactly count the "Seven Samurai" or "Shane" type of plot, in which there is a powerful enemy that controls the town, but there is not supposed to be anything wrong with the whole place.)
I am interested to know how old this type of story is, and where, if anyone knows, its earliest examples came from.