Honeybees scare, Spain’s cursed village, shadow scientists, Mexico’s doll island

Oct 27, 2021 Episode 70

Scary honeybee and candy news, Halloween’s history, Spain’s witchy village, shadow scientists in deep space, Mexico’s doll island

Episode Transcript

EPISODE 70 – Honeybees and Halloween


OPENING STING – LEELA: “New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”


LEELA: Hello and welcome to Newsy Pooloozi – the news pool for curious kids and adults!  I’m your host Leela Sivasankar Prickitt and, as ever, I’m joined by the big story explainer and sound effects finder, otherwise known as my Mama.

MAMA: Hello, hello – I’m Lyndee Prickitt.

LEELA: It’s a spooky week on Newsy Pooloozi… Find out what honeybees have to do with Halloween and how much candy you might get trick-or-treating!

Also get the low-down on how Halloween began.

And hear about the spooky Spanish village cursed with a spell so powerful only the Pope can lift it.

The story of the shadow scientists,

And Mexico’s kooky (and maybe creepy?) doll island and its eight copycats!!!

LEELA: But first, it’s time for…

BIG NEWS STORY STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “The big news story of the week!”

MAMA: It’s Halloween week and I bet you’ve seen the candy aisles in the supermarkets full of treats, right?

LEELA: Oh, I wish we had a supermarket that was full of Halloween candy! But it’s not a big festival in India. Plus, we don’t have supermarkets in India.

MAMA: Not, not many. That’s not stopping us putting together a parade of trick-or-treaters around our neighborhood.

LEELA: Yep, there’s lots of candy in India, even if it’s not wrapped in shiny orange and black.

MAMA: But can you imagine what a disaster it would be if… if… there were no chocolate treats on Halloween?

LEELA: Mama! Stop! You’re scaring me!


MAMA: (in a scary voice) Yes, chocolate supplies could run out if we don’t save the bees and butterflies.

LEELA: Ohh no, What?!

MAMA: This is not a tall tale either. Scientists from the University of Cambridge have recently discovered that a decline in the number of insects like bees, butterflies and even gnats, or midges, could mean that not enough cocoa plants grow, meaning our chocolate supply could seriously be hit in the next twenty to fifty years.


LEELA: Noooooo!

MAMA: Sadly, yes. And it’s not just chocolate either, but supplies of apples, soybeans, coffee and strawberries are all under threat. In fact, bees help provide about a third of what we eat.

LEELA: OK, you have got to stop scaring me. But how can fewer bees, and other bugs, mean less food?

MAMA: Well, as the best-ever family-friendly, science-nerdy documentary series “Connected” says..

LEELA: Ah – everything is connected.

MAMA: So it goes like this: chocolate is made from the beans of cocoa trees, which only grow with the help of insects pollinating, or spreading, their seeds.

LEELA: Cos we want more than one cocoa tree.

MAMA: Exactly. But insects like gnats and bees are declining.

LEELA: Let me guess – because of climate change-schlime-it-change?

MAMA: Yes. And also the wide use of pesticides and chemicals used to kill insects – usually the ones that eat crops, but, well, they also kill the good bugs that pollinate or spread seeds.

LEELA: Oh, man. Darned if you do and darned if you don’t.

MAMA: And that’s not all. As we build up areas for development, cutting down trees and flowers, well, where do the bugs go?

LEELA: And my sweet, sweet chocolate!

MAMA: Well, it’s hoped that with people becoming aware of how important our creepy crawlies are, we’ll think about ways of saving them.

LEELA: Great idea I think we should all be bugs and creepy crawlies for Halloween!


MAMA: Speaking of Halloween… Let’s dive into our archive and play the piece we produced last year on how this kooky custom actually began, shall we?

LEELA: Great idea. To be honest, I kind of have forgotten about all the ways to say All Soul’s Day. And I do like to hear myself sounding so young…

MAMA: Ok, so once upon a time… long before Christianity spread across the world, many Europeans were what’s known as pagans, an ancient religion that worshipped many gods. And the Celtic people, who lived in what we now call Ireland and Britain, celebrated something called Samhain (sow-in), with bonfires and parties marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year… During this festival, guess what they believed happened????

LEELA: Oh… I know… the dead ancestors came back to life!

MAMA: Bingo! Like in Asia, the Celts believed there was a period when the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurry. And people were worried they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. So… to disguise themselves…

LEELA: And they dressed up in funny costumes!

MAMA: Well, they wore masks hoping the ghosts would mistake them for fellow ghosts.

LEELA: Ah ha… But what about trick or treating?

MAMA: Well, you see, when Christianity came to the Celtic areas, it’s believed that the church wanted to replace this pagan ritual with their own… They had something around the same time of year called Saints Day and All Souls Day, which were days to honor the dead, also with bonfires, parties, and dressing up as saints and angels. And…

LEELA: Trick or treating!

MAMA: Ha ha.. Kind of… During the festive season poor citizens would beg for food in return for praying for the dead relatives of the person giving the food. Eventually ordinary children who are “going-a-souling,” as they called it, visit houses in their neighborhood and are given food and money.

LEELA: So “going a souling” became trick or treating.

MAMA: That’s what people think. And guess what the Middle English way of saying All Saints was? Alholowmesse/All-hallowmas… Which became All-hallows for short… And the parties were celebrated the night, or even, before… so All Hallows Eve…

LEELA: (old man laughs) Halloween! I get it.

MAMA: (Spooky laugh) You. Are. Right. But it is interesting how Ireland and the United Kingdom don’t really celebrate All Saints or All Souls Day much anymore. 


MAMA: Well, that’s probably a whole other podcast. But many people believe that when towns and cities were building up in America, local leaders felt Halloween was a great way to build a community. And it just kept buildings and buildings.

LEELA: Block party!

MAMA: Block party indeed. Which has since mostly just become neighborhood trick-or-treating.

LEELA: Candy! I want candy!

MAMA: Candy, yes, but no Halloween is complete without some spooky stories.

LEELA : Ooooh sends shivers down my spine  And we have a few in the news for you.

MAMA: We sure do. First to Spain, where a village of witches (supposedly) was cursed with a spell so powerful only the Pope could lift it.

LEELA: Uh, rewind. The Pope, for those who don’t know, is the leader of the Catholic church.

MAMA: And back in the 13th century, when this curse was pronounced, the Catholic church was super rich and super powerful. They controlled almost everything in Spain.

LEELA: Even – it turns out – the truth.

MAMA: Yes, this is a story of fiction becoming fact and greed turning into ghosts.

LEELA: And witches! (Witchy laugh)

MAMA: So the story goes. And to tell us the tale of the witchy Spanish village that’s still struggling to make it today is our very own 

LEELA: Marc Granena from Barcelona, Spain.

MARK: So, once upon a time, there was a town in northern Spain called Trasmoz.

Some of the people who lived in the castle… used to spend all day hammering copper.They were making fake money! And they were making a lot of noise! But they didn’t want to get caught!

So, they told the people that the castle was haunted. All that banging you hear? It’s ghosts… GHOSTSSSSS!

Anyway, the people bought it. And they left the castle alone. Fast forward a few years… the town is doing well. Making money, literally.

So, the Catholic church was like… hey- give us some! But the town said, “no way!” That made the Catholic church super mad. So, they spread the ghost rumor.

The super big boss of the Catholic church called the Pope, kicked out all the people from the church. And said the town would be doomed forever more. Oddly enough, the town did suffer.

Lots of bad stuff happened. Women were killed for being witches. Everyone moved away. The only person who can end the curse is the pope… And that hasn’t happened yet.

Nowadays, the town sees few visitors. Just witch enthusiasts. Brewing up stories about the town’s spooky history. In Barcelona, this is Marc Granena, for News Pooloozie.

LEELA: Thanks, Marc. I can’t believe the whole thing was a lie! And the town is still suffering to this day!

MAMA: Well, a curse is a curse. 


WORLD WRAP STING – LEELA: “What’s that? I’ll tell you what. That’s the halftime bell! Which means… It’s time to hear what’s making news around the rest of the world. Hold on tight, it’s around the world in 80 seconds.”

MAMA: A US government panel agrees the COVID-19 vaccine should be given to children aged five to 11, paving the way for emergency authorization and use within a matter of weeks.

In New York an internal organ from a pig was successfully transplanted into a human. Scientists temporarily attached a pig’s kidney to a human body and watched it begin to work – major step in the quest to one day use animal organs for life-saving transplants.

In Spain Madrid’s streets were left baa-dly congested, as hundreds of sheep passed through its bustling capital. It’s an annual event that started so shepherds can exercise their right to use ancient routes that once were quiet countryside to herd their livestock south for winter grazing. 

And local aviation officials in England are hearing how a man, sitting innocently in his backyard this summer, was splattered by poo.  And not just him, but half his garden furniture when a passing plane decided to drop its toilet waste on his garden about 8 miles from Heathrow airport. Yuck!


SCIENCE STING – LEELA: “The world of wow, wow, wow… In other words – science!”   

LEELA: Thank you as ever for that somewhat wacky-whippity-whappity wrap of weird world news, Mama.

MAMA: Well, it is Halloween week. I don’t want us to go too far from the dark side.

LEELA: Nooooooo. (witchy laugh) definitely not

MAMA: Which is why it’s time to talk about shadows and scientists. Or, to be precise, shadowing the scientists.

LEELA: Oh, I thought you meant something creepy. Or scientists who study shadows.

MAMA: Ha, ha – even cooler than that! I mean you, me and anyone else who wants to delve into a deep dark place this Halloween can do so.

LEELA: Ooooooh…. Yeah… (Well, after trick-or-treating.)

MAMA: Of course,. Or you could think of it as a spacey alternative to the evening, if Halloween isn’t exactly your thing.

LEELA: Oh, you mean the deep, dark place of… space!

MAMA: I do, indeed. Because there is a super cool scheme that’s been launched to allow ordinary people to shadow astronomers as they look deep into space. It’s a wildly successful collaboration between a bunch of space nerds from Hawaii – part of an organization called ‘Ohana Kilo Hōkū (OKH) and…  

LEELA: And professor Raja GUHATHAKURTA, the head of Astronomy and Astrophysics, at the University of California Santa Cruz. Who I’ve actually spoken to on the phone – thank you very much!

MAMA: And like a certain wonderful world news podcast I happen to know (and, uh, present) this is another lock-down-inspired initiative that sprang up when astronomers, like Raja, weren’t able to go to their observatories.

RAJA GUHATHAKURTA: So, we got set up to use powerful telescopes right from our homes using our laptops. In turn, this gave us the opportunity to share our work in real time with students and teachers around the world.

LEELA: Awesome – I for one think it’s a great idea! And am totally into being your shadow – on Zoom anyway – as you explore space. And I bet I’m not alone…

RAJA GUHATHAKURTA: Children are super excited to participate in something authentic like this. They get to experience exactly how scientists work – what scientists do to push the frontiers of knowledge,  that science is a team sport, that scientists are real people.

LEELA: What you’re human??! (hahaha)

RAJA GUHATHAKURTA: That science can be difficult at times.

LEELA: Oh, phew. I’m not the only one then.

RAJA GUHATHAKURTA: But it is also exciting and fun at other times.

LEELA: Oh, yeah! You said it, Professor.

MAMA: Yes, and thanks soooo much for being on Newsy Pooloozi. We’ll have the details of how to sign up for the Shadow the Scientist extravaganza on Oct 31. (fill in the form here!)

LEELA: When they’ll be making measurements of some very distant stars in the Milky Way.

MAMA: It’ll take place from 9:30pm Pacific Daylight Time – as in California time – all through the night till 8:30 in the morning. If that’s too late for you, don’t worry. On Nov 3 it will be from 7pm. And there are five more dates too. So go to our Facebook page – or have a look at the links in our transcript – for more! 

LEELA: Awesome. And now, let’s head over to the lucky dip machine to see what scary story it spits out for us this week.


ODDBALL STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “Step right up, step right up… Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? An oddball, no doubt!”

LEELA: Odd is one word for it. Creepy, might be another. This is a story about an island of dolls.

MAMA: That doesn’t sound creepy. Sounds more Xmasey to me – you know, like a toy shop.

LEELA: Yes, but these dolls are very old and battered and – wait for it – hanging from trees!

MAMA: OK – that’s creepy. You win. So, what’s the story?

LEELA: It’s pretty spooky, so I suggest anyone listening who gets easily scared might want to give this story a miss… I’m gonna stick to the basics so I don’t scare anyone too much….

Once upon a time – about 70 years – ago a man called Julian Santana went to live all by himself on an isolated river island outside of Mexico City.

He became convinced that a little girl, who had SUPPOSEDLY drowned nearby, was haunting him. So, in order to make her happy – he hung up an old doll that he’d had found.

And then another.

And another.

And more and more.

The thing is, most of these were old dolls in the first place. But now – 70 years later, well, you can imagine what they look like… eyes falling off, limbs hanging loose, even heads missing (brutal!), and all dangling from trees!

MAMA: Eeeeehhh.

LEELA: There’s more – so beware if you  scare easily.

MAMA: Maybe I should leave the room.

LEELA: Good idea, Mama.

MAMA: See ya. 

LEELA: So, when the strange Julian Santana died twenty years ago – he also drowned, floating in the same spot as the little girl. Bizarrely, the island became a tourist attraction.

But here’s the news flash.

Now so many people go to see the “Island of the Dolls,” there are now over 8 copycat islands in the area. With tour guides and boat owners ready to take money from tourists hoping to see a creep show.



FAB FACTS STING – LEELA: “And it’s time to wrap up the podcast with the top five fab facts heard today. Here goes…” 

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 1 – Scientists from the University of Cambridge have recently discovered that a decline in insects could mean that not enough cocoa plants grow. What insects? 

Bees, butterflies and even gnats (otherwise known as midges).

LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 2 – The Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating is thought to have come from which old custom of children visiting houses, receiving food and money?

“Going a souling” 

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 3 – Ancient pagans, in what we now call Ireland and Britain, lit bonfires and held parties marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. What was that called? 

Samhain (sow-in) – which is actually spelt, S-a-m-h-a-i-n.

LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 4 – There’s a Spanish village thought to be SO haunted and full of witches that it was cursed in the 13th century by the Pope. But what was the real reason?

They were making fake money. 

MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 5 – As part of a new initiative at the University of California, Santa Cruz, anyone can shadow scientists – via Zoom – as they make measurements of distance stars. What is the place in which these astronomers normally do this work? 

An observatory. 

And don’t forget, if you want to test yourself later on, then go to the Lucky Dip page of our website,  newsypooloozi.com, that’s pool-o-o-z-i, and take this quiz online in your own time!

LEELA: And that brings us to the end of this episode of Newsy Pooloozi!


We hope you enjoyed this dip in the news pool. If there’s anything you’d like to hear us cover, do drop us a line – head to the contact page of our website newsypooloozi.com – p-o-o-l  o-o-z-i.com or just drop email to contact@newsypooloozi.com

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Alrighty then, see you next week in the happy, splashy, giant Newsy Pooloozi!