Hungry Ghosts Festival, Halloween and Day of the Dead plus the mystery of the killer whales and more!

Oct 28, 2020 Episode 18

On our Spooky Special episode, hear about Asia’s Hungry Ghost Festival, America’s Halloween and Mexico’s Day of the Dead, which all have more in common than you think. But that’s not all, we also have the mystery of killer whales that go bump at sea and Japan’s drive-in haunted houses.

(Special thanks to Amaira and Anaira Mirza for their joint work on this week’s fabulous artwork!)

Episode Transcript

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




LEELA: Hello and welcome to our special spoooooky episode of Newsy Pooloozi. I’m Leela Sivasankar Prickitt.


MAMA: And I’m Lyndee Prickitt. And sometimes the wicked witch.


LEELA: That’s right it’s that time of the year when the nights get longer and somehow seem darker. And when you begin to think of those people no longer living.


MAMA: Ghosts!


LEELA: And we’re not just talking Halloween.


MAMA: Nope.


LEELA: This week on Newsy Pooloozi we’ll hear how autumn customs all over the world get a bit spooky…

From the Far East where they set a place at the table for their Hungry Ghosts to the Pagans in Europe who lit a fire and wore masks for their harvest festival. How that changed to All Saints Night, or should I say All Hallows Eve to be become, you guessed it, Halloween! We’ll also find out where trick-or-treating came from. And why Mexico’s Day of the Dead isn’t as scary as it sounds. And That’s not all… we’ll recount the mystery of the killer whales attacking boats off the coast of Spain. And how the Japanese get their ghostly thrills in a socially distanced way. That’s the end of my little Halloween rhyme Because now it’s time. For the big news story of the week!


STING: The Big News Story of the Week.




MAMA: Of course, the big news story of the week is NOT Halloween!


LEELA: OH no, or really should we say it’s not ONLY Halloween.


MAMA: Exactly! Because Halloween isn’t the only autumn fright festival happening in the world…


LEELA: And this is a world news podcast.


MAMA: It also turns out we’re all a lot more similar than you might think… So, let’s start with the first spooky celebration on the calendar.


LEELA: Well, almost two months ago the frightening festivities began in the “Far East” of Asia with the Hungry Ghost Festival.


MAMA: It takes place on the seventh month of the lunar calendar that means it’s based on the moon’s cycle, not our normal 12-month calendar. It’s usually around August and September.

LEELA: And for this we go to our Taiwan correspondent, Yu Ching Liu, to tell us more….


YUCHING: In Taiwan like most of Asia our ancestors are a big deal. Not just our grandparents, but our great, great, great grandparents too. We find many ways to pay them respect. We leave offerings or light incense for our ancestors in our homes or at temples. And for people who follow the Buddhist or Taoist faith there’s more.


In spring, the Ching Ming, or grave sweeping, festival is a national holiday. The Double Ninth festival is another chance for us the living to pay our respects to the dead. But the Hungry Ghost Festival is when the dead are believed to come visit us! For a whole month!


They are said to roam around…  seeking food and entertainment though some call it mischief!

The naughty ghosts are believed to be ancestors who weren’t given a very good farewell, or funeral, when they died. On the night of the full moon a large feast is prepared with an empty seat left for the hungry ghost.


Families make sure there is a lot of food and drink! I mean, wouldn’t you want to keep a hungry ghost happy?! This is Yu Ching Liu reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!


LEELA: Thanks for that great report, Yu Ching. But I’m not so sure I like the sound of having ghosts over for dinner…


MAMA: Well, you gotta keep ‘em happy.


LEELA: I gotta keep ‘em away!


MAMA: It’s interesting that Buddhism began right here in India and then spread east. But that particular festival has faded away for the most part.


LEELA: Good! (laugh) Too scary for me! Though some Hindus do celebrate Poot Chatter dashee… where you light 14 candles for your ancestors. But they don’t come to dinner when they’re mad at you!


MAMA: Well, I have to say I’m really drawn to the idea of holidays in which you take time out to remember your ancestors. I think it’s really sweet..


LEELA: Like Coco! I mean the Day of the Dead in Mexico.


MAMA: Yeah, totally. But before we cut across to Mexico, next on the calendar would be our very own Halloween…


LEELA: Which is kind of off the agenda this year.


MAMA: Well, some people are celebrating. but in a different, more quiet and socially distant ways…. But first we should say that it’s not really celebrated in India, where we are, right?


LEELA: But I do!


MAMA: Well, we do have American friends, so we get together a trick-or-treat route with them.


LEELA: But now lots of Indians celebrate it.


MAMA: Well, not lots, but in the cities where people have more exposure with America, then, yes, it’s starting to pick up. But let’s face it India is a very open country that likes to party.


LEELA: People here celebrate any good festival going!


MAMA: And who doesn’t like to dress up and get candy? Even some British people now join in the fun. But no one quite like… America.


LEELA: So how did it start?


MAMA: I was so hoping you’d ask that! 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 period, 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. And leave them alone.


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 replace this pagan ritual with their own… They had something around the same time of year called All Saints Day and All Souls Day, which were days to honor the dead, also with bonfires, parties, people dressing up as saints and angels. And…


LEELA: Trick or treating!


MAMA: 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 be “going-a-souling,” as they called it, visiting houses in their neighborhood and be 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?

Hallowmases/All-hallowmas… Which became All-hallows for short… And the parties were celebrating the night, or eve, before… so All Hallows Eve…


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


MAMA: Yes!! (Spooky laugh) You. Are. Right. But interesting how like India doesn’t really celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival anymore, 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 the towns and cities were building up in America, local leaders felt Halloween was a great way to build a community. And its just kept building and building


LEELA: Block party!


MAMA: So, Halloween is on October 31, and two days later and bit further south of the US is…


LEELA: Mexico’s Day of the Dead! Which always used to sound really scary to me…  But not so much anymore.


MAMA: Yeah, when you think it’s just about paying our respects to the dead, especially people from your own family, and it’s pretty cool.


LEELA: But all those skeletons are Kinda spooky…


MAMA: Really? Even though they’re so elaborately, decorated with all those designs and colors. I think they were really cool..


LEELA: Yeah, I guess that’s cool. Why do they do that?


MAMA: I was hoping you had asked that! For this we’ll have to cut across to Ella May Daniel Hureta, who is half English and half Mexican and lives in Mexico City.


LEELA: Ah, so she can pronounce day of the dead the proper way, can’t you, Ella May?


ELLA MAY: The Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, began several thousand years ago.

That’s loooong before the Spanish people came to Mexico. It was started by the original Nahua people, which included the Aztecs and Toltecs. When their loved ones died, they didn’t mourn or cry or get all upset. Believe it or not, that was considered disrespectful!


LEELA: What? Disrespectful to cry for the dead? Why?


ELLA MAY: Because they considered those who died still to be members of the community! Their memory and spirit were considered alive. And during Día de los Muertos the ancient Mexicans believed their dead friends and family would return to the living world to see them.

OK, just for a day, but still. How cool is that?


LEELA: When you put it like that, you are right it’s very coo actually very very cool! But is it still like that today? Or is there a mix of Christianity in there too?


ELLA MAY: Today’s Día de los Muertos is a mix of this ancient belief and more modern Christian rituals.

That’s why it’s a day of celebration of parties. It’s not a day to be sad and it’s certainly not spooky.

Dressing up as like the dead, like skeletons, is all part of the fun. In our homes we make offends, or offering alters.


LEELA: Wait – offering alters? Oh, we have those here in India too. Some people have these little alters with photos of their ancestors and candles in their homes but all the time, not just one day of the year. So, in Mexico, these alters are filled with…


ELLA MAY: Filled with flowers and photos and our dead relative’s fav things, like fruit and tequila. We don’t want to hide from the dead – we want to party with them! In Mexico City, I’m Ella May Daniels reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!


LEELA: Thanks for that, Ella May! Say hi to your great-great grandmamma for us!


MAMA: (laughs) I just love it. I think we’ve gotta start doing this paying our respects every year to great, great-granny great-grand Hellen and Virginia, Charles, Bernice and Fred and Leela and Pram and Shanti and Tumkur all of them


LEELA: That’s a long list!


MAMA: It’s all yours, dear. Better start lighting some candles. After all, if it weren’t for them… you wouldn’t be here. But isn’t so interesting to see how all these festivals around the world kind of all started with same idea…


LEELA: Yep, our ancestors believed their ancestors came back to visit from the grave once a year.


MAMA: (laughs) So how do you feel about these spooky celebrations now…?


LEELA: Not so spooky, I guess… Then again… I’m happy to look at a photo and light a candle…  rather than, you know, hang out without ghost.


STING: “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: With just over a week to go until the US election, the Republican controlled US Senate confirmed a new judge on the supreme court. Amy Coney Barret has many opposing views to the legendary liberal icon she replaces, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


NASA discovers water on the sunlit surface of the moon, which was thought to be bone-dry until a decade ago when a series of findings suggested water were trapped on the surface. Now two new studies suggest there could be even more than thought, including ice on the dark side of the moon.


Staying with NASA, last week’s historic landing and quick sample grab of an asteroid was almost too successful. Large particles of the asteroid left the flap of the space vehicle open and now some of that valuable scientific material is escaping.


The first nest of the dreaded “murder hornets” has been tracked using GPS and destroyed. These Asian hornets have a powerful sting and can spit venom. But they can also destroy a colony of bees in just a few hours.


And talk about taking your decorations a bit too far… A California fire department keeps getting calls over a “burning” house that’s not really on fire… Just some smoking Pirates of the Caribbean decorations that look hot.


LEELA: Thanks for that wondrous news wrap, Mama… Forget about those killer hornets! We have a mysterious story about killer whales.


MAMA: Talk about things that go bump in the night… this is about Orca whales that go bump against boats


LEELA: Orca whales – otherwise known as “killer whales!


MAMA: Yes, they’re whales with teeth, belonging to the dolphin family’, actually, but they’re the largest of all dolphins, and one of the world’s most powerful predators hence the nickname.


LEELA: For more on the mystery of the killer whales that go bump in the night, let’s go to our Spain correspondent, Nina Granena.


NINA:  It was nearly midnight out in the black dark sea. When last month a group of Spanish sailors were in their small yacht off the northwest coast of Spain. When all of a sudden…




NINA: They felt their boat move suddenly! And they heard a loud thump! They ran to the side of the boat. When they looked over, they saw killer whales slamming into the bottom of their yacht.

The orcas seemed to be talking to each other Whaley sound and they didn’t seem happy!


They kept ramming and ramming the boat. The sailors were pretty shaken up. This went on 45 minutes!

Finally, when the orcas broke the boat’s rudder which is like a tail that sticks out from the boat to help steer it they swam away. Turns out, sailors from Portugal, the UK and elsewhere were reporting the same kind of attacks.


But what everyone wants to know is why? Why are the whales attacking our boats? Scientists say they’re not sure if the orcas are just being curious and want to play… Or are they taking revenge on boats that invade their territory?! For now, the attack of the killer whales remains a bit of a fishy tale. In Spain this is Nina Granena reporting for Newsy Pooloozi Happy Halloween


LEELA: Yes, smells a bit fishy to me! Thanks for that report, Nina! And now we have our own ghostly visit…


MAMA: This is a story from our past… Making an appearance from the Newsy Pooloozi graveyard is the story of the best socially distanced haunted house ever.


STING: Step right up, Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? And odd ball, no doubt!


LEELA: So, did you know that many people in Japan love to be scared?


MAMA: Huh?


LEELA: Well, haunted houses are very popular in Japan. But of course, the nasty old coronavirus has “scared” people from going, because haunted houses are usually in dark, cramped, close quarters… all the better to scare you with!


MAMA: Not exactly good for keeping a safe distance from others…


LEELA: Not at all! But also… what happens when you get scared???


MAMA: My knees shake.




MAMA: I have to pee.


LEELA: Mama!


MAMA: Well…


LEELA: The moment when someone – or something comes out of the dark…


MAMA: Ahhh… I jump!


LEELA: You scream!!!


SFX: Screaming


MAMA: Oh yeah. That’s true.


LEELA: Also, not very sensible in the time of coronavirus. Screaming usually means spitting or, rather, spreading “droplets of air” everywhere.


MAMA: That’s a horror story on its own.


LEELA: Exactly, but some clever people from a company called the “Scare Squad” have found a way to frighten people, errr, safely. Move over drive-thru fast food or drive-thru movies… Enter the drive-thru haunted house! Visitors drive into a giant garage in the big city of Tokyo, they turn off their engine and the garage shutter close behind them. It’s pitch black. They’re given a set of speakers to hear a spooky tale. Complete with zombies, goules and goblins at your… window.




LEELA: Not for me! thank you!


MAMA: But you’re in your car, so it’s not that scary.


LEELA: Yeah, but at least in a haunted house or a ghost train you can move, as fast as you can, to get OUT! Here you’re stuck in the car with nowhere to go for 13 unlucky minutes! (shudder) Anyway, it’s not my thing. But good job to the Scare Squad… for beating the virus.


LEELA: Hey, Mama?


MAMA: Hey, Leela.


LEELA: Do you know How do skeletons tell their future?


MAMA: Oh, no…


LEELA: They look at their horror-scope. What’s a witches favorite class?


MAMA: Ohhh Stop, you’re killing me…


LEELA: Spelling! What’s a ghost’s favorite dessert?


MAMA: (laughs) I give up.


LEELA: I-scream!




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


MAMA: Couple of quick shout-outs to some reviews left on Podcast Republic thanks Cleo for saying our podcast was “fantastic” in all capital letters and Preeti who says…


LEELA: “This podcast is so much fun! I love it! My mom likes it because I learn something every time, I listen to it too.”


MAMA: Thank you so much for taking the time out to rate and review – it really keeps us going!


LEELA: So, if you enjoyed this dip…. in the whirlpool of news and information… then do subscribe, rate and review us on…   Apple Podcast, Podcast Republic, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.


And if you want to see a bit more of the whirlpool of news and information, either take a look at our website – newsyjacuzzi.com or pop by our Facebook page which is @NewsyPooloozi.


So Happy Halloween, All Saints Day, Day of the Dead or whatever you’re celebrating. And say hi to great grandmamma if she pops by!


See you next week in the Newsy Pooloozi!