pumpkin on brown wooden table

Happy Halloween!

From spooky costumes and creepy pumpkins to terrifying monsters, and scary movies, Halloween is the time of year to embrace the hair-raising and frightening time of life.

Millions of people around the world will attend Halloween parties, go trick-or-treating, decorate their houses, and wear costumes. But how much do you really know about Halloween?

Here are a selection of Thinking in English episodes that look at Halloween in more detail. They cover topics ranging from idioms to history and even story-telling!

Ready to be freaked out by these Halloween Thinking in English episodes?

Let’s get started!

Thinking in English Halloween Special Episodes!

268. History of Zombies: From Haiti and Voodoo to the Night of the Living Dead! (English Vocabulary Lesson)

What is a zombie?

You might be thinking of the flesh-eating, undead monsters common in Hollywood, but the origin of zombies is much more fascinating than the stories in film and TV.

From the brutal slave plantations of Haiti to the development of voodoo legends and traditions, to the modern monsters of Hollywood, join us for a look at the history of zombies in this Halloween special episode!

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The History of Mummies! (Bonus Episode)

If were to ask you, “what is the scariest Halloween monster?”, what would your answer be? I’m not sure what you would answer, but I assume you wouldn’t say mummies.

When we think of classic horror characters, we have Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula and vampires, zombies, ghosts, witches, ghouls, werewolves, and more. Yet, I have always had an affinity with mummies.

I don’t find them particularly scary. The classic “mummy” Halloween costume is achieved by covering yourself in toilet paper… not the most intimidating.

I think there are two reasons I like mummies.

First, the 1999 movie The Mummy starring Brendon Fraser and its sequels. I loved these movies growing up and I found the stories fascinating.

Second, I loved the British Museum. The British Museum has a large collection of Egyptian mummies and when visiting the museum as a child I would be captivated by the ancient remains.

In this episode, I took a deeper look into the history and evolution of mummies. I wanted to know why and how mummies evolved from an ancient form of preserving bodies to a modern horror character and Halloween monster.

Listen Here

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14. What is Halloween?

I’d like you to imagine this situation.

You’re standing on a hill in ancient Ireland, looking over a field below you. It is a pitch black night in late October or early November.

The air is so cold that your breath turns to steam as you breath out, and an icy rain is falling from the sky. Although the night is pitch black, it is glowing orange and red thanks to a massive fire burning in the field.

Around the fire, hundreds of people, who have travelled from neighbouring villages just for this celebration, are gathering. They are clad head to toe in strange garments; including animal heads and animal skins.

Into the fire they are throwing crops and animals as sacrifices, while trying to tell each other fortunes.

After the ceremony is over, they travel home and relight their home’s fires using the fire from the bonfire.

What is this strange ceremony that you have just witnessed? Well, it was actually the start of a holiday that we now call Halloween.

What are the origins of Halloween? Why do we dress up in costumes, carve pumpkins, and trick or treat?

All of these questions, and more, are discussed in this episode of Thinking in English.

This is one of the earliest Thinking in English episodes, so I apologise for the lower quality audio and production!

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‘Ghost towns,’ ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous,’ and ‘Graveyard Shift’: Idioms and Phrases for a Spooky Halloween (English Vocabulary Lesson)

As you probably already know, Halloween is a holiday associated with all manner of scary, spooky, and terrifying things: monsters, ghosts, death, blood, graveyards, and more!

So let’s learn some idioms and phrases that follow these themes. And luckily for you, all of these phrases and idioms can be used in everyday situations, not just on Halloween!

Without any further ado, it’s time to introduce today’s new vocabulary… I hope they don’t scare you!

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183. “The Signal-Man” by Charles Dickens (Halloween Special)!

In this spooky special episode of Thinking in English, I thought I would introduce you all to one of the most famous ghost stories of all time – “The Signal-Man” by Charles Dickens.

“The Signal-Man” is an incredibly famous ghost story, written in 1866 by the great writer Charles Dickens. A railway signalman tells the narrator about a mysterious vision he keeps having. He works near a railway tunnel where he controls the movements of passing trains. But he is haunted by a ghostly figure which appears on the railway just before tragic events occur.

As the story was written over 150 years ago – the vocabulary and way of making sentences may be a little more difficult that you are used to. BUT, I want you all to challenge yourself. Focus on the story, and don’t get distracted by vocabulary and phrases that may be new to you! I’ll leave an extensive vocabulary list at the end of my reading.

I’m going to read a brief extract from the short story on the podcast today, and if you are interested in reading the whole story, I’ll leave links to access the full free book! 

Sit back, read along with the transcript and vocabulary on my blog, and prepare to be freaked out by “The Signal Man.”

Listen Here



Final Thought

What do you think? Have you listened to all of these episodes already? Or will you listen now?

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By Tom Wilkinson

Host and founder of Thinking in English, Tom is committed to providing quality and interesting content to all English learners. Previously a research student at a top Japanese university and with a background in English teaching, political research, and Asian languages, Tom is now working fulltime on bettering Thinking in English!

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