Hey there, and welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll have fun becoming fluent in American English. I’m your English coach Christina, and today we’re getting ready to celebrate Halloween! Mwahahaha! Sorry, it’s my favorite holiday, so I can be a little over-enthusiastic about it sometimes!
When I was a kid, Halloween was all about scary ghost stories, ghost stories, about monsters, ghosts, and skeletons, fun songs, Halloween costumes, to be a witch, a butterfly, or even Cleopatra, and of course, candy! Really happy memories! Today, I want to share with you some of my favorite Halloween books and songs, so you can bring a little Halloween–and some real English–into your life!
Let’s go…if you dare!
Everybody knows the Simpsons! It’s the most popular cartoon in the history of American television. But did you know that every year since the beginning, there’s a special Halloween episode?
This year, 2017, will be the 28th one! These special episodes are called the Treehouse of Horror episodes, like Bart’s famous treehouse. These episodes include lots of cultural references to other Halloween stories and scary movies, so they’re a great way to immerse yourself in American Halloween culture if you love this holiday like I do!
There’s even a Simpson’s episode of The Raven!
If you want to see the best Treehouse of Horror episodes, click here to see a ranked list.
You can watch a complete Treehouse of Horror episode here.
Just don’t watch it alone!! Woohooohooo!!!
THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
There are some stories that everybody knows in the US. And if you watch American TV, you may see cartoon versions of them, or documentaries about their history.
The most famous story is probably Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, written in 1820. It’s about a superstitious school teacher named Ichabod Crane, who comes to live in a small village in Tarrytown, New York. One night, on his way home from a Halloween party, he meets a terrifying headless horseman. A guy without a head, riding a horse.
Pretty scary, right? After a crazy chase in the forest, the headless horseman throws his bloody head at Ichabod Crane. And the next day, Ichabod Crane has mysteriously disappeared from the village…
Now, I don’t recommend trying to read the original story. It’s written in a very old style of English with lots of obscure vocabulary.
But, thanks to the mysterious magic of internet, you can watch the same cartoon that I watched when I was a kid, by clicking here.
And of course there’s the Tim Burton movie Sleepy Hollow, starring Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane. I definitely recommend this movie! In fact, I think I’ll watch it tonight!
SCARY CHILDREN’S STORIES
American kids love ghost stories, and there are plenty of Halloween books written for kids. But I’ll warn you, these stories are truly creepy, creepy. Like, they are not Disney stories with happy endings.
My favorite collection is Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, by Alvin Schwartz I even brought these books with me to France so I could re-read them at Halloween!
It’s a collection of traditional American ghost stories and urban legends, urban legends, like 2 boys who see a monster in a corn field, a woman who almost becomes the victim of a killer in her car, or a ghost that haunts the 13th floor of a hotel.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark are truly scary and the illustrations are even worse, even if they’re for kids.
Another collection of stories I loved when I was little is “In a Dark, Dark Room”. Now these are not as scary, because they’re for children aged 4-8, but they’re excellent for reading some real, accessible English.
And they still have scary stories about a decapitated woman, a young hitchhiker who is a ghost in reality, and a skeleton named John, and more!
Many Americans know the opening line to this scary poem :
“Once upon a midnight dreary,
while I pondered weak and weary…”
And you can really feel the rhythm of the language in it! Listen to it in the video.
This poem “The Raven” was written by Edgar Allan Poe, a famous American poet who was born in Boston in 1809, and The Raven is his most famous poem. You can listen and read along to the entire poem here.
But again, it’s in kind of old style, poetic English, so you might want to find a translation in your language to understand the story.
Poe had a very miserable life: his dad abandoned the family, his mom died the next year, he had problems with his adopted family, he was poor…
Maybe because of his experiences, Edgar Allan Poe became a master at writing mysteries, mysteries, and macabre stories, macabre stories, like The Tell-Tale Heart, a short story about insanity and murder, or The Pit and the Pendulum, about a victim of the Spanish Inquisition.
I told you Poe is not happy stuff. But his stories are classics that we still love, especially around Halloween, when they show the old film versions, especially the ones with the actor Vincent Price, who became famous for playing in these horror films!
It’s not exactly a horror film, but here’s this year’s special Halloween episode:
Now, what about you?
Are you going to celebrate Halloween? Do you know any other Halloween stories, or any ghost stories from your country? I would LOVE you to share them with me and the Speak English Ambassadors!
And if you’re not too scared, be sure to check out my other Halloween episode, on American Halloween Traditions at the office.
Thanks for watching Speak English with Christina, and have a Happy Halloween!
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