Arlene and Lori Hitchens have turned their quiet, suburban home into a spooky haunted house, just in time for Halloween.

Arlene Hitchens’ two-story, red-brick house doesn’t look much different from its neighbors on a quiet street in the Village of Manley.

Except for the body floating in her swimming pool.

Forget the hokey jack-o-lantern, Arlene and her daughter, Lori, have converted the first floor of their suburban domicile into a full-blown haunted house, complete with decorations, moving parts and spooky actors.

“You have to love Halloween to do this to your house,” Lori said.

Walking through the front door is like stepping onto the set of a creepy horror movie.

A self-playing organ fills the living room with eerie music, skeletons and corpses cover the furniture, and each room has a different scary theme. There’s a terrifying séance in the dining room with a levitating dinner table. Turn the corner and there’s a creepy laboratory in the laundry room where a mad scientist conducts experiments.

Haunted House Tours

Guests are escorted through eight spooky chambers
Oct. 25 and Oct. 31, 7 - 9 p.m.
19 Nathalie Drive, Hockessin
$3 admission benefits CompAnimals Pet Rescue
For info, e-mail


Click here to see a photo gallery of the haunted house

And don’t forget the body floating in the pool.

“But our haunted house isn’t about blood and gore,” Arlene said. “It’s about entertainment.”

The whole thing started as a way to amuse friends, neighbors and trick-or-treaters five years ago when Arlene and Lori decorated one room of their home with Halloween wallpaper.

Everybody loved it, Arlene said, so they decorated more the next year.

Now the haunted house consumes the entire first floor – the kitchen table and microwave have been banished to the garage until Nov. 1 to make room for creepy decorations.

It takes a tremendous amount of work to put the haunted house together, Lori said.
They started decorating on Labor Day, putting up wallpaper and designing each spooky scene room by room.

There’s a lot of trial and error before the scenes are perfect, she said, like the pulley-rigged figure of a woman who rushes down the stairs at guests. After getting the kinks out of the rope and pulley, they noticed the wire was visible and eventually set up strobe lights to mask it, she explained.

But living in a haunted house isn’t always quite as much fun as it seems, she said.
“It does startle you when the figures are first set up and you come downstairs in the middle of the night,” she said.

The rooms are supposed to startle guests, who will be led between them by tour guides on Halloween night, Arlene said, and it takes 19 actors to make it work.

Arlene plays a witch, bent over a cauldron and reciting a magic spell to make her broom stand still, though it doesn’t work because she is missing one ingredient – red human hair.

Trick-or-treaters were once allowed in on Halloween for a free fright, but this year Arlene and Lori are charging $3 a person and donating the proceeds to CompAnimals Pet Rescue in Landenberg, Pa.

So many people wanted to pay last year, Arlene said, they decided to use the haunted house as a fundraiser. They also expanded the offerings this year to include Oct. 23 and Oct. 25.

And what do the neighbors think?

Many of them pitch in, Arlene said, either volunteering as actors or helping build scenes and mechanical parts.

Running a haunted house is like another full-time job, but it’s worth it for the good natured screams and smiles on Halloween night, she said.