Hockessin's Haunted House, jack o'lanterns at Gateway, and trick-or-treat downtown part of the holiday fun

 

Cruise down Nathalie Lane in Hockessin this time of year, and you’ll find the usual number of houses decked out for Halloween.

You’ll also find one that stands out from the others – the one with tombstones littering the lawn, and the blood-red pool out back.

Since 2002, Arlene Hitchens, a longtime Hockessin resident, has turned her house – and her life – upside down for the sake of her favorite spooky holiday, and for a great cause.

HOCKESSIN’S HAUNTED HOUSE

It started with one room in her house, and has now grown to include most of the basement and first floor, and now one room upstairs.

Part of a group that affectionately refer to themselves as “home haunters,” Hitchens and her daughter, Lori Hawk, scour the internet and post-Halloween bargain bins for spooky, gory fare to put on display in Hitchens’ Hockessin home.

“We just keep adding and changing things every year,” Hitchens said.

This year, Hitchens said she started decorating in the third week of August – and that still wasn’t enough time.

“Oh, I gotta start by Aug. 1 next year,” she said with a devious chuckle. “It’s a lot to coordinate.”

That’s putting it lightly.

Roughly 50 volunteers from various University of Delaware organizations volunteer as actors. Hoses run to air compressors in the basement. Lights and soundscapes (handmade by Hawk) are carefully timed by switches and sensors. There’s so much going on behind the scenes that it takes an electrical engineer from Siemens – Randy Ristine – to pull the whole thing together.  

“Any time we drill another hole in the floor for a hose or a cable, we say, ‘anything in the name of Halloween,’” Hawk said.

Open for two weekends this year, every dollar of the $5 entrance fee goes directly to CompAnimals rescue in Landenberg, Pa., a “no kill” shelter for dogs, cats, and other critters.

Since they began collecting for CompAnimals, Hitchens estimates they’ve raised just over $10,000.

JACK O’LANTERNS AND TRICK OR TREAT

The Hockessin Haunted House is just one part of the Halloween fun to be had this weekend, in the town that embraces the holiday wholeheartedly.

Kick off Friday, Oct. 26 evening at Gateway Garden Center, where they’ll be hosting the fifth annual Jack O’ Lantern Jamboree from 6 to 8 p.m.

This is small town display of carved pumpkins done by local artists and businesses, and Gateway staff, is part of the stroll through Gateway's Haunted Woods.

Visitors can also roast marshmallows and sip warm, fresh apple cider with friends and family.

On Saturday, Oct. 29, before getting your pants scared off on Nathalie Drive, take the family around for kid-friendly trick-or-treat fun during the Hockessin Business Association’s eighth annual Halloween in Hockessin from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“The weather is going to be nice so we look forward to handing out lots of treats,” said HBA president Charles Shattuck, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in downtown Hockessin.

Shattuck said since its inception as an off-the-cuff idea, Halloween in Hockessin has grown to become a community tradition that families look forward to each year, with many families returning year after year.

“I think the Halloween event works for people because it happens during the daytime on a weekend as opposed to a school night in the dark,” Shattuck said. “One of benefits of the day is that grandparents and little ones can enjoy the holiday too. It allows me to hand out candy to costumed children and that brings a smile to my face because where I live only deer and raccoons stop by.”

This year, Shattuck said there are 44 businesses participating in Halloween in Hockessin, with some like Hockessin Bookshelf and Wild Birds Unlimited having been involved every year.

He added that not all of the participating businesses are typical store fronts.

“Organizations like the CCArts, the Delaware Nature Society, and the VFW Post 5892 will be set up to hand out treats at locations in town,” he said.

Institutions like the Hockessin Fire Company, the Hockessin Public Library and the Hockessin Methodist Church will also participate, Shattuck said.

“I think it’s a wonderful sight to watch costumed children and their families walking the streets of Hockessin. It makes are town so festive and vibrant,” Shattuck said.