'Home Haunter' Arlene Hitchens is cooking up some new scares for the Hockessin Haunted House's 2017 season, with 'The Exorcism of Mark Alice Clark'
For Hockessin resident Arlene Hitchens, scaring the pants off of people has become her lot in life.
“Oh, I couldn’t imagine not doing it,” she said. “I’m retired, I’d probably go crazy.”
That’s why for two weekends every year for the past 15 years, she and her daughter, Newark resident Lori Hawk, completely transform Hitchens’ Nathalie Drive home into a House of Horrors.
“We did the first one in the 80s,” Hawk said. “Me and another friend, in a single room, and we did it for the neighborhood.”
Cut to 2017, and Hitchens spends an unknown amount of money (“it’s a lot,” she said with a laugh) and time completely turning pretty much three whole floors of her home into a haunted attraction.
They then invite the whole town over for some spooky fun a few weekends each Halloween season.
It’s not all in fun, however, since the $5 entrance fee goes directly to 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 the attraction has brought in close to the $20,000 mark.
“They’re my loves,” Hitchens said of the animals. “I like this stuff, but yeah – I do it for them.”
Called “home haunters,” the mother/daughter team scour retail discount bins, the internet, and large-scale conventions with animatronic monsters and holographic scenes of violence available for purchase, looking for the next big thrill.
And oh my goodness, does Hitchens buy a lot: one peek around their garage will show boxes upon boxes of decorations, and racks of costumes and outfits for their actors.
The changes to her home usually begin in August (although Hitchens got off to a late start this year), with Hitchens and Hawk sitting down to determine the theme of the year’s attraction,
This year, guests will experience “The Exorcism of Mary Alice Clark,” a young woman possessed of demons whose presence infests her entire home.
Visitors will check out various rooms, like the pool, the parlor, the library, the kitchen, a witches den, a 3-D room, and – ultimately – the room of Mary Alice Clark herself, where the exorcism will be performed.
Mad scientists and additional paranormal activity also await guests, who take a roughly 20-minute guided tour of the house.
There might even be a visit by a certain popular character that has been terrorizing movie audiences for the past two months – despite Hawk’s protestations.
“We’re not doing the clown, are we?” she said with a frown.
“Oh, Pennywise will be here,” Hitchens nodded gravely. “Oh yes.”
“We come up with the ideas together,” Hawk said, noting that Hitchens does the actual write-up and dialogue for the actors, of which there are roughly 60 from University of Delaware fraternal and service organizations.
And while most of the props are removable, Hitchens thinks nothing of drilling holes in floors and ceilings, and cutting section out to accommodate the scenes.
“All in the name of Halloween,” Hitchens said.
For more information, visit hockessinhauntedhouse.com.