COVID-19 has killed Jack the Ripper.
The notorious London murderer, accompanied by a séance and other paranormal activities, would have been the theme for this year’s Hockessin Haunted House.
But “proper social distancing is an impossibility” in her two-story Colonial, scarer-in-chief Arlene Hitchens announced on Facebook. She also relied on about 50 University of Delaware students each night to create the sinister scenes, and “the move by UD to mostly online education for the fall semester has eliminated that resource.”
Although the chills are on ice, “We ask that you please keep in mind that CompAnimals Pet Rescue depends on the funds raised by HHH each year to heat their building for the winter,” she said, adding that the attraction normally earns about $4,000 a year for the Landenberg, Pennsylvania, nonprofit.
That’s why she has set up a donation box in front of her home, 19 Nathalie Drive, Village of Manley. You can’t miss it. It’s the one with the two graveyards.
Hitchens, a retired UD administrator, began the haunted house in 2002, and the undertaking usually occupies all of the first floor, the foyer and one bedroom upstairs, most of the basement, the deck, the pool and both graveyards. (Corgis Roger and Phoebe are safely set in one of the unused bedrooms.)
She relies up on her daughter, Lori Hawk; granddaughter Katie Hitchens; neighbor Randy Ristine; his daughter Alyssa Ristine; and many others to create the seasonal spookiness.
She, Hawk and Ristine absorb all the costs, except for special-event insurance, she said. And it costs a lot – close to $800 just for the pizza for all the student performers.
Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity, and the Gamma Sigma Sigma National Honor Society have helped every year since 2012, she said. Alpha Zeta Agricultural Honorary Fraternity joined in last year.
“While we love to inflict terror, our primary cause has always been to raise funds for animals in need,” she said, with donations to the “dog, cat and critter rescue” accepted in many ways: @companimals on Venmo;email@example.com on PayPal; and Go Fund Me. She’s also making a sizable donation to help cover what would have been generated.
Hitchens is already planning her 2021 theme: the Bell witch of Tennessee.
And she is ready for trick-or-treaters this year, with candy bars to be set up on a table covered with black plastic, and she’ll be safely 6 feet away.
“And the candy is all the kinds that I like in case we don’t give it out.”