Person of the Week
Terry Hathaway: A Tradition of Raising Spirits
Terry Hathaway and her husband Doug have created a Halloween tradition at their extensively decorated Alden Drive home in Clinton. (Photo courtesy of Terry Hathaway)
What’s Halloween in Clinton without a drive by the Halloween house? You know the house—the one at 9 Alden Drive with enough decorations outside that you can see it a mile away. For close to 20 years, Clinton residents have been taking in the famously spooktacular Halloween display, thanks to organizer Terry Hathaway.
Terry and her husband Doug have been putting on their iconic Halloween display for years.
“It really came together about 15 years ago,” says Terry. “Over the years it’s gotten really big.”
The display is weather dependent and Terry says she hopes the display will be up about week to a week and half before Halloween for anyone who wants to drive by.
But the big show comes on Halloween. That’s when people can see the yard full of items such as more than 15 decorated mannequins, music, sound effects, fog machines, a full-sized coffin, tombstones, and even Terry dressed in costume. Terry says new displays and features are being planned for 2021, but she’s keeping all surprises close to the vest.
Those would like to may make donations of canned foods and nonperishables, which will be collected for the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries.
“People are still struggling this year,” Terry says of the need to collect food.
Last year Terry says she was able to drop off eight bags full of donated food.
“And I hope to have eight and half full bags more this year!” she adds.
“People should know they don’t have to donate, though. I do this for fun and for the kids to have fun,” says Terry.
Terry describes herself as a kid who always had a love of Halloween. “I was always a nut about Halloween even as a little kid,” says Terry with a laugh. Terry describes fond memories of her father bringing home quality costumes for her to wear and then later as a college student convincing her friends to have Halloween parties.
“Even as a teen I was crazy about Halloween, I’d make my own costumes because I didn’t always like what was available,” she says. “I think it’s great you get to pretend to be someone else for a night.”
Of course, decorating the house was also part of Terry’s fun, too, but as she got older that took a backseat until she had her son.
“When he was little, I was still taking him to grandmas to trick or treat, but as he got older, we started decorating around the house more,” Terry recalls.
At first, the display started small. Then it kept growing as ideas kept coming. For the last decade, it’s turned into quite the popular attraction, where Terry estimated around 200 people come by each year.
Due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Terry was worried that the display would take a hit, however it went off without a hitch.
“It was so amazing,” she says. Terry and Doug set up a display table with candy and gift bags to minimize contact; the table will be coming back this year. Even more so, Terry says the best part of doing the display last year was giving people the chance to just drive by and see the lights.
“People missed so much last year, it was good to have something normal,” says Terry.
Terry credits her and Doug’s backgrounds in theater for their ability to pull of the display. They have made many of the displays themselves.
“I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and say, ‘Doug, we need this or that’ and he’ll say, ‘OK, we’ll figure it out,’” Terry says.
Terry calls Doug the “backbone” of the display as he does the electrical work and maintenance for the props.
As for her favorite part of the display, Terry says, “It’s a lot of work, but it’s Halloween night, whether it’s kids or their parents when they come by and say, ‘Wow this is so cool’,” says Terry.
It takes several days to get the display items placed and to make sure it all works, but for Terry, it’s all worth it to see how much other people enjoy it.
“It just makes me so happy,” says Terry.
As for the hardest part, Terry wastes no time in answering and it’s exactly what you’d expect from someone who loves Halloween: “Oh it’s taking it down.”
Terry grew up in West Haven originally but has called Clinton home since 1998.
“When Doug and I were looking, I thought the houses were so nice, the people are so nice, I couldn’t be happier.”
Terry says that during civic events such as the SummerFest at the end of August, it’s very easy in Clinton to begin talking with strangers and just have a pleasant conversation.
“My favorite thing is the people. You can talk to anyone here. I love my neighbors and I love it here,” she sums up.
And of course, Terry says she noticed there was more room for her Halloween decoration in Clinton.