By Carey Restino
It’s hard to know what is more scary – walking through a haunted boat filled with spooks ready to pop out from behind every corner or waiting in line to go on board the Haunted Hickory and hearing all the screams from the vessel.
For over a decade, the crews of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Cutter Hickory has put aside its regular duties of search and rescue, maritime law enforcement and marine environmental protection in favor of fake blood, body parts and deadly costumes in an effort to scare the wits out of Homer’s bravest souls – and gather food for the Homer Food Pantry.
Ensign Ty Bateman, who is one of those organizing this year’s effort, said the entire crew throws itself into the activity, planning for a month and transforming the orderly ship into a truly horrifying sight for a night of fun.
“Everybody gets really excited about it,” Bateman said. “It’s a lot of work setting it up, but the satisfaction we get is worth it.”
This year’s haunted vessel will open its gangplank on Friday from 5-6 p.m. for younger children and from 7-10 p.m. for youth 13 and older and adults. Admission is two nonperishable food items per person, which will be donated to the Homer Food Pantry.
The event is extremely popular, with more than 1,000 people visiting last year. People come from as far away as Anchorage, Bateman said.
Each crewman is given some creative liberties in coming up with their own costume and creation of a truly scary scene, though a theme is chosen overall. This year, the theme will be “other-worldly.” Scary creatures from another world will try to scare you silly.
For the younger children, however, things are definitely toned down quite a bit, Bateman said.
“We definitely try to make it almost like trick-or-treating,” he said. “We just want to get them on the ship and wandering around, not scare them.”
The older kids have no such luck. Under the cloak of darkness, the crew aims to keep the crowds screaming on the 225-foot buoy tender. Bateman said no one has ever fainted during the Haunted Hickory that he knows of, but a few have had to be escorted off, having had their fill of fright.
Last year, the Hickory nearly missed its chance to scare the town, but a last-minute change in its underway schedule allowed for the show to go on. For the new crewmembers, it’s a bit of a learning curve in the application of fake blood, but everyone learns fast, Bateman said.
“It’s an all-hands evolution, for sure,” he said.
Best of all, the crew is able to donate as much as 2,000 pounds of food to the Homer Food Pantry as winter comes.
Those wishing to attend the scary ship are advised that the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hickory is a working vessel and is not ADA compliant. Moderate physical activity required to move up and down stairs on the tour. Everyone should dress warmly and for the weather while waiting on the pier. The Hickory will be located at the Coast Guard Pier of the Pioneer Dock near Land’s End Resort on the Homer Spit.
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