The Haunted Hickory, a spooky tour of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hickory, opens to scare the Homer and wider-Kenai Peninsula community on Thursday, Oct. 27, at 3:30-4:30 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. The haunted ship tour is also the cutter’s biggest community outreach event of the year.
The event is free to the public with a recommended donation of two non-perishable food items per person to benefit the Homer Food Pantry. The Haunted Hickory collected over 1.5 tons of food in 2015, according to a USCGC Hickory press release. Those unable to provide a donation are still encouraged to attend.
“Throughout the year we give tours to different school groups, but this by far is the most guests we have coming through to view the Coast Guard (cutter),” said USCG Public Affairs Officer ENS Justin Davis. “It’s really awesome that it’s not just a haunted house, but also a food drive and it’s cool to see the pounds of food that have been collected year and after and given to the food pantry. … We feel blessed that we have a good relationship with the public and we want to remind them that we appreciate them and give back to the community.”
The later viewing is not suitable for children under 13 years of age or anyone who scares easily. The earlier time is less frightening, tailored toward younger kids and jumpier adults, Davis said. The lights on the ship are all on during this time and the crew does not jump out at people on the tour. However, the same horror-filled Halloween decorations are out during the earlier time, so parents should consider if their children could handle the tour, Davis said.
“Last year I saw parents bringing very, very young kids and personally I thought they were bringing children that were too young that seemed a little too scared,” Davis said. “It depends on kids’ preference and how scared they get … but I wouldn’t recommend for infants or very young children.”
The Hickory crew began preparing for the event early in the week by pulling out decorations from storage and sorting through items and organizing the pier to create room for guests to line up, Davis said. On Wednesday, the crew will focus on decorating the interior of the boat so only a few finishing touches are left for Thursday.
“It takes a lot of hours, but it’s cool to see how the ship gets transformed when it’s done,” Davis said. “You walk in it and can’t really recognize anything.”
The ship is broken up into different spaces and compartments and groups of crew members work together to create a uniquely spooky experience in each area. Last year, the electrician’s mates decorated a cargo hold with strobe lights and smoke, and those walking through could see a heavy chain being hauled across the deck as different personnel came at them in burlap bag masks, Davis said.
“You get a little bit more of an edge going through it,” Davis said. “(Guests) don’t know what to expect as they go from one deck to the next and one compartment to the next. There’s some that are spooky, scary or give them a shock.”
The tradition of a haunted Coast Guard cutter pre-dates the Hickory, which came to Homer in 2003, to the area’s previous cutter, the Sedge. The Sedge’s crew began scaring locals aboard their ship in 1991, and the Hickory picked up where they left off upon arrival.
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WHEN: THURSDAY, OCT. 27, 3:30-4:30 P.M. AND 6-9 P.M.
WHERE: USCGC HICKORY AT THE COAST GUARD PIER ON THE HOMER SPIT, LOCATED ADJACENT TO THE HOMER FERRY TERMINAL.
DURATION: EACH TOUR TAKES ABOUT 20 MINUTES.
DONATION: TWO NONPERISHABLE FOOD ITEMS PER PERSON TO BENEFIT THE HOMER FOOD PANTRY.
PARKING: PLAN TO PARK AT THE SEAFARER’S MEMORIAL OR FURTHER DOWN THE SPIT IN THE LARGER PARKING LOTS. THERE WILL NOT BE PARKING AVAILABLE BY THE COAST GUARD PIER OR FERRY TERMINAL.
• Remember to dress warmly, as guests may wait in line on the pier for more than an hour. Guests are welcome to dress up in costume, but it is not required.
• The Hickory is not Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. Those who have difficulty navigating a staircase without assistance will not be admitted. The steep staircases on the Hickory may also present difficulties for young children.
• Do not drink alcohol prior to the event or bring alcohol to the event. Intoxicated individuals will be turned away.
• Do not bring knives or other weapons. Weapons will not be permitted on the ship.