Crew members from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hickory pose in the costumes they'll wear this weekend as they turn their ship into a haunted house.
That’s not the wind howling on Homer Spit. It’s the ghosts and goblins that have taken control of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hickory.
Once again the 50-member crew of the Coast Guard cutter is preparing to strike fear into the hearts of trick-or-treaters. This year, however, there are some changes. First, there’s a not-too-scary version of the Haunted Hickory for youngsters and the faint of heart from 6-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Then, from 7-9 p.m. both days, the crew is “ratcheting it up,” according to Lt. Cmdr. Greg Tlapa.
“The first hour it’s a toned-down version, but the last two hours we target the older kids and parents and anyone into Halloween and wanting to have fun and get scared,” Tlapa said.
After guests board the ship, a guide will lead them in groups of four to six on a route that is twice as long as last year’s event, down into the Hickory’s darkened depths and back again, traversing five decks. What lies in wait along the way is a secret, known only to the crew, who has been fiendishly planning the event since August.
Last week, costumes were being tried on for last-minute adjustments. And a new “de-heading device” built by one of the Hickory’s crew was sitting on the deck, waiting to be hauled aboard the 225-foot buoy tender.
“The crew’s been having fun doing this,” Tlapa said. “It’s going to be fantastic.”
There is no fee for the thrill of being frightened, but a canned food donation is encouraged. Donated items will be given to the Homer Community Food Pantry.
This is Tlapa’s first Halloween aboard the Hickory. He also was involved with haunted Coast Guard cutters in Michigan and in Alabama, where, he said, the ship was host to 3,000 guests. This is Command Chief Chuck Anderson’s second Halloween aboard the Hickory, but, like Tlapa, he participated in a similar event at a former assignment.
The Haunted Hickory is one of several ways that the Coast Guard is involved in the Homer community. Individuals work with the Boys and Girls Club, Share the Spirit and several of the men and women stationed aboard the Hickory are “bigs” with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Local troops of Boy and Girl Scouts visit the ship, as do school classes.
Ship personnel also collect cell phones for Haven House and eyeglasses that are donated to the Lion’s Club.
“When new crew comes onboard, we encourage them to get out and meet families,” said Anderson, adding, with a laugh, that the Haunted Hickory is a unique way to get to know neighbors, including thrill-seekers from as far away as the central Kenai Peninsula that pay a visit to the ship for this annual haunting. “Once they do one of these events, they’re hooked and they love it. ... Come at your own risk.”
“This is a lot bigger and better than last year,” Tlapa said, with a sparkle in his eyes. “It’s gonna be good.”
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