When the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sedge left Homer in 2002, some thought that after more than 20 years the ghosts that haunted the trusty buoy tender every Halloween would go with them. Perhaps the spirits would bring new frights to the brave Nigerian sailors who received the ship after she was decommissioned.
The ghosts had other ideas.
How the tormented souls came every year to scare generations of Homer children has been lost to history. Perhaps they traveled from far-off lands, hitching a ride in the duffels of new Coast Guard men and women. Maybe they haunted not the cutters but the dock.
Or, the rational explanation could be this: Every Halloween, making Homer’s cutters frightful has been carried on by Coasties happy to continue a decades-long tradition.
Next Friday night, Oct. 25, the Hickory again invites Halloween celebrants to get their scare on. Admission is two items of nonperishable food to be donated to the Homer Food Pantry.
Younger children — or their parents — easily frightened can attend the “fright light” session from 5-6 p.m. Children age 13 and older and adults looking for more intense chills can attend the later session, 7-10 p.m.
Ensign Ty Bateman is organizing the Haunted Hickory with Food Service Chief Kevin Ball.
“It’s toned down a bit,” said Bateman of the early tour. “They can be scared easier than adults. We want to make it a fun experience and not a scary one.”
The crew in different sections of the Hickory will decorate their areas, adding their own special touches, Bateman said.
“We try to give the guys free rein to make it their own,” he said. “We do the best as far as trying to mix it up each year.”
While Bateman didn’t want to give away too much, one theme the Haunted Hickory crew might play around with is aliens. Think being abducted on lonely Alaska roads or fighting mutant monsters on the good spaceship Nostromo. Big eyed aliens? Aliens with fangs? Invaders from Mars? Anything is possible.
“The last few years we’ve tried to give it our best effort and make it enjoyable for adults,” Bateman said. “The more screams, the better.”
Lt. Cmdr. Brian Krautler, the Hickory’s captain, made a special effort last year for the haunting to happen after the buoy tender got delayed returning to port.
“He was adamant about doing it,” Bateman said of his captain. “It’s a big deal for the Hickory to keep our tradition of doing it.”
This year, the Hickory won’t have that challenge and will be in port, giving the crew plenty of time to crank up the fright machine. The crew likes to do something that’s not quite spit-and-polish Coast Guard. Plus, there’s the benefit of giving back to Homer. In the past few years, the Haunted Hickory event has raised more than 2,000 pounds of food, with more than 1,000 people attending.
“We try to be one of the biggest contributors for the food pantry,” Bateman said. “That’s always a big morale booster and helps the town.”
Visitors should prepare for lines and dress warmly while waiting on the pier so they don’t get chilled too early.
“We’re excited,” Bateman said. “We hope we have a big turn out.”
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10th annual Haunted Hickory
Where: Coast Guard Pier, Pioneer Dock
When: 5-6 p.m. for younger children 7-10 p.m. for children 13 and older and adults
Admission: Two nonperishable food items per person; donated food benefits the Homer Food Pantry
• 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
• Dress warmly and for the weather while waiting on