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Haunted house moves into Alameda's historic USS Hornet

A little history can be a scary thing

Something’s gotten into the USS Hornet.

The World War II-era aircraft carrier floating off of Alameda (which served in such diverse engagements as the Vietnam war and the Apollo moon missions) has been working overtime of late to attract more locals into its portals.

One of their more eclectic efforts opens Saturday, as a spookhouse stocked with local actors gathers in the historic ship's long and lonely corridors to scare the bejeezus out of paying guests every weekend through Halloween.

This is the second year for the so-called Haunted Hornet attraction, but 2015 was something of a dry run to see whether the old ship was a good venue for Southern California-based haunting company ScareCo, who just cemented a five year deal to haunt the ship every Halloween through 2021.

Most of the vessel acts as a museum and event space these days, ever since it was decommissioned in 1970 and declared a landmark in 1988. The new ghouls occupy only the usually vacant forecastle, roughly an eighth of the historic craft. That’s quite a bit of space, though. During our tour of the haunt, Hornet docent Chuck Meyer took us up on the landing deck and pointed to the Transamerica Pyramid.

"If you stood the Hornet straight up, it would be four stories taller than the building," he boasted, or 894 feet from one end to the other. (Meyer also showed us the recently refurbished Fresnel Lens Landing System, the first time the public has gotten a peek at it.)

Down in the dark guts of the ship, the long corridors are a natural fit for ScareCo’s brand of haunted house, which emphasizes live actors creeping up onto guests. In fact, the Hornet’s red hazard lights and eerily echoing spaces are so good that Barron claims very little set dressing is needed.

"If we could get away with using just the ship, we would," she says. Most of the sets that have been erected are just to keep guests from wandering off the path and into the depths—possibly forever.

(They did dress up a behemoth-sized piece of equipment used for reloading the ship's big guns as a monster, but they promise they’ll change it back. Indeed, because of its landmark status, it’s a crime to so much as scratch the paint anywhere on the vessel.)

Because the ship has such a long history and many sailors died on board (in fact, the Hornet has a record for naval suicides), none of the cast are portraying actual ghosts. There may be a few spooks au natural, though; a former cast member showed us a picture of the "real" ghost supposedly caught on camera during last year’s affair.

Not that we’re endorsing its genuineness, of course. But you still wouldn’t catch us wandering off alone down there.