Is Alleghany Creepy?
by Janice Maddox
I heard a rumor that people in Alleghany are unfriendly and perhaps even dangerous. Creepy, even. I ultimately ended up marrying somebody who lived in Alleghany for two years. While some may disagree, I don’t find him to be particularly creepy. Yes, he has a long black trench coat that he wears when it rains, and an assortment of dark, wide-brimmed hats, and he likes his beard mountain-man style, but I’ve found him to be relatively harmless.
My curiosity about the mysterious place called Alleghany, spoken of in hushed terms accompanied by furtive side-ways glances, began long before I married somebody with an Alleghany past. Always on the hunt for excitement, it seemed like a place I needed to visit.
I was told Alleghany was basically a cul-de-sac with a small number of houses filled with anti-social people. I imagined this as a horseshoe shaped street with five identical two-story Victorian-style houses and green lawns in a large, open clearing. A red tricycle lay abandoned on the middle lawn, with one squeaking wheel spinning in a small breeze. There were no birds and no people to be seen. All the people were in the houses peering at me through small cracks in barely parted curtains.
I pulled directions for how to get to Alleghany off the Internet one cold, icy winter day, and headed out, up Galloway Street. I did not come to Sierra County as a flat lander. I’ve lived in snow country and mountain country most of my life. Yet, finding myself on a narrow, icy, steep, uphill incline with a sheer drop-off on one side and no way to turn around, I quickly realized I was going to die.
I lived to have more Sierra County “I’m on a narrow road with a sheer drop off on one side and a canyon wall on the other and I’m going to die” moments. I was able to turn around, saved by the last driveway on Galloway.
I am not vouching for the following directions and should you use them, you use them at your own risk. The proper winter route to Alleghany from Downieville is basically as follows: 1. Take 49 to Celestial Valley. 2. Take Stud Horse Grade up and it becomes Pliocene Ridge Road. 3. Go up Pliocene Ridge Road until it splits into three roads at the top. 4. The road to the right goes to Alleghany, the road to the left goes to Forest city and the middle road (to the left and then straight up) goes to Henness Pass. My second successful attempt at a recreational trip to Alleghany was taken in the summer with a friend. We went via Galloway Road, which I find is still an exciting drive in the summer. My friend’s knuckles were white on the steering wheel. Our first stop was Alleghany, which was not the horseshoe shaped street I had envisioned. The houses were scattered in a forested area. There was no abandoned tricycle with a wheel spinning ominously in the breeze. There were birds.
We stopped at Casey’s Place to ask directions to Forest City. I entered and saw people sitting at a bar, temporarily blinded by the shaft of sunlight that invaded the dimly lit room when I opened the door. The people in Casey’s Place were very helpful and their directions got us to our intended destination.
I detected no creepiness during this visit. I once lived in a desert town located in the middle of nowhere that had a population of 98 people, one street and three bars (Montello, Nevada). We were much creepier.
My next trip to Alleghany was an autumn photograph-taking mission. This involved walking around the community taking pictures of local buildings and sometimes windows. If anybody was creepy on this trip, it was I, lurking around with my camera pointed at windows.
This time I was there with my husband who had lived in Alleghany. The people who saw me walking around taking pictures didn’t know this and still were mostly friendly. When I stopped to take a picture of the broken down house pictured, a gentleman working on a car in a driveway yelled, “Be careful, it might fall down!” Meaning, of course, the house was so far gone, a click of the camera could send it crashing down into a pile of unrecognizable rubble. We both laughed.
There was one person in Alleghany who just looked at me and didn’t say anything when I walked by. I don’t know if that is what is interpreted as creepy behavior. But, I’m an introvert at heart and so am generally respectful of somebody’s right to not talk to me. Another resident who appeared to appreciate my interest in capturing the beauty of the old homes in photographs, went out of his way to give me a tour, taking me inside some of the old homes and telling me their history.