Alfred has the ability to make visitors feel like they are entering a different time. Maybe it is the brick facades and walkways or the old-style lanterns that are so prominent in the village. It could be the single stop light, the historic buildings, the uncanny tree outside of Powell Campus Center. Or maybe Alfred is just a different from many of our home towns. Students here are from all over the country and all over the world. The size of Alfred can be surprising and even uncomfortable for some who are unfamiliar with this kind of setting. After doing some driving around and exploring a couple years back, I started to feel as if I was seeing the unknown and the forgotten. One place in particular gave me the spooks and sticks with me still.
On Sherman Road, there is a dirt drive on the left heading up the hill from Route 244. I have frequented there only once. (If I can muster up some courage, I will go there again to paint a better picture.) After a full day of driving through back roads to take pictures for our photography class, I drove there with my boyfriend for one last stop. Our assignment: go somewhere you have never been and photograph it. Each place we stopped at gave us the growing illusion that Alfred was similar to those oh-so-disconnected towns in some Hollywood films. I had flashbacks to horror movies that take place in small towns with little or no contact to the outside world, such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The dirt road leading into this spot very narrowly crosses a stream. The bridge is so narrow that we almost went off of it on our fast departure from there. The unpaved road curves around to the right, and before you know it, you are driving towards a dead end surrounded on all sides by high and steep slopes. In the turn around loop, there is an old, run down school bus that looks like it could be sheltering someone (or something). The dirt road leads out of the dead end and up a hill. When I was there, I saw what looked like a garden of sorts atop the hill, leading my imagination further into thinking that there were inhabitants near by. On the way out, we saw a desk with cinder blocks on top of it in the middle of an overgrown field. I didn't even get out of the car to take my picture. Going back down Sherman Road, I stopped close to this mysterious spot to take a couple more pictures, when a man came out of the house on the corner property of Sherman and Route 244 to approach me. What he wanted, I will never know. I got in my car when I saw him because he did not look happy with what we were doing. Did he see us visiting the strange area? Was it his property? Had we been trespassing? The relief I felt when arriving on campus was incredible, because although Alfred is reminiscent of another time and place, it can be very jarring and unfamiliar, creating wild ideas and painting inaccurate pictures of what Alfred is really all about.