HOLY CITY (KPIX 5) — A ghost town in the mountains above Santa Cruz has been sold to a Silicon Valley billionaire and his wife after sitting on the market for a decade.

”When you tell people holy city, you have to say it’s a little before Scotts Valley, right?  It’s a little bit outside of San Jose it’s kind of up in the mountains,” neighbor Darren Eastman said.

Just off highway 17, along the old Santa Cruz highway you will find holy city.  So it’s not exactly Jerusalem, but it is 142 acres of beautiful mountain woodlands, and a classic chapter of bizarre bay area history.

“I hate to use the word cult, but it was definitely a religious society,” Eastman said.

Back in the 1920s, holy city was founded by a self-fashioned pastor named William Riker, who with the help of some very devoted and generous followers actually built his own town.

“Father Riker was a reverend who was less than stellar and quite a bigot in many respects,” Eastman said.

“It’s hard to unwind the religious aspect form the shady business dealings,” Michael Sodano, another neighbor, said.

And for a while – it worked.  He had stores, housing, even a radio station.

“At one point he had a zoo,” Eastman said.

“Eventually, Riker’s walls came tumbling down, but his infamy lives on.  Wandering around the land reveals foot trails left by folks who’ve gone marching into the woods, searching for that abandoned zoo.

“Especially with the kids, they find these trails, and you start getting the stories from it, and pieces of it,” Eastman said.

But now the story of Holy City will get a new chapter, written by Bob and Trish Duggan – a Silicon Valley pharmaceutical billionaire and his artist wife.

According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal they purchased this property for about $6 million – which is a significant discount from its initial listing.

“I think this is the last piece that hasn’t been pulled into the multi-million dollar houses that are around. It’ll be interesting to see what they develop from it,” Sodano said.

And with that, we have a new mystery for a plot of land with such a bizarre past: What, exactly, will come next?

“Yeah, we’re all kind of curious what’s going to happen. Like you say, it’s beautiful. We hope it stays that way,” Eastman said.

 

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