Update: This article was originally published in August 2010. As of 3/13/2022, twelve spook-filled years later, Dave is retiring and the Ghost Mobile is for sale! See the flyer at the bottom of the interview.
Dave Johnson steps inside from the 80-degree sunshine wearing the full mountain man getup: raccoon cap with tail, leather jacket with fringe, boots made from the fur of a bear, which Johnson claims he killed himself (with a wink, of course), and a musket the size of a pitchfork.
In Dave’s Words:
In hopes of writing a book about local history, Johnson started doing interviews with local seniors. Those interviews became the inspiration for the Eerie Coach Tours. The stories told during the tour were gleaned from history archives, newspapers or the memories of longtime residents. “The interviews were just so amazing. I thought, ‘Wow, I need to share these,’” Johnson said. He says the idea for his van (see page 15) came to him in a vision: “Seriously!”
On Erie’s past:
“People used to come from miles to hang out in Erie,” he said, noting that the town once had six bars and seven brothels. “It was all the entertainment. This was the focal point for people in the area.”
On recording history:
“You know, whenever a senior passes away, we lose a whole library of information,” Johnson said. “My goal is to get to all the seniors who have lived here their whole life, because once they are gone, that history is gone forever.”
“History has always been of interest to me,” he said. “I got into Erie’s history when I was on the P and Z board. That’s when I got into it, because we got out and visited places and saw all the history of the town.”
“It’s too hot down here. I gotta get back up into the mountains,” he chuckles, part Davy Crockett and part Santa Claus.
This is Johnson’s rustic alter ego. He doesn’t actually live in the mountains and as far as we’d like to believe, he’s never killed a bear. He’s a 27-year resident of Erie, a former member of the planning and zoning committee and a local history buff. He’s using this shtick to bring local history alive and give it some pizzazz.
Johnson’s Eerie Coach Tours was created to let locals and visitors explore the creepier side of this town’s past: the parts not necessarily covered in local history books. These are the parts that go bump in the night.
Erie—not at all ironically—is an exceptionally eerie place, he says.
“Some things are so spooky that they seem unbelievable,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s tour chronicles the creepy, seamy, sordid and haunted history of the East Boulder County shire. Johnson’s decked-out tour van—covered with a mural that looks like it was inspired by Tim Burton’s imbd.com page—takes locals, school children and visitors on a 2 ½-hour trek through Erie.
While he’s not short on drama, Johnson has developed his tour to be an ode to the rich, lively past of the town. He gears each tour for the crowd, making it kid-friendly for the little ones and spicing it up a bit for the adult tours (“When the kids are around, I say brothel instead of whore house!” Johnson says with a laugh). He covers everything from the cemetery, the mining history, the brothels to the bars, the railroad history, witches and ghosts, the Columbine Mine massacre and even the KKK.
“I think people will be surprised about all the history that Erie holds. It really goes on and on,” Johnson says. And when it comes to a haunted history, “Erie is second to none in the state of Colorado. Its history is hand in hand with towns like Central City.”
As of 3/13/2022