Ghost tour steps into Durango’s Wild West past

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DURANGO, Colo. — Durango attracts visitors for its picturesque scenery, cool mountain air, and outdoor adventure. But this time of year, people visit Durango for a different reason – to get a glimpse of its spooky past.

“Wild West Durango isn’t gone, its only hiding under the cover of night,” said Laine Johnson, owner of Horsefly History Tours. “Especially this time of year, when that veil between the dead and the living is at its thinnest.”

Durango is a quiet mountain town nestled in the Rockies, but if you take a deeper look, you might find that not everything is as it seems.

“It was a very dangerous town, it could be, at times, especially in the very early years before there was enough law to keep up with the exploding population,” Johnson added. “We had vigilante justice, we had a hanging tree, and, you know, we had gallows. We had one legal hanging because they dealt with things in other ways.”

141 years later, these rough and tumble beginnings are not forgotten by all, especially at one of the oldest taverns in Colorado – where it is said some of the guests never left.

“This is the El Rancho tavern and it’s one of my probably my favorite building downtown, it’s always been a kind of hard living rough around the edges building and there has been a lot of death in this building over the years,” Johnson added. “A lot of suicides and tragic endings that way as well, there was even – we discovered an article from 1913 that said there were bones discovered in a basement next door.”

Johnson said it’s almost like this building is alive.

“There seems to be spirits in every nook and cranny of this place,” Johnson said. “One of the bartenders here, his name is Carson, he was closing up on a Sunday night and he was counting out his drawer. Nobody was in here, and he hears from the back of the bar somebody yell at him, ‘Hey my tab!’”

One of the biggest mysteries is down the steps of El Rancho, where there is an underground tunnel.

“A lot history from the tunnels that we don’t know about because nothing has ever been documented from the tunnel system, so there could be people barred down there, there could have been things that happened in those tunnels.”

Johnson said so much is still to be discovered. She takes people on ghost and history tours frequently.

Johnson will take a group of people into this tunnel for a ghost tour and even a ghost hunt on Halloween.