Elmore Tombstone Derby – Elmore, Ohio - Atlas Obscura

Elmore Tombstone Derby

Elmore, Ohio

Halloween spirit is alive and well in this small town, where residents race motorized caskets in a yearly tradition. 


The creepiest convertibles and spookiest sedans in all the land can be found in Elmore, Ohio. Fortunately, it’s all good family fun. 

For the last decade, the Elmore Historical Society has played host to the most ghoulish derby around. In a headlining event on the Saturday before Halloween, costumed participants race motorized caskets through town, to the delight of onlookers. The themed vehicles were any number of things in their former life - go-karts, four-wheelers, lawnmowers. The only rules are that the racer must have working brakes and cannot go any faster than 25 miles per hour. It’s also helpful if they don’t fall apart. And, while any kind of decoration is acceptable, only Halloween-themed carts are eligible for the coveted “Best of Show” trophy (which is, of course, an urn from the local crematorium).

The curious custom of the Tombstone Derby began in 2005, under the guidance of then-mayor Lowell Krownwell, whose love of Halloween also extended to the elaborate haunted house he hosted at his home every year. Since Krownwell’s death, the festival has continued to grow and change, regularly attracting more than a thousand guests per year. Nowadays, the Tombstone Derby includes, among other attractions, a pie-baking contest, a costume contest for pets, and a kid’s drag race in motorized toy cars (you must be 21 to drive a casket).

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