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The story behind “Eric is dead” in Chattanooga, TN


The face behind “Eric is dead” — well, kinda. | Photo by NOOGAtoday

Eric is dead.

… Or is he? Who is he? Where is he? Is he even really a he? I should back up. City Editor Brianna here, and for the past year or so, I’ve been captivated and intrigued by three words — sometimes in another language, but always with the same meaning — artfully written or posted around Chattanooga: “Eric is dead.”

Whether you’ve seen them or not, they’re everywhere. The first time I saw it was in Cooper’s Alley, but the words are also sprawled across buildings near The Bitter Alibi, the Chattanooga Choo Choo, and on stickers placed in local bars + poles around town.

And I’m not the only one — you guys have started to get curious, too. Check out these interesting theories from the Chattanooga subreddit.

So, after doing a bit of digging + talking with folks around town, I was able to contact the artist and meet up with them.

The artist wanted to remain anonymous and keep the mystery alive, so I won’t be doing a grand reveal of who they are, but I will share some of the facts that I was able to get about the prolific artwork:

  • The artist started putting up the “Eric is dead/Eric est mort” writing during the pandemic when, as many artists did, they had plenty of free time.
  • The idea behind “Eric is dead” is that many artists don’t get appreciated until they’re dead. In this way, the words allow the artist to “get [their] flowers now.
  • The artist’s favorite kind of art is random words written on walls — they were inspired by the old local graffiti legend of Twisty.
  • They’re also behind lots of the artwork + design in the newly-opened Boneyard Bar in Southside.
  • They love street art because it’s accessible to everyone, and because its meaning is up for any interpretation — that’s also why they love the mystery behind “Eric is dead.”

Oh, and yeah, they’ve seen the Reddit thread; their favorite theory is “it’s a sad lonely little man’s big ego booster.”

“That person must, like, actually know who I am.”


By the St. George Hotel, across from the Choo Choo | Photo by NOOGAtoday


Next to The Bitter Alibi | Photo by NOOGAtoday


In Cooper’s Alley (written in cursive in red on the box in the right corner) | Photo by NOOGAtoday


City Editor Brianna with her new sticker courtesy of the artist | Photo by NOOGAtoday