By: Vincent Pensabene
Scary, frightful, and bizarre are just a few words that can sum up Halloween weekend, but the town of Manitou Springs, Colorado adds a sporty element to their annual festivities, their annual Emma Crawford Coffin Race & Parade.
The race was created in 1995 and is based on the legend of Emma Crawford. Crawford was a woman from Massachusetts who went to Manitou Springs, just outside of Colorado Springs, hoping that the healing nature of the springs would eliminate her tuberculosis symptoms. Crawford died in 1891 at age 28, and her wishes were to be buried atop nearby Red Mountain. However, the coffin was moved to the southwest slope of the mountain in 1912 because of construction of a railroad track incline.
In 1929, the coffin was dislodged by heavy rains and slid down the mountain and into the canyon where it was found by a couple of young boys, where she was reburied at a cemetery in Manitou Springs
Now that the history of Emma Crawford is known, the race rules start. There are several teams of five dressed up in costumes, with four members of the team pushing a custom-built coffin down the Manitou Avenue course and one “Emma” who rides in the coffin. The coffins must be at least two feet wide by five feet long and no larger than three feet, 10 inches wide by eight feet long. There are no height restrictions, so in theory, a team could have a coffin the height of a building. The runners on the outside have to push the coffin using four handles or push-pull bars on the front and rear of the coffin as the team runs the 585-foot course against another team.
There are some rules for the racing: as teams cannot substitute between heats (races) unless there is an injury, no steering mechanisms are allowed, teams must transport their coffins to and from the race, and participate in the parade portion as well. All Emma’s must also wear a helmet for their safety.
The race pits two teams against each other, as there are about 70 teams that participate and nearly 10,000 spectators. There are prizes given for the team that wins, Best Emma, Best Entourage, and Best Coffin. The 2017 festivities start at noon local time on Saturday, October 28.
The “Coffin Races” has drawn a multitude of persons to the streets in Manitou Springs, Colorado during the Halloween/Fall Season.