MANITOU SPRINGS — Following a too-long (two-year) delay, the Emma Crawford Coffin Races are back, escalating the creativity of the spooky season to new heights while also adding an element of high speed to Manitou's end-of-October festivities.
The 2022 running of this Halloween-centric spectacle saw thousands upon thousands of ghosts, ghouls, and other sundry costumed spectators swarm the main thoroughfare of Manitou to cheer on would-be coffin racing champions, all decked out in deathly decorum.
The race is run head-to-head, coffins careening in competition for the coveted cup and a compelling cause, and complete community contentment (apologies for the alliteration, but this is a Halloween story, so it's supposed to be fun/funny).
The ever-eerie event has its roots in the unfortunate tale of Emma Crawford, who lived and died in Manitou Springs during the late 1800s.
Emma Crawford came to Manitou Springs in 1889, searching for a cure for her tuberculosis in the area’s famed cold-water mineral springs. She fell in love with the charming mountain town, and her dying wish was to be buried on top of Red Mountain. Unfortunately, Emma succumbed to her illness in 1891. Her lover, a civil engineer on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, named William Hildebrand, honored her wishes. With the help of eleven other townspeople, William carried Emma’s coffin up the 7,200-foot slope and buried her near the summit of Red Mountain.
In 1929, after years of harsh winters and spring rains, Emma and her coffin came racing down the mountainside. The young children who happened upon her remains found only the casket handles, a nameplate, and a few bones.
So now, and for the past 28 years, crowds turn up in droves to show the world, in the words of one coffin racer from years past, "That it's fun to be a coffin out here on Main Street."