Over the past few years my husband has endured a long commute from our home to his work in Colorado Springs. To make life easier, we will relocate to a small town nearby. Now this isn’t just any town, this is QUITE a town.

 Manitou Springs got its start by catering to the tuberculosis sufferer of the Nineteenth Century. Emma Crawford and her family (practicing Spiritualists) relocated there in 1889 seeking relief for Emma through the mineral springs and mountain air. Young Emma was engaged to a railroad engineer, William Hildebrand. Legend has it that one day she hiked to the top of Red Mountain where her spirit guide appeared. She tied a red scarf to a tree and later it became her dying wish to be buried there. Emma never married William. She died on Dec.4th, 1891 at the age of nineteen.

Her fiancé and a dozen others carried Emma’s coffin to the top of Red Mountain where they buried her fulfilling Emma’s request. Emma’s grave became a popular hiking location for other Spiritualists throughout the next couple of decades. In 1912, the railroad removed her remains and reinterred her on the south side of the mountain. Heavy rains in August of 1929 unearthed her coffin and sent it careening down Red Mountain. Her bones were discovered 7200 feet down in a canyon. Emma was eventually reburied in Crystal Valley Cemetery in an unmarked grave. And that could be the end of the story, but it’s not.

Remember, I told you, Manitou is a different kind of place. Enter the quirky creativity and entrepreneurial instincts of this town’s folks.  Around Halloween each year the town celebrates The Emma Crawford Festival with a parade and coffin races. The coffin races feature a team of five (one person plays Emma and the other four act as pallbearers and push the coffin). Creativity and speed both play a role in judging the races. There are also prizes for best Emma and best coffin. It’s quite a spectacle and a great day out for family fun. Not your thing? That’s OK. There’s always the fruitcake toss early next year.



Filed under Spiritual/Mysticism

48 responses to “THINKING INSIDE THE BOX

  1. Wow i am really impressed by your article, i was wondering may i use your article in my upcoming book, by your kind permission?%3

  2. Like your article and plan to visit Manitou Springs the next time I’m in Denver. Coincidently my book can be found there at a bookstore called: “Back to Books”:

  3. What a very strange story. I’d love to watch that race. Great fun. 🙂

  4. I used to live nearby in Denver and had never heard this story. Thanks!

  5. Coffin racing is really quite peculiar! Interesting place!

  6. Great description of Manitou Springs. I used to live in Woodland Park. Just head up Ute Pass — there are stories everywhere!

  7. Incredible that this story of the coffin speeding down the mountains in a torrent of water, is true! Surely a great story to recount on Halloween! A bit creepy for me!

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  9. pacphotography

    Cool story, Ellis Nelson. I wish I could experience a small town like that. I’m all for fun and games.

  10. Manitou Springs is fantastic! A wake in Miramont Castle, you say? I have to check that out one day. Interesting story – thanks for posting.

  11. Coffin races? Spooky. Interesting local history, too.


  12. It sounds like you will have a lot of fun in your new home!

  13. very interesting, lyrical writing.

  14. bendanarama

    Sounds like a fascinating place!
    Thanks for the like and comment!

  15. Coffin races? Nice! Hope you’ll post some photos.

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  17. Glad I clicked your profile on Ilona Fried’s blog. I often visit friends in Manitou (I’m in Denver), but they’ve never shared this colorful story! I’m leaving this morning to attend a memorial service there, in the amphitheater–today, in the freezing amphitheater! I’ll inquire about this event. And I’ll begin to follow your blog!

  18. The first time I took the tram to Pike’s Peak, the tour guide told us this story about Emma. On the way up the mountain someone asked what happened if the brakes failed on the tram. The tour guide replied, “We have two huge springs at the bottom that will catch us: Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs!”

  19. How cool! Thought you might be interested in my other website – as you replied to one of my blogs on this site – it is – it’s my Creative Writing site, with additional bits of art. I have recently been adding Essays to it from my Uni days while doing my degrees. My Masters Thesis and Novel will eventually get on it, but I have to fit it in between the game blogs and game testing. There are not enough hours in the day!

  20. I would totally do this. Here’s an idea if you plan on doing it: The pallbearers would dress up like Ancient Egyptian slaves and Emma would be dressed like Cleopatra or Nefertiti. That would look so cool!!

  21. I love this story, I’m going to tweet it!

  22. Wow what a story – thanks so much!!!

  23. Coffins…a new take on racing! Interestingly macabre.

  24. Phew, what a story, what a town! Not for me thanks! Takes all kinds to make the world go round, doesn’t it?

  25. Morrighan

    i saw a documentary about emma and her mountain! that’s so romantic that you are moving for your husbands sake and to a special town at that! great post 🙂

  26. Great story just before Halloween. My kids will love this story.

  27. Art and Picture Framing

    Thanks for the intriguing lead, I love stories with a thrill in history. Great tourist tips from comments too. Thanks.

  28. Crazy where traditions come from, sometimes!

  29. Cool story! thanks for sharing…

  30. Good read. Well written in every way-best is the title! KB

  31. Well, I screwed that up. Not Ma=DRID, but MAD-rid. there we go. Got to get that straight.

  32. Absolutely wonderful! I’m forwarding to a friend. It reminds me of a town just outside of Santa Fe, called Madrid (Ma-DRID) which has its own quirky festivals. It is tiny, but I always thought it was a great place to go for a weekend outing, filled with lots of little “escape from the establishment” type shops and a rather well-known Melodrama Theatre (at least it used to.)
    Brings back fond memories. Thanks!

  33. Love it! Kinda creepy, yet innocently fun at the same time.

  34. What a fun (and historical) way to celebrate Halloween!

  35. Wonderful bit of history. And a perfect title!

  36. I love your work! Victoria

    Sent from my iPhone

  37. Jae

    This is the coolest thing I’ve read all day! This is why I love Halloween time. Thanks for sharing. And if you ever get a chance, will you go to that festival and post pics of it here? 😀

    • I’ve been to the festival before. If you go to google images, and put in Emma Crawford, you’ll find some photos of past races. I couldn’t post them because of copyright issues. BTW- Miramont Castle hosts a wake for Emma the night before the races. Haven’t been to that, yet.

  38. jasonexplorer

    Great story! Manitou is, indeed, a great town. Good margaritas at Amanda’s Fonda, and cracking Indian food at Little Nepal.

  39. What a wonderfully gothic tale. This sounds like an interesting place to visit.

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