Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Emma Crawford Festival and Memorial Coffin Race

Next weekend, the Emma Crawford Festival and Memorial Coffin Race will be held in Manitou Springs, Colorado. This will be the 14th year for the festival, which pays tribute to the brief life and unusual afterlife of one of Manitou Spring's residents.

Emma Crawford was a young victim of tuberculosis who moved to Manitou Springs in the hopes that the freash air and mineral springs would cure her medical condition. A spiritualist, she had a vision of her spirit guide showing her where she should be buried when she died; the top of Red Mountain. She died in 1891 at the ago of only 19.

Her fiance and a group of pallbearers made sure her wish came true and buried her at the top of Red Mountain. The effort took them two days of hiking to get her there. Unfortunately for Miss Crawford, this would not be her final resting place. Only a little over a decade later, a railroad company dug her up and transplanted her out of the way of a railway line they we building. Once again her remains did not stay put. Erosion caused her coffin to become exposed and then roll down the side of the mountain, where her bones were discovered by local youths. She was buried again in a local cemetery. Some say her ghost haunts the mountain due to her unhappiness of having her grave moved from her place of choice.

Since 1994, the city of Manitou Springs has held festivities based around the story of Emma Crawford the weekend prior to Halloween. There are ghost walks and a yearly wake in her honor at a Victorian castle among other activities. The whole thing culminates in a race involving costumed "mourners" pushing or pulling a wheeled coffin containing an "Emma." Prizes are awarded for costumes and coffin design as well as first, second and third place in the race.

Oddly, this isn't the only coffin race held in Colorado.

Pay a visit to Manitou Springs and learn more about the strange tale of Emma Crawford and learn about Colorado's other annual coffin race that is in honor of a different dead person.

-Tom G

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