Colorado’s Weirdest Event – Coffin Races

Colorado is home to some odd traditions. While parades, polar plunges, and nude skiing top the list, a lot of people miss the well-loved tradition of Coffin Racing.

Early Photos of Manitou and the Mineral Springs

About 30 years ago a group of people got together in Manitou Springs and took one of their local legends and turned it into a Halloween extravaganza. This was a hope to increase tourism in the shoulder season for a town that mostly operated on summer visits to the area, especially Pikes Peak.

A Small Town Ghost Story

The legend goes, that Emma Crawford a 28-year-old that had relocated to the area due to having tuberculosis, passed away from the disease in 1891. Her final request was that she be buried on a mountain top, Red Mountain, just outside of town. Her wish was granted and her final resting place was Red Mountain.

The casket bearers that buried Emma
Only known photograph of Emma

Fast-Forward to 1929, 38 years later, and a massive rain storm and flooding caused Emma and her coffin to come racing down the mountain and into town. Or did she?

Coffin Bearers that carried Emma and the casket up the mountain
A later tourist track was put in on Red Mountain – this image depicts part of incline that they would have faced burying Emma.
Current Grave of Emma

How Do You Race Coffins?

Each racing team consists of five members: four runners (or “Pushers”) to propel the Coffin and one driver (or “Emma”) to sit inside the Coffin. Three of the four Pushers must keep their “hands on” the Coffin at all time. Any Coffin that has less than three Pushers in direct contact with the Coffin during the race will be deemed “out of control” and will be disqualified.  Pushers must hold onto the Coffin until it has crossed the finish line and stopped. Changing Pushers or Emmas during the heat is prohibited.Official Rules

Coffins” function similar to a soapbox, have to be between 5 and 8′ long, and a width of 2′ to 3’10”. Pull bars are required on four corners of the coffin, with optional ones allowed on the front and back. Four wheels must be attached, and cannot exceed 8.25″ in diameter. There are no height restrictions for coffins, but decorations over 10 feet tall must be removeable. Emmas, those riding in the coffin, HAVE to wear a helmet.

What no one realized is that this weird tradition was the first, and caught on across the nation. Colorado has another event, Nederland’s Frozen Dead Guys (which is TBD on future occasions) that races coffins among other events.


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