RIP: Rest in Peace Emma Crawford

Emma Crawford’s tombstone is etched with the words, “She Will Not Be Forgotten.” Every October, in quirky style, Manitou Springs makes sure of it with the Emma Crawford Coffin Race.

Emma Crawford's coffin from 1891.
Margaretta M. Boas Photograph Collection. Courtesy of Special Collections, Pikes Peak Library District.

In 1889, 26-year-old Emma Crawford moved from Massachusetts to the mountain shadows of Manitou. She sought Colorado’s clear air and dry climate for relief of tuberculosis. For two years she was diverted by music, a local engineer and neighboring Red Mountain. When Crawford died in 1891, she “wished to be carried high to sunshine and pure air,” according to her obituary. She was buried at Red Mountain’s crest by her fiance.

It was hardly her final resting place. In 1912, construction required her burial site to be moved. After years of exposure, her casket washed into Ruxton Canyon 17 years later.

The Manitou Springs Emma Crawford Coffin Races.
Photo by Jeff DeWitt

Her restless remains—along with ghostly legends—inspired an annual tradition bearing her name: the Manitou Springs Emma Crawford Coffin Races. Since 1995, people have gathered on the Saturday before Halloween to watch teams of five race makeshift coffins down Manitou Avenue. The fastest times are awarded, along with best costumes and coffin. (The fire department boasts its own traveling trophy.)

Almost a full decade after the first coffin race, Emma Crawford got a permanent gravestone in Crystal Valley Cemetery where it remains to this day.

By the Numbers

7,375 Elevation in feet of her original burial site.

585 Approximate length in feet of the coffin racecourse.

70 Number of teams entered in last year’s race.

22 Years the annual October race has taken place.

12 Pallbearers who transported Crawford’s coffin to the top of Red Mountain.

4 “Pallbearers” per team who transport “Emma” in the coffin race.