Casey’s photo diary of The Manitou Springs Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Parade

Editors Note: This is Casey’s first entry on TWW and we had a few problems with the pictures. After getting everything figured out we have finally thrown up the post, a couple of weeks late but whatever. Thanks to Casey for a great article and providing a constant source of humor for the entire weekend.

I apologize for the tardiness of my little contribution here. The coffin races were a couple of weekends ago, but I prefer to think of it as timely considering that it should help everyone get in a festive mood for the fall.

The weekend of October 24th was the 15th annual Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Parade. It’s awesome that the weirdest part of that sentence is that this town has done this 14 times before. Hopefully the research and archives staff at TWW can provide an informative explanation of how the event came about because even now I have no idea why this happens.  First of all, I realized quickly that it was no coincidence that I would experience this thing for the first time by getting woken up by a one eyed black cat licking my face.  An hour later I vomited at the top of Manitou’s famous Incline in front of a lovely couple and some high schoolers. I was wondering why I had gotten out of bed at all and this was before we had even set foot in the town. Here is what we walked into once we finally made it.

Hearse Parade

The Hearses heading down Manitou Avenue.

This is a huge event. I was absolutely blown away by how many people flooded this little town and how far some of them came just to be a part of it. If you can’t tell, that is a parade of HEARSES that everyone is craning to see.   I would say that a good 20 to 30 hearses cruised down main street like they were classic cars and not transport vehicles for the dead. Where do that many hearses even come from?  Evidently, this is the day that the Denver Hearse Club really spreads its wings.

These were definitely my two favs. That’s pretty much a monster truck with a dead body in the back and the Ghostbusters Mobile. Come on, what’s cooler than that?

Monster Hearse

Nothing says respect for the dead like Monster Truck wheels.

Ghostbuster Hearse

Manitou Springs and New York City: commonly mistaken for each other.

I would have included this one in my favs, but the flame thrower nearly took off my brows and the freaks that rode on the roof were terrifying.

Flame Thrower Hearse

Children fled from this one.

Hearse ladies

"I would love to take you home to mom."

Guys with guns

I'm pretty sure these guys are accountants during the daylight hours.

Following the hearse parade, it was time for the ‘competitors’ to parade their coffins down main street. At this point, the shock of how unbelievably weird this all was was starting to fade and I really started to embrace it. I was getting all pissy when people obstructed my view  and even asked a man who had his child on his shoulders to please step aside so that I could see the coffins better. You would have too. It’s obvious that people put an extraordinary amount of time and effort into these and you forget that they are supposed to be coffins. Some of them were really creative and cool. Especially when you throw in that the costumes were amazing and people were loving every minute of working the street like a runway.

Das Boot Coffin Egyptian Hearse

Pirate Hearse Swirl Hearse

The headliner was clearly the actual racing of the coffins. This was when the mood changed. There were no more smiles on these people’s faces. The parade was fun and everything, but nobody shows up to the Emma Crawford Coffin Races to get second. There some serious competition and the races were all very hotly contested, except of course when a team had sidestepped the all important dry run and found out during the race itself that their coffin lacked the rack and pinion that would keep them from careening into the onlookers. This actually happened more than once and sadly I don’t have pictures, but the announcers calls are seared into my brain.  The only thing that would have made the races better would have been if I somehow could have bet on the winners. Don’t judge, it would have been fun. Come on Manitou, think of how much money this could generate.  Those quaint little souvenir shops and pagan roundabouts don’t build themselves.

Firemen Racing Cannibal Crew

Oompa Loompas

The ATV rode ahead of every race while a camera man from the Discovery Channel filmed. Cannot wait to see what they put together.

Hands down, the best part of the whole day was the people watching.



Despite his festive outfit, I am certain that this guy had no idea where he was.

We just kept wondering, “Who are these people?” I’m sure they’re like CPAs, dental hygenists and computer programmers.

These two were obviously the king and queen of the coffin races. Immediately after hopping off the hood of their hearse, they hunkered down in Manitou’s most popular bar to start slamming tequila shots with the yocals. I heart you scary goth couple. They were married, which I thought was awesome because I just wondered what that wedding must have been like.

King and Queen of the Races

In the end, it turned out to be one of the best days I have had in long time. There was never a time when I wasn’t legitimately terrified, but my edginess just added to the overall fun and excitement of the whole day.  Lots of towns have some kind of a fall festival that will usually feature some kind of tasty food and maybe some arts and crafts. But I can honestly say that The Emma Crawford Coffin Races is a truly unique event unlike anything that you will ever experience. The pictures are a poor substitute for what it actually felt like to be engulfed in this strangeness. I highly recommend attending if ever given the opportunity.

What made this particular running even more special was that the 15th annual coffin races happen to fall on the birthday of the editor and chief of TWW. I can say with absolute certainty that I had way more fun on your birthday than you did, but really you had no chance with this thing stealing all your thunder. I hope it was as good for you and here’s to 28 being even better than 27, Thanks for an amazing day, Bro!



Filed under articles, Cities and Towns, Colorado, Manitou Springs, races

2 responses to “Casey’s photo diary of The Manitou Springs Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Parade

  1. Lisa


    What happens after the races conclude? Are there any additional activities in the evening?

    • jm

      Hi Lisa,

      This is Casey. After the races were over in the afternoon, there weren’t anymore organized activities in terms of the festival. However, with so many people in town there was a lot going on at all of the local restaurants and bars. Manitou has a surprisingly active night life for such a small town. It was a lot of fun. We hung out at a bar called the Keg. It was a lot of fun to check out the mix of locals and people that came in just for the coffin races and watch the weirdness. Then we went to a great restaurant called Jake and Telly’s for dinner. Delicious food and great service. I would recommend both of those places if you ever venture into the Hippy Mayberry.

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