A Sport Invented Just For Halloween

It’s like Soap Box Derby—for the dead

Creepy and bizarre sights are commonplace on Halloween weekend, but the town of Manitou Springs, Colorado—which boasts an elevation (6,412 feet) greater than its population (around 5,000)—adds elements of sport and celebration to the macabre mix. Combine trick-or-treating, a funeral procession, and a Soap Box Derby, and you have Saturday’s annual Emma Crawford Coffin Race & Parade.

That’s right. A coffin race—which looks all sorts of awesome.

Legend has it that Emma Crawford, a young woman from Massachusetts, came to Manitou Springs, which sits aside the towering Pike’s Peak just outside Colorado Springs, hoping the healing nature of the springs would ease her tuberculosis symptoms. But Crawford died in 1891 at age 28, and as per her wishes, was buried atop nearby Red Mountain. But her coffin was moved to the southwest slope of the mountain in 1912 due to construction of a railroad track incline.

In 1929, the coffin, dislodged by heavy rains and erosion, slid down the mountain and into the canyon where it was found by a couple of young boys. Crawford eventually was reburied in a cemetery in town.

Today, teams of five honor that journey every year around Halloween. Each team consists of one “Emma”—riding in a custom-built coffin—and four costumed runners racing the coffin down the Manitou Avenue course.

The decorated coffins must be at least 2 feet wide by 5 feet long and no larger than 3 feet, 10 inches wide by 8 feet long (with no height restriction, a team could theoretically race a very narrow 11-story coffin down a street in central Colorado). The runners (or pushers) guide the coffin using four handles or push-pull bars on the front and rear of the coffin as they race the 585-foot course in sets of two-team heats

Approximately 10,000 people will gather to watch 70 teams participate in Saturday’s festivities, which have grown dramatically since the event’s first running in 1995.

“They started with eight coffins,” Brittany Tafoya of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau told The Gazette. “It’s really just a local thing they didn’t expect to go boom.”

And while the event is part of an overall celebration, complete with a hearse parade, costumes, prizes, and the like, it’s still a competition. And thus, there are rules—some of which are included here (along with our own comments):

•At least three of the four runners must remain in contact with the coffin at all times until the coffin has come to a complete stop after crossing the finish line. Nobody wants a runaway coffin.

•Functional steering mechanisms are prohibited, giving a distinct advantage to Google’s self-driving coffin.

•No team substitutions are allowed between heats, though race officials have the authority to allow a sub in the case of injury. Being struck by a fast-moving coffin does seem reasonable grounds for legal substitution.

•Each team must provide its own “Emma.” Each Emma must wear a helmet while in her coffin. After all, coffin mortality rates typically are high.

•Teams are responsible for transporting their coffins to and from the race. Teams must also participate in the parade of coffins portion of the celebration. It's unclear whether they must keep their hazard lights on.

•Protests must be made within 10 minutes of the end of the heat. Ties may or may not be described as “dead heats.”

•Participants must conduct themselves to the highest standards of behavior and sportsmanship. This is a coffin race, after all.

•Coffin race officials may disqualify any coffin they believe is dangerous. Further, all participants must sign waivers before the event. This is coffin racing, after all!

Race winners earn trophies, and awards are also given for Best Emma, Best Entourage, and Best Coffin. The festivities kick off at noon MT on Saturday.

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less