Who's Emma Crawford?

October 21, 2014

Emma Crawford. If you’ve spent any time around Manitou Springs during the fall, odds are you’ve heard that name a time or two. With events like the Emma Crawford Coffin Race and The Miramont Castle Museum’s Victorian Wake centered around her, she’s become a Halloween icon and tradition among locals. But who was she? And why do we make such a fuss over her?


Emma Crawford

100 years ago a young woman named Emma Crawford ventured to beautiful Colorado in hopes for relief and the possibility of a cure for her tuberculosis. Many believed that the combination of fresh air, year-round sunshine, low humidity and the higher elevations provided relief from the symptoms of the disease. At one point in the 1900’s one third of the population of Colorado were believed to be here for tuberculosis. Emma sought the same relief. She came to Manitou Springs because of the legend of the many healing waters from natural springs located all around the town.

Upon moving to Manitou, her health began to take a a positive turn. It seemed like crisp, mountain air really did have healing powers. She spent her days in preparation for her upcoming nuptials to fiancé, William Hildebrand. Things were looking up!

Emma had always had a fascination with Red Mountain, Manitou Springs and strong desire to climb it. Her family knew she was too frail to take on such a feat but she was determined.One day, against the wishes of her family and fiancé, she climbed to the top . As she reached the summit, she tied a red scarf around a tree to mark her efforts.  She loved the mountain so much she decided that she wanted to be buried there when she dies.

Eventually, Emma succumbed to her illness and died before she was able to wed. Remembering her final wish, William took 12 men and ventured up to the top of Red Mountain to bury his bride.

Some years later, Manitou Springs experienced a torrential rain storm. Much of the mountain side was washed away in the rain, including Emma’s coffin. Her coffin raced its way down the mountain and into town. It was discovered by a couple of boys playing in Ruxton Canyon.

Emma was “reburied” in Crystal Valley Cemetery where a headstone marks her story. To this day, no one is sure what happened to her actual remains.

Every year locals come together to celebrate the infamous tale of Emma Crawford through the Emma Crawford Wake and Coffin Races.


Emma Crawford

Father Jean Baptist Francolon and his mother Marie have graciously offered to open their magnificent home, Miramont Castle, for Emma´s wake. Many of her friends that she had met on her travels are making plans to attend on Friday, October 24th. Some of the more notable are Dr. and Mrs. William Bell, Dr. and Mrs. Isaac Davis, and, of course, Father Francolon and his mother, Madam Marie Francolon. Actors portraying these characters great you as you walk into the vignette and learn about victorian superstitions and their traditional mourning process. After you have said your goodbyes to dear Emma, head to the Great Hall for a generous buffet dinner. This year also includes a horse-drawn, victorian hearse and fireworks! Reservations are required and filling up fast. So, call and make your reservations today! (719) 685-1011



Spooky fun for the whole family! This festival lines the streets of Manitou Springs with thousands of spectators cheering on 50 coffin teams racing down Manitou Avenue. Attendees come from all over the country to experience this internationally acclaimed event. The races are preceded by the parade of coffins and antique hearses. This event is a great kick-off to Halloween and fun for the whole family. Come to Manitou Springs on Saturday, October 24th from 12 pm-3 pm and experience one of the Pikes Peak Regions quirkiest traditions.

Whether you come to pay your respects, learn some history, or race through the town, this weekend is sure to be a highlight in this spooky season! Share your pictures of the event with us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter!

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