By Staff Sgt. Robert Cloys
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. — A local legend in Manitou Springs inspired four members of the 50th Civil Engineer Squadron to push a master sergeant down hill in a coffin Oct. 27.
Regardless of who tells the story or what version you hear, the legend of Emma Crawford is a unique one. One version claims that at the turn of the century, a young girl came to Manitou Springs in the hopes of curing her tuberculosis.
After some time, Crawford began feeling better and decided to hike Red Mountain. Upon reaching the top, she tied a red ribbon to a tree. She requested that if ever she were to succumb to tuberculosis she be buried in that spot.
After taking a sudden turn for the worse, Crawford would indeed be buried in the spot she picked, but perhaps not as long as she intended. The granite mountain that held her coffin in place would give way in stormy weather years later sending her coffin back down the side of Red Mountain.
This year, for the 18th time, hundreds gathered on Manitou Avenue to celebrate the legend of Emma Crawford in an equally unique way; coffin races and a parade.
Doug Chase, 50 CES member and brain child behind the squadron’s participation in the event, had wanted to participate in the nationally televised event for some time.
This year Chase was able to bring his idea to fruition for the first time and round up a respectable team as well.
“We came in ninth out of 50 competitors,” said Doug Hamm also of the 50th CES and one of the technicians for the team’s coffin.
Coming in mere seconds behind the top three teams and unable to win any of the potential trophies for best Emma, best entourage, best coffin or fasted time in 585 feet, a few of the members of the Celtic Crypts are vowing to compete again next year.
“We will be going back,” said Tech. Sgt. John Muehlhausen, also from the 50th CES and part of the four man running team behind the coffin carrying Master Sgt. Eric Knight, dressed as Emma Crawford, sporting a silver wig and ghoulish face paint. “We’re thinking of having two coffins for the next race; one for racing and one for the parade.”
The team, aptly named the Celtic Crypts, dressed in kilts and painted their faces with “Braveheart”-esque face paint. In addition they were joined by an entourage consisting of Lt. Col. Stephen Finn, 50 CES commander, and Senior Master Sgt. Brian Ginter, 50 CES chief enlisted manager, dressed as monks.
“The environment was great. Right before the race began we yelled ‘freedom.’ I’m pretty sure that I just kept yelling the rest of the race,” said Hamm.
Although the next coffin race in Manitou is nearly 12 months away, registration for the 19th Annual Emma Crawford race is set to begin in December of this year according to Floyd O’Neil, media and special events director at the Manitou Chamber. Those that have been in prior races will receive an email as soon as applications are ready.
To view video of the Celtics Crypts run check out the 50th Space Wing’s Facebook page.