Sunday, September 13, 2020

Coffin races, Grandpa Bredo, Headless Mike ...

Resilience is part of the event

By Rob Carrigan,

 Events  beyond our control have been lining up to take a shot at us this year.

But like a lot of misfortune, it turns out, that the real story of any event is our response. “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it,” just as Helen Keller noted.

And Colorado locations are known for creating an event — just to emphasize those responses.

 Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Festival

Since 1995, Manitou Springs has been holding the annual Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Parade. As one local website described it, “costumed impersonators of Emma Crawford, a 19th-century local who was buried on nearby Red Mountain, ride on coffin-like contraptions pulled by teams of four mourners. (Emma supposedly still haunts the mountain even though her coffin washed away years after her burial.) A parade and awards for the best Emma, the most creative coffin, and the best overall entourage complete the daylong event." Despite the notoriety of Emma Crawford, her legend as the ghost of Red Mountain has overshadowed factual information about her life, according to Manitou Springs Heritage Center. 
"Emma Crawford was born on March 24, 1863, in South Royalston, Massachusetts. Musical at a very early age, Emma developed her talent with the help of her mother, Madame Jeanette Crawford, who was a pianist and music teacher. It is said that at the age of three, Emma “liked no plaything better than to sit on the piano cover and to listen to her mother practicing Beethoven’s sonatas.” At age twelve, she gave piano lessons and public recitals, and at age 15, was “able to render the music of the great masters with rare perfection,” playing the piano parts in a series of concerts given by a renowned violinist and a cellist in Boston in the winter of 1878. 
Emma favored Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, and Wagner, and her playing style was 'distinguished by a most delicate touch, a soulful expression, and a power which seemed almost incredible by hands so tender and delicate.' She also played the violin, viola, cello, and mandolin—instruments she mastered while taking rests from her piano work," according to info from the Heritage Center. 
Musical and spiritual
Emma’s obituary in the Colorado City Iris reported that she “acquired her remarkable masterly control of the piano from spirit instruction and is said to have never taken a lesson at mortal hands in her life.” 

​Emma, who been ill since age seven, according to the Heritage Center, moved with her mother from Massachusetts to Manitou around 1889, in the hope that the local mineral springs (from which the city took its name) and the mountain air might be a cure for her illness, presumed to be tuberculosis. 

​Although not found in records such as city directories, longtime Manitou resident William “Bill” S.  Crosby recounted in 1947 that Emma and her mother initially rented a two-story frame house with a gable roof and bay windows located at 104 Capitol Hill Avenue. 
Emma stayed in Manitou in hopes of regaining her health in the fresh air and sunshine and became engaged to William Hildebrand, an engineer from New York who worked on the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad.
Next to music, nature was Emma’s second love, and she could be seen in a red dress climbing Red Mountain, which she nicknamed “Red Chief,” in honor of American Indians. 
Nature and Native Americans
A 1969 Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph article by Rufus Porter claims that the Crawfords were spiritualists, and like many spiritualists of the time period, believed they had “an Indian guide from the spirit world to protect them in the present one.”  
Many spiritualists of the time equated American Indian spirit guides with having a power to mend physical health. 
In the Porter article from 1969, the following anecdote is shared, more than likely coming from the 95-year-old Bill Crosby:

"One day Emma fancied she saw a handsome buck Indian beckoning to her from the top of Red Mountain. She vowed that she would climb the mountain and meet her Indian guide. Firm in her resolve, she revealed her plan to her mother and her lover. Both were opposed to such an ordeal for a girl in her delicate condition, as were all her friends and neighbors when they heard of it. But their pleadings were of no avail. She slipped off one day when her mother was teaching piano to a neighbor lady and climbed the mountain to the very top. She was very late getting back home, but no one would believe her when she told them where she had been. "
 Climbed Red Mountain

“I did so climb it,” she said, "and I tied my scarf to a little pinon pine tree on the summit, and I have decided that I will be buried beneath that tree.”
Crosby, reported as a friend of Emma’s, said that he climbed Red Mountain the following day and found Emma’s scarf tied to the tree, along with her footprints at the summit of Red Mountain that Emma wished to be buried, a request she is said to have made to a male friend (presumed to be William Hildebrand) while hiking on the mountain. Emma’s obituary reports that she “had a horror of cemeteries, formalities and anything low or gloomy, and even death, and wished to be carried high to sunshine and pure air.”
Emma’s death came on Dec. 4, 1891 at 10:30 p.m.
 Her obituary remarked, “The few who knew her here remarked her calm, unruffled mood, and though her life was such that intimates were few, she was known by nearly all as a musician of rare power and skill.”  The Manitou Springs Journal reported:

"Upon the door of a cottage on Ute avenue then hung pendant, several days thereafter [Emma’s death], a white cape [sic], though she, whose departure was thus announced, had in this life passed beyond the bower where brook and river meet."

The funeral services were held at “the family residence on Ute Avenue” on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 8, 1891. That residence may have been 137 Ute Avenue where a City Directory some years later showed Emma’s Mother, sister Alice and niece Maurine boarding. Those who attended were “intimate friends and votaries of the faith to which the deceased was an adherent.” 
Votaries of the faith
“Votaries of the faith” perhaps alluded to the Society of Progressive Spiritualists of Colorado Springs. Reverend A. R. Kieffer, rector of Grace Episcopal Church, led the service and “based his remarks on a beautiful poem.” The reverend had some affiliation with the spiritualist society, appearing as a guest lecturer for the group in 1893. The Manitou Springs Journal characterized the service as “unusual, but very impressive, and partook not of the customary sadness of such scenes.” Emma’s mother, Jeanette, performed a selection of piano pieces with “peculiarly sweet melody and weird harmony.”
Crosby recalled that Emma’s fiancée, William Hildebrand, tried unsuccessfully to get a deed to the site for burial on the summit of Red Mountain. Her burial at that location, where “a beautiful view can be obtained",
 however, proceeded. 
"The gray casket with silver handles and silver engraved nameplate was carried to a hearse and driven up four blocks on Ruxton Avenue. Then, a group of twelve pallbearers worked in two shifts to transport Emma’s casket to the top of Red Mountain. H. H. Gosling, J. G. Hiestand, David Jones, Peter Mistler, and Howard Jones were names of some of pallbearers. Crosby, who was a teenager at the time, accompanied his grandfather, H. H. Gosling, to the burial and remembered, “They buried Emma on the mountain top, beneath an ugly wind-swept tree, and they covered the grave with rocks. Hildebrand stood like a stricken man beside that grave. The mother and other mourners only went as far as the cañon."
Crosby recalled that Emma’s grave was moved over on the west side of Red Mountain, put into “loose gravel,” and covered with a concrete slab when the Red Mountain Incline erected a power house and depot on the summit.
 Although Crosby recalled this event as happening in 1924, newspapers reported the construction of Red Mountain Incline occurring in 1912. 
On Aug.  4, 1929, two boys found a human skull on Red Mountain and were questioned by police. Marshal David S. Banks of Manitou investigated and found wrapped in a bundle human bones and the handle of a coffin at “the back of the Colorado house on Waltham Avenue.” 
Rest in peace
The Colorado House (a boarding house) was located 397 Manitou Avenue (now 1143 Manitou Avenue) and the property extended between Manitou and Waltham Avenues. Given the proximity to Red Mountain, the remains would have been moved to Waltham from where they were originally found. A casket nameplate was also recovered which confirmed the remains were in fact those of Emma L. Crawford. The remains were brought to City Hall. In the issue of the reburial of Emma on Red Mountain, the El Paso County coroner, Dr. G. B. Gilmore, claimed that he had no jurisdiction in the matter, as outside of an incorporated town, as was Red Mountain, persons could bury their dead where they wished. The August 16, 1929, Gazette reported that a new grave for Emma Crawford would be dug in a Manitou cemetery.
"Emma's restless remains stayed in storage for two years as the city tried in vain to find surviving relatives. Finally, one of her pallbearers, Bill Crosby, took responsibility for her remains and it was then she was interred at Crystal Valley Cemetery. Either way, she was buried in an unmarked grave.  In 2004 (9 years after her memorial festival began) Historic Manitou Springs, Inc. provided Emma with a memorial stone in the approximate vicinity of where her bones were buried all those years ago. The Heritage Center’s wish was that Emma be honored her spirit rest in peace."
Frozen Dead Guy Days
"Grandpa Bredo is over 110 years old. For at 30 years, he’s taken up residence in a Tuff Shed in the hills above Nederland, Colorado, where he remains very, very, very cold. More specifically, Grandpa is frozen in a state of suspended animation, awaiting the big thaw. The one that will bring him back to life," says

There is a good story behind this, one that stretches from Norway to California to Colorado, involving cryonics, deportation, psychics, celebrations, and a dedicated Ice Man. It’s a tale that has captured international attention and sparked a must-attend annual event called Frozen Dead Guy Days.

Life After Death

"Before Grandpa Bredo Morstoel died from a heart condition in 1989, he enjoyed a comfortable life in Norway, where he was born and raised. He loved painting, fishing, skiing, and hiking in the mountains of his homeland. He was also the director of parks and recreation in Norway’s Baerum County for more than 30 years," reports the site.

"After he died, things got really interesting. Instead of a burial, he was packed in dry ice and prepared for international travel. First, he was shipped to the Trans Time cryonics facility in Oakland, California, where he was placed in liquid nitrogen for almost four years. Then, he was moved to Colorado in 1993 to stay with his daughter Aud Morstoel and his grandson Trygve Bauge, both strong advocates for cryonics who hoped to start a facility of their own."

There he stayed for years under cold cover, in a shed, near his grandson’s home, and about to be left on his own, due to some pesky visa issues.

The Grandfather Clause

"If you peruse the laws of Nederland, you’ll discover that it’s illegal to store a frozen human or animal (or any body part thereof) in your home. We have Grandpa Bredo to thank for this. When grandson Trygve was deported in the mid-90s because of an expired visa, Bredo’s daughter stepped in to take care of the household – including keeping her father on ice."

However, Aud was evicted for living in a house with no electricity or plumbing and was about to head back to Norway. This meant that the family’s fledgling cryonics facility was destined to come to a halt. Worried that her father would thaw out before his time, she spoke to a local reporter, who spoke to the Nederland city council, who passed Section 7-34 of the municipal code regarding the “keeping of bodies.”

Luckily for Bredo, he was grandfathered in and allowed to stay. Suddenly, he was a worldwide media sensation. And he has been well cared for by his family and community ever since.

The Iceman

 "Bo Shaffer saw an intriguing want ad on the Internet in 1995 posted by Trygve. He applied for the one-of-a-kind job, got it, and is now known as the “Ice Man.” Every month, Shaffer and a team of volunteers delivers 1,600 pounds of dry ice and packs it around Grandpa Bredo in his sarcophagus, surrounded by foam padding, a tarp, and blankets. As Cryonicist-in-Charge, Shaffer keeps Grandpa at a steady -60 degrees Fahrenheit. He also gives tours to investigators, filmmakers, local volunteers, and even psychics who have purported to communicate with the dearly departed (by one account, Bredo is amused by the fuss but doing fine)," says

"Shaffer feels the weight of this responsibility, knowing how much has been invested in keeping Grandpa in his cryonic state. Now frozen for over 20 years, he has kept the hope alive for his family and their faith in cryonics, as well as spurring an annual festival in Nederland that has grown into a full-fledged winter celebration."

Dead Man’s Party

For a town like Nederland that thrives on the colorful, the offbeat, and the weird, Frozen Dead Guy Days is a fitting way to end the short days of winter and head into the melting snows of spring. Trygve Bauge calls it “Cryonics’ first Mardi Gras.”

The community experiences a new burst of life with the festival’s creative contests, icy events (including coffin racing, polar plunging, frozen salmon tossing) basically if it is fun and can be done in the cold, it goes! People come from around the world every March to experience the legacy of Grandpa Bredo – even representatives of cryonics organizations who want share the science behind this unique story.

Pecking through dust in Fruita

Sept. 10, 1945 finds a strapping (but tender) young rooster pecking through the dust of Fruita, Colorado. The unsuspecting bird had never looked so delicious as he did that, now famous, day. Clara Olsen was planning on featuring the plump chicken in the evening meal. Husband Lloyd Olsen was sent out, on a very routine mission, to prepare the designated fryer for the pan. Nothing about this task turned out to be routine. Lloyd knew his mother-in-law would be dining with them and would savor the neck. He positioned his ax precisely, estimating just the right tolerances, to leave a generous neck bone. "It was as important to suck-up to your mother-in-law in the 40's as it is today." A skillful blow was executed and the chicken staggered around like most freshly terminated poultry.

"Then the determined bird shook off the traumatic event and never looked back. Mike (it is unclear when the famous rooster took on the name) returned to his job of being a chicken. He pecked for food and preened his feathers just like the rest of his barnyard buddies," says information from

Will to live
"When Olsen found Mike the next morning, sleeping with his "head" under his wing, he decided that if Mike had that much will to live, he would figure out a way to feed and water him. With an eyedropper Mike was given grain and water. It was becoming obvious that Mike was special. A week into Mike's new life Olsen packed him up and took him 250 miles to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City . The skeptical scientists were eager to answer all the questions regarding Mike's amazing ability to survive with no head. It was determined that ax blade had missed the jugular vein and a clot had prevented Mike from bleeding to death. Although most of his head was in a jar, most of his brain stem and one ear was left on his body. Since most of a chicken's reflex actions are controlled by the brain stem Mike was able to remain quite healthy," the site says.
18 Months
"In the 18 Months that Mike lived as "The Headless Wonder Chicken" he grew from a mere 2 1/2 lbs. to nearly 8 lbs. In an interview, Olsen said Mike was a "robust chicken - a fine specimen of a chicken except for not having a head."   Miracle Mike took on a manager, and with the Olsens in tow, set out on a national tour. Curious sideshow patrons in New York , Atlantic City, Los Angeles , and San Diego lined up to pay 25 cents to see Mike. The "Wonder Chicken" was valued at $10,000 and insured for the same. His fame and fortune would earn him recognition in Life and Time Magazines. It goes without saying there was a Guinness World Record in all this. While returning from one of these road trips the Olsens stopped at a motel in the Arizona desert. In the middle of the night Mike began to choke. Unable to find the eyedropper used to clear Mike's open esophagus Miracle Mike passed on.

 Now on the first weekend in June — Mike "the headless chicken" festival.

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