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Coffin Racing in America


Only in America: The country where even corpses can compete in the Frozen Dead Guy Days Coffin Race

According to Buddhist wisdom, it’s possible to attain a level of contentment and enjoyment from just about any situation. There are a few notable exceptions, of course; watching England play football is an obvious one, while it can also be frowned upon to smile at funerals, unless of course the person being buried is either a rampant paedophile or a traffic warden.

However, in the good ol’ US of A, people are making funerals altogether more interesting. Welcome to the weird world of the Frozen Dead Guy Days Coffin Race. Yes, you read that right…

This wackiest of wacky races is the signature event of a three-day sporting festival held in Nederland, Colorado, and is gaining popularity year on year.

It takes place on the first full weekend in March, and also includes snowball quick draw, frozen t-shirt contests, ice turkey bowling, the frozen salmon toss and snowy beach volleyball. Forget pentathlons and decathlons, this is a multi-disciplined sporting extravaganza with more imagination than an LSD-addled Andy Warhol.

Each coffin-racing team is made up of six pallbearers, and the aim is to slide, roll, drag, or carry an occupied coffin along a snow and mud-bound obstacle course to the finish line. However, don’t be put off by the potential smell of death and decomposition emanating from each coffin; thankfully the entombed “rider” isn’t actually a corpse, but a living, breathing male or female who must weigh at least 75 pounds (34kg).

Last year, the Pink Socks team, who were made up University of Colorado engineering graduates, secured victory for the third successive year in a time of just under 50 seconds, leaving the Donner Party trailing in their wake.

Revelling in the victory, winning captain Joel Weber told reporters: “Our day jobs are just a way to fund our passion for coffin-racing.” It made a change from the usual formulaic post-match interview, when a player is either over the moon, sick as a parrot, or taking each game as it comes.

Because competitors tend to dress up in ghoulish themes, some residents of Nederland refer to the event as “Halloween in March”. And its origins were suitably strange and spooky…

The festival, which unofficially celebrates the winding down of the snow season and the coming of spring, began in honour of Nederland’s resident frozen dead guy, Grandpa Bredo Morstoel.

When the Norwegian died of a heart condition in 1989, his son, Trygve Bauge, preserved the body in dry ice before transporting it to the Trans Time cryogenics facility in San Leandro, California, where it was stored in liquid nitrogen for three years. He’d obviously watched Sylvester Stallone in Demolition Man.

In 1993, Bredo was returned to dry ice and taken to Nederland, where Trygve and his mother Aud planned to create their very own cryonics facility. However, before they could get their ambitious plan off the ground, Trygve was kicked out of the US for overstaying his visa, leaving Aud to care for her husband’s cryogenically frozen body in her ramshackle house that was devoid of electricity or plumbing.

The local authorities smelled a rat, or perhaps a human corpse, and served Aud with an eviction notice. But she wasn’t going down without a fight; instead, she contacted the local paper and explained her fears that her eviction would cause her husband’s body to thaw out.

Unsurprisingly, the story caused a sensation. However, despite the illegality of keeping a dead body on a property, the mass of publicity persuaded the council to make an exception for Bredo by inserting a one-off “grandfather clause” into the statute. In 1995, a special shed was built up on the mountainside, partly funded by a Denver radio station, which now houses the frozen body of Bredo.

The first festival in Bredo’s honour took place in 2002, and last year, despite some events being cancelled due to bad weather, over 15,000 people attended.

Its success no doubt prompted Trygve and Aud to file a complaint against Nederland in 2005 involving money generated by the festival and naming rights, but their bid was unsuccessful. Bredo, who turns 113 this year, would have been turning in his grave…

ATHLETICISM: 4 out of 5
CREATIVITY: 5 out of 5
TACTICS: 2 out of 5

If you’re looking for thrills and spills of a different kind in February and March, why not try these instead…


Amsterdam, Holland, March 9, 2013

Forget Usain Bolt, this is a 100-metre dash with the motto “Shopping Is Sport” as 150 young women charge down the famous P.C. Hooft Street in an attempt to cross the line first and win €10,000 in cash. Heels must be at least 9cm in height, and friendly competition is encouraged – although not always observed.

ATHLETICISM: 4 out of 5
CREATIVITY: 3 out of 5
TACTICS: 2 out of 5


Argungu , Nigeria, March 2-5, 2013

A four-day cultural festival in the northwest state of Kebbi reaches its climax when up to 30,000 local tough guys armed with traditional fishing nets race into the muddy Malan Fada River in the hope of returning with the biggest catch in just an hour. A cash prize of US$7,500 and, bizarrely, a brand new minibus are up for grabs for the winner. In 2007, the winning fish weighed a mammoth 75kg. Who said fishing is boring?

ATHLETICISM: 4 out of 5
CREATIVITY: 3 out of 5
TACTICS: 3 out of 5


Little Wittenham, England, March 25, 2013

Who would have thought that Winnie the Pooh would have spawned his very own sport? Teams or individuals drop different coloured sticks from Little Wittenham Bridge on the upstream of a river and wait for them to appear on the other side. The person whose stick appears first wins the game. Over 1,500 people visit each year, from as far away as Japan, Australia, the United States and Kenya.

ATHLETICISM: 1 out of 5
CREATIVITY: 2 out of 5
TACTICS: 2 out of 5