A Tisket, a Tasket, 30 Hours in a Casket
Naperville college student wins Six Flags Halloween challenge lying down
A friend convinced her to enter, but Olivia Crabtree of Naperville now kind of relishes being the “Coffin Girl.”
Slightly more than a year ago, she and her friend, Alex, applied on a whim (his) to Six Flags St. Louis’ “Coffin Challenge.” “Then overnight, 30,000 people had applied,” says Crabtree. “We were like, ‘OK, that was a fun thought but we aren’t going to get it.’ Weeks went by, and I forgot about it.”
But, while studying in the St. Louis University library, the then-sophomore opened an e-mail congratulating her on being selected to lie in a wooden coffin for 30 hours.
Her mom’s reaction? “Ha ha! . . . You’re not going to do it, are you?” Sorry mom, she was. As a pre-med student who is deciding between becoming a Forensic Scientist or a Medical Examiner, Crabtree knew declining would be a grave error. “I said in my application that I could personally connect with my future patients,” she says.
Turns out, each of the six people selected had a “weird Halloween quirk,” says Crabtree, by far the group’s youngest at 19. One contestant ran a Haunted House and drove a Hearse as his regular car. Another was a mortician who owned a funeral home. One woman was a “vampire enthusiast.” Those who completed the 30 hours would receive $300, a gold season pass to Six Flags — and earthly fame.
The coffins were closed just up to their shoulders, but didn’t cover their faces. Once an hour they were allowed a bathroom break for exactly six minutes — “from the time you left to the time you were back, so we were all running,” says Crabtree. During the amusement park’s operating hours, customers milled around them, asking questions, and the costumed freaks who wander Six Flags during October’s Halloween festivities tried to frighten them.
“There were Zombies and scary clowns — one clown with us a lot had a chainsaw.”
As a longtime Halloween fan, Crabtree was not fazed. She did, however, have midterms the next day, so she spent some of those hours studying, which posed a different sort of challenge.“I was small enough that I could turn on my side in the coffin if I wanted to — that helped.” With blankets and a pillow, “I padded myself in there. I was pretty comfy — it was chilly outside, but warm in the coffin.”
When the park closed, the coffin-dwellers and park employees remained, accompanied by a St. Louis TV reporter and an HBO camera crew. “It was a little hard to talk — we couldn’t sit up or anything, but we kind of talked to each other. We could have our phones once an hour for 13 minutes — all the numbers were very specific.”
A bit of a pall fell over the experience eventually.“Toward the end, when I went for breaks, I really, really didn’t want to get back in, but I’d gotten that far,” recalls Crabtree. “The other contestants were super nice, we formed a bond over this weird experience we all shared.”
All six survived to claim their coffins as souvenirs. A wrestler/contestant offered to buy Crabtree’s coffin, and she happily let it go for $100. He told her he’d be using it for “coffin wrestling matches.”
Crabtree took home mementos: a plastic “St. Louis Coffin Challenge” logo from the coffin, a certificate, and a T-shirt with “Coffin Dweller” on the back. That, she admits, is buried in a drawer. Not surprisingly, her mom asked not to see photos of her daughter in a faux-casket. Crabtree, meanwhile, figures she’ll encounter future coffins only at funerals.“It’s the kind of experience that’s one and done. I can say I did it. It was fun the first time. I don’t feel the need to do it again.”
Memorializing the contest, however, will live on indefinitely. “Surprisingly, I talk about it a lot — more than I thought I would. It just comes up in conversation. I mention it casually and people say, ‘Wait! You did what?!’ At school, people recognize me and say, ‘You’re the coffin girl!’”
As junior year midterms loom, Crabtree isn’t sure where to study. Last year, she did “pretty well” thanks to all that time — and a seriously enclosed space — to cram. This year? “I’ll maybe lie somewhere for another 30 hours . . . preferably somewhere more comfortable.”Edit Module