The Eerie Case of the Chase Vault

27Sep09

Lionel-Fanthorpe-Chase-Vault-Image-I Photo MediumThe Chase Vault is a burial vault in the cemetery of the Christ Church Parish Church in Oistins, Christ Church, Barbados. It is best known for a series of unexplained incidents in the early 19th century involving the coffins within the vault. Each time when the vault was opened to bury a family member, all coffins but one had changed position. When this had happened several times without explanation over a number of years, the vault was eventually abandoned.

The Mysterious Vault

ChaseThe Chase Vault was constructed for James Elliot around 1724. The vault was built such that it was partially underground. It was approximately 12 feet (3.7 m) long and 6 1/2 feet wide. However, Elliot was never interred there, and the vault remained empty until Thomasina Goddard was interred on 31 July 1807. Sometime in 1808, the vault was acquired by the Chase family, a fairly wealthy and important clan in Barbados. Some writers state that the patriarch of the family, Thomas Chase, was one of the most hated men on the island.

On 22 February 1808 the body of Thomas Chase’s infant daughter, Mary Ann Maria Chase, was taken to the vault for burial. When the vault was opened, Goddard’s wooden casket was found to be undisturbed. The vault was then opened on 6 July 1812 to bury Thomas Chase’s other daughter, Dorcas Chase. Both Goddard’s and Mary Chase’s caskets were found to be undisturbed at this time. Both of the Chase girls were interred in heavy lead caskets.

One month later, on 9 August 1812, the vault was opened again to accept the body of Thomas Chase himself. It was at this time that the caskets of the Chase girls were found to be displaced. According to reports, Mary Chase’s casket was thrown from the north-east corner of the vault to the opposite corner such that it was standing on end, head downward. It was assumed the disturbance was the result of vandals or thieves. As such, the caskets were reordered and the large marble slab covering the entrance put back in place.

Coffins2The vault was opened again on 25 September 1816 to accept the body of another infant, Samuel Brewster Ames. The coffins, with the exception of Thomasina Goddard’s, were again found to have been disturbed. Thomas Chase’s coffin was supposedly so heavy, it took eight men to move it. Once again, the coffins were reordered, some of them stacked on others in the small vault, and the entrance sealed.

On 17 November 1816, the vault was opened again to accept the body of Samuel Brewster. Once again, the coffins were found to be in disarray throughout the vault. For the third time, the coffins were moved back to their original positions and the vault sealed.

The vault was opened again on 17 July 1819, to accept the body of Thomasina Clark. Again, the coffins were found scattered. By this time, the mysterious incidents attracted the attention of local officials. Lord Combermere, Governor of Barbados, was reported to have attended Clark’s burial. The Chase Vault was carefully examined by the Governor and his staff. No secret entrance into the vault was detected, and sand was scattered across the floor to detect any footprints. The coffins were reordered and Clark’s wooden casket placed in the vault. It was reported that Goddard’s wooden casket was falling to pieces, either through decay or because of the activity in the vault. The remains of her casket were tied together and placed against a wall. Finally, the vault was closed and the marble slab cemented in place. The Governor and his staff reportedly placed their official seals in the cement to ensure the integrity of the seal.

Lionel-Fanthorpe-Chase-Vault-Image-Ii Photo MediumOn 18 April 1820, some eight months after the burial of Thomasina Clark, the vault was ordered to be reopened. The seals were found to be intact, but when the entrance slab was moved the coffins, with the exception of Goddard’s wooden casket, were again found to be in disarray. The account in The People’s Almanac includes the macabre detail that “a bony arm, that of Dorcas Chase, [was] sticking out a hole in the side of the coffin.” The sand on the floor did not show any kind of human activity within the vault. There was also no indication of flooding or earthquake.

After this incident, the vault was abandoned, and the coffins were buried elsewhere. The vault still exists today at Christ Church Parish Church, and is still vacant.

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Text is derived from Wikipedia.

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40 Responses to “The Eerie Case of the Chase Vault”

  1. 1 ace

    Hi! I first heard of the Chase Vault a few months ago and I have been fascinated by the story since. Whats your take on this mystery? Do you happen to have more images and schematics to go with the article? Thanks!

    • Sadly no – it all happened before the first cameras arrived so we only have drawings and modern photos of the vault.

  2. 3 punkin

    I wonder what today’s technology would find if say a hidden camera were to be set up in there! Great article and I love this site!

    • I guess the sand was their version of a hidden camera 🙂 That is the most interesting part of the tale to me – that the sand showed no signs of entry.

      • 5 moom

        Look at the floor. How could one tell that the sand had not been disturbed? Barbados is made of porous coral and there is tons of underground water. What if a very slow flood did this, then retreated and dried? There is no way one could say for sure that the sand had been undisturbed because of the rough dark condition of the floor.

        • 6 C N

          While that’ s a reasonable theory, it’s simply no possible for a semi-underground vault to flood and dry completely within a matter of months, as some of the example show.

          However, if it was vandalism, they could have simply swept away the sand and replaced it. Depends on how thick it was, I guess.

        • 7 C N

          While that’ s a reasonable theory, it’s simply not possible for a semi-underground vault to flood and dry completely within a matter of months, as some of the example show.

          However, if it was vandalism, they could have simply swept away the sand and replaced it. Depends on how thick it was, I guess.

  3. 8 Ny

    That sounds so creepy! If the sand showed no footprints, did it perhaps show movement marks of the coffins themselves? Otherwise, they would have had to have floated into their new positions… ghostly…

    The thought that creeped me out the most was the arm sticking out of the coffin. Eek!

    ~ Ny

  4. 9 Marijn

    Obvious the vault wasn’t water proof and would fill up on heavy rainfalls? Vault fills up with water, lead coufins don’t hey floot a bit, it stops raining vault empties and you got yourself a Mystery.

    • 10 Draith

      “There was also no indication of flooding or earthquake.” 😉 If the sand was undisturbed, seems odd to me there could have been flooding… unless that flooding managed to scatter the sand perfectly after draining.

  5. 11 Marijn

    Water will also explain why wooden casket was falling to pieces. And why there where no footmarks.

  6. 12 Dirtysingingbird

    @Marjin: Unfortunately, if there was water you would expect for it to disturb some of the sand, and there is no evidence of that happening. Plus, it would have to be a pretty large amount of water to turn a coffin vertically and upside down!

    Great article though – so glad that J-Fray has found the time to write. Not that education isn’t important, but if i’m skipping lectures to read this…:D

  7. 13 Zenayda

    I remember hearing about this ages ago. After reading Marijn’s take on it – I’m inclined to believe that’s a really plausible explanation.

    • 14 telosphilos

      This isn’t the first I’ve heard of this crypt and it’s moving coffins either. Marijn’s take is the most likely culprit. Despite being on a hill, it is dug underground. It’s not hard to imagine that water would flood and disturb things. The lead coffins float by displacement of water despite their weight. If the coffin is air tight then you have to imagine that the air inside adds to the bouyancy.

      Also, the sand wasn’t said to have been disturbed, but what were they looking for? They were looking for footprints and traces of human activity. Water draining out of the crypt should leave a wave pattern in the sand, but depending on the speed of the draining and a few other factors, there might not be any sort of pattern at all. The subtle signs of water on the sand would be fairly easy to overlook. I’d actually check to see if the crypt does flood before declaring it solved, but it does seem likely.

  8. 15 sleaterkinney1bt

    as for the flooding theory.. the water would have erased the seal that was marked in the sand!

    creeeeepy!!!

  9. 16 sleaterkinney1bt

    oh wait… never mind.. the seal was placed in the cement.. they shouldve marked something in the sand to see if it was flooded though..

  10. 17 grawdey

    One can assume that other underground crypts in this and other cemeteries would also periodically fill with water. This is an isolated account of vigorous, repeated displacement and hence the likelyhood of flooding as being responsible seems a bit of a stretch. It is also an insult to the intelligence of the officials involved to assume that they weren’t on the look-out for a water-based phenomenon.

    Additionally, one has to question the bouyancy of a lead-lined coffin as well as how far and to what new orientations it could be displaced.

  11. 18 Esotericstyle

    Though lead caskets would most certainly float in a large amount of water, there is no practical way for the caskets to change their vertical orientation. Furthermore, it would be impossible for caskets to become stacked upon each other.
    Not to mention that with the limited area within the crypt, the mobility of caskets in water would be severely limited. I don’t think it would be possible for the caskets to rotate completely around with such a small area.
    However, the water theory is still technically possible (though unlikely), as the water would drain out of the crypt slowly, through cracks in the stone and brick, so any patterns in the sand would be minimal. Add that to the fact that government officials in the early 1800 likely did not have an advanced concept of what those patterns would look like, and the water theory makes a little more sense.
    I think I just attempted to prove and disprove the same theory in one paragraph.

  12. 19 Maria

    The water theory is very plausible, except for what about the wooden casket? It was undisturbed the entire time. Don’t you think that if the crypt did flood, the wooden one would be the first to move?

    • 20 Andara Bledin

      I suspect that since the wooden casket was falling apart by the time of the last movement, that since that coffin wasn’t watertight, it wouldn’t have enough buoyancy to be lifted by the hypothetical water.

      ^-.-^

  13. 21 Jono

    Basically, this story is a famous example of how a story changes from something factual, into something entirely fabricated.

    Maybe, there was some dishevelling of the coffins over time, but the fact there is only a few references (one if I recally correctly) to this story alludes to it being made up at a later date. The “facts” aren’t fact at all, just facets of the legend. They may well be completely made up and fake accounts of people.

    What actually went down was either a hilarious prank by some people, or it’s just a hoax that got very credible, very fast.

  14. Now this what I call BIZARRE!! Not some alien schmalien sightings!!!! Great one JFRater!!

  15. 23 Therese

    Hi JFRater

    I really enjoy reading your articles. I especially enjoyed your article about the memento mori. also the other articles you have on listverse.com.

    this is really creepy. but just to clear things up, was it only the coffins of the Chase family that were moved or were the other coffins (with the exception of Goddard’s) moved as well?

    Also, can you recommend any other sites,articles, topics like these that i can read about?

    thanks 🙂 keep up the good work

  16. 24 Openeyed

    Imagine spending the night in that vault!

  17. 25 appie

    there are some things in this world that is beyond our explanation…beyond science…beyond technology…

  18. 26 SomeBigBlackRapperTypeGuy

    It’s a few days man….what’s up??

    Respectfully,

    SomeBigBlackRapperTypeGuy

  19. 27 SomeBigBlackRapperTypeGuy

    Here’s an interesting Russian unexplained mystery for anyone Interested.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyatlov_Pass_incident

    Love Always,

    SomeBigBlackRapperTypeGuy

    • 28 russian dude

      Awsome article!!

  20. 29 g3

    Well, you missed my birthday and I was so hoping to see what freaky thing would be posted on that day (28 years old and still a child!)

    Currently facing exams thanks to my school’s odd schedule and have contracted a cold. Being shunned by all and sundry thanks to H1N1 (piggy bastards!!) Please post soon and enlighten my gloom!

  21. 30 totalstranger

    I love this story. and looking on wiki, they go on to mention a possible MASONIC HOAX??? man they really need to send the Destination Truth guys there or something

  22. I think it would be interesting to put a video camera and some empty coffins into the vault, seal it up, then watch what happens on the video. If the displacement was, indeed, all done by water, it should show up again on the video.

  23. 32 Rick K.

    I’ve been to Barbados a few times many years ago, and in Oistins specifically. Lovely island and warm friendly people. The people there still talk about this story. In fact, that’s where I first heard about it. It was told to me by a local, pretty much the way it’s described in the story above. I was tempted to go see the vault itself, but it has been sealed up as noted so “nothing to see here, move on.” I also thought I might get creeped out by the whole thing, and don’t need any more nightmares.

    It’s well known that many parts of the Caribbean have people with some strange beliefs and practices. On the other hand, many thousands of the strongest Christians are also there, so perhaps the evil forces are at work trying to undermine their efforts. They have some power, but not more than the One True God. I’d say it’s an interesting story, probably true based on the number of people involved and the hightened interest it generated. Take it for what it’s worth, then go open your Bible and thank God for your safety and eternal security.

  24. 33 Cody

    Nice nice, so Jfrater, is this the new site instead of Listverse? I’m confused i seen a comment earlier saying something along those lines. Well keep up the good work! Thank you! 🙂

  25. С большинством Ваших постов я не согласен, но этот пост впечатлил 🙂

  26. 35 thereaderandthewriter

    I think the coolest and creepiest thing that could have happened if, in this time period, that caskets were still there and we were able to place video cameras in the tomb, and we found that the coffins were moving on their own and that the dead came to life while in the tomb. Cool, but horrifying

  27. 36 bong philippines

    As a survivor of the Ondoy Calamity in the philippines
    (its a vicious storm that dropped 3 months of rainfall in two hours in metro manila)
    Im going to speak from experience.
    The flood that hit my house was just a 30 inches high.
    I could tell by measuring the marks it left on my white door and the fact that my tv set was on a entertainment center just high enough to escape damage.. my ps2 and wdtv media player wasnt so lucky being on the shelf of the entertainment center near the floor and well they traveled over the place during the flood.
    Luckily i wasn’t there as i was staying at my sisters during the time.
    The flood only lasted two hours max in our area as my neighbors told me when i called them to ask about my dwelling.

    I can tell you two days later when i returned from my sister’s and the floods subsided that my small Five and a half foot high refrigerator that was 35 feet away from the entrance by the sink traveled from its place by the sink almost to the door of my small house.

    It was full of stuff like bottles and food which of course i threw away.
    To think that a 30 inch high flood lift a somewhat heavy refrigerator 35 feet from its starting point was beyond me as i stared at the immense damge that was done to my house what with moist sand everywhere that was EVENLY distributed on the floor like i cant see the tile flooring anymore. In fact if i didn’t live there and knew there was fake marble flooring underneath the moist sand i would’ve thought it was a cement floor.
    My sofas were in different areas of my place, one was upturned i don’t know how.
    All the dvds i saved over the years were spread everywhere and hopelessly corroded.
    Tha was just 30inches of water folks and my house was still locked when i got back.

    So i dont find it impossible the if the tomb was underground and slightly below sea-level that it would flood from time to time and even more quickly drain.
    Yes depending how high the water rose, you wont be suprised how everything gets rearranged. Its even probable that the sand on the floor wont look distrubed at all coz the way mud would settle and then dry to sand.

  28. 37 JA

    erm… earthquake anyone?…

    -JA

  29. 38 Lilly

    I wonder if it’s just a lie…

  30. 39 Andrea

    This story reminds me of the movie/book, “Flowers in the Attic”; don’t know why. It states many writers, wrote that Thomas Chase was one of the most hated men on the island”. People are not typically just, “hated”, for no reason. That’s a very strong emotion. Then the article goes on to describe the three daughters of his dying- within a very short time of one another. Perhaps the riddle could be solved by exhuming the bodies, to be able to tell if the daughters were poisoned/killed/died of unnatural circumstances…. a body at unrest, will remain at unrest, until it is given peace… (there are many coincidences in this story; and much as Einstein, I don’t believe in coincidences…) I’ve seen many of the documented, A&E’s Cold Case Files; (the documented/real life murder cases that go unsolved for many years…) You see many eerie signs/unexplainable phenomena, around a cold case murder investigation, when there are many truths to be found… the victim “speaks” from beyond. The mystery of the caskets could unravel some other interesting facts that are unknown, about their lives, as well…..

  31. 40 analol

    intresting


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