The Eerie Case of the Chase Vault
The 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
The 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.
The 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.
On 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.
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