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Barbados Coat of Arms
Barbados Coat of Arms

 

Barbados Vault


Barbados West Indies 1812. Just inside the entrance to its cemetery is an open vault. Is there Ghosts in Barbados

 

Barbados West Indies 1812 In the coastal fishing port of Oistins on the island of Barbados is Christ Church Parish Church. Just inside the entrance to its cemetery is an open vault belonging to a wealthy family who have not placed their dead within its walls for the better part of one hundred and eighty two years, ever since some macabre events in the early nineteenth century. The parish of Christ Church is one of eleven historic political divisions of Barbados. It has a land area of 57 km2 (22 sq mi) and is found at the southern end of the island. Christ Church has survived by name as one of the original six parishes created in 1629. After it and the courtyard were destroyed by flood in 1669, the main parish church moved to Oistins area, becoming the main town and former capital of the parish.
vault

Oistins Barbados West Indies


In the cemetery grounds of Christ Church Parish Church a wealthy sugar plantation family, the Waldrons, had a vault constructed for their future dead. Built from blocks of coral and carved from the limestone bedrock the vault sits half above and half below ground just inside the entrance to the graveyard and measures twelve feet by six and a half feet. Not much is known about the early history of the vault except that a tombstone lay on the site reading: 'James Elliot, Esq. - Died May 14th 1724'. Certainly there were no coffins within the vault at the turn of the century.

 

1807 July 31st. The first coffin, a wooden one, to be placed within the empty vault in the nineteenth century was that of Mrs. Thomasina Goddard. She was a relative of the Chase family, plantation owners on Barbados. After her interment the vault was sealed by a huge marble slab. Shortly after the burial Colonel Thomas Chase acquired the ownership of the vault. Chase was reputed to have been a cruel master to his many slaves.

 

1808 February 22nd. One of Thomas Chase's daughters, Mary Anna Maria, died at the age of two. She was placed inside a lead coffin and interred within the vault at Christ Church alongside Thomasina Goddard. Once again the pallbearers sealed it with the marble slab.

 

1812 July 6th That summer another of Chase's daughters died. Mary's elder sister, Dorcas Chase, was rumored to have starved herself to death under the domineering parental authority of her father. The funerary party positioned her lead coffin beside the other two and sealed the vault.

 

The Chase Vault Jason Moore The Chase Vault

1812 August 9th. Thomas Chase himself died that year. His coffin was a wooden one inside an outer casing of lead and was so heavy that it required eight men to carry it through the churchyard. When the pallbearers entered the vault, they noticed a disturbance of the three coffins within - it was hard to miss. In fact Mary's was upside down in the opposite corner from where it had been set. Puzzled and believing grave robbers to be responsible for the desecration they repositioned the coffins and added Colonel Chase beside them with Mary's coffin on top of the others.

 

Christ Church parish

A mile north of Oistins. 1816 April - St. Philip's Cemetery, Barbados. Samuel Brewster, a relation of the Chase family, was buried in the cemetery at St.Philip's church. He had been killed during a slave uprising.

1816 September 25th. At the age of eleven months a relative of the Chase family, Samuel Brewster Ames (sic), died and was brought to the vault in Oistins for burial. Expecting nothing unusual the funeral procession opened the marble slab door and found that the four coffins inside had been disturbed again. It is unclear in exactly which positions those coffins were found.

 

1816 November 17th. A decision was made to exhume the body of Samuel Brewster from St.Philips in order to inter his remains within the Chase vault and he was brought to Christ Church. The damage to the coffins inside was notable. Mrs. Goddard's wooden coffin had been damaged so severely that it had to be wrapped in wire and stacked against the wall to keep it together. Reverend Thomas Orderson of the Parish Church had the vault inspected for hidden entrances and signs of tampering. None was found. The coffins were replaced in their original positions and the marble slab door sealed with mortar.

 

'All I know is that it happened and that I was an eye-witness of the fact...'
The Honourable Nathan Lucas

 

1819 July 7th. Miss Thomazina Clarke in her cedar coffin was next to be buried. Due to the reputation the vault now had a considerable crowd of onlookers gathered for the ceremony including: Lord Combermere, his aides, Sir Stapleton Cotton (Governor of Barbados), the commander of the garrison and several clergymen. Upon inspection at the service the mortar around the marble door was found to be intact, yet when opened the vault held more disturbances. Colonel Thomas Chase's coffin was by the entrance, Mary's and Dorcas's were on the floor instead of lying on the top of the other coffins, but strangely Mrs. Goddard's coffin apparently had not been touched this time and lay where it had been stacked three years earlier. After the rearrangement of the coffins, diagrams of the interior were made and the floor was sprinkled with fine white sand. They shut and sealed the marble door with mortar once again, to which Lord Combermere added his own personal seal.

 

1820 April 18th. Lord Combermere attended a party at a plantation house owned by the Eldridge family near to Christ Church Parish and after much discussion and talk the subject of the mysterious vault came up. Lord Combermere assembled Major J Finch, the Honorable Nathan Lucas, Robert Boucher Clarke, Rowland Cotton and Reverend Thomas Orderson, together with two masons and eight slaves. They went down to the cemet3ry intending to open the vault and resolve the mystery once and for all. They found Combermere's seal intact from the previous July. When the slab was being removed the party heard a grating noise. Dorcas's coffin had been lying against the marble slab. Mary's coffin had been flung against the left wall with enough energy to chip the limestone. The other coffins had also been disturbed, so much so in fact that Thomas Chase's coffin was upside down. The sand, puzzlingly enough, was undisturbed.

 

At this final desecration Lord Combermere ordered all the coffins removed and given seperate burials elsewhere in the cemetary.

 

'I examined the walls, the arch, and every part of the Vault, and found every part old and similar; and a mason in my presence struck every part of the bottom with his hammer, and all was solid. I confess myself at a loss to account for the movements of these leaden coffins'
The Honourable Nathan Lucas, 1820 April 18th

 

Theories

 

Flooding

 

From 1816 - 1820 the wooden coffin of Mrs. Goddard did not move. If flooding was responsible, and wood floats, this coffin would certainly have moved when the others did. That said, lead coffins do not tend to float. The sand in the final investigation had been untouched, but if water had innundated the vault then the sand would have been somewhat displaced. There was also no cause for flooding - none of the other vaults had been flooded and there had been no prolonged floods anywhere on Barbados to cause such an effect.

 

Earth Tremors

 

There were no tremors reported during this period. A tremor sufficient in strength to move lead coffins so dramatically would have caused havoc and much destruction elsewhere on the island. Plus, some coffins had been moved, others had not. If an earth tremor was to blame, all the coffins should have been displaced. In addition this exlanation would require unnoticed strong earth tremors on five separate occasions.

 

Explosions

 

No cause is evident for an explosion. No signs of an explosion was found. Again there would have had to have been five unnoticed blasts between 1812 and 1820.

 

Tampering

 

There is only one entrance into the vault - the marble slab, which was repeatedly sealed from 1816 - 1820 and found undisturbed. It would require at least 7 men to move the lead coffin of Thomas Chase. Tampering would have to have continued throughout 1812 - 1820 - eight years - by at least seven people who somehow managed to enter the vault undetected and exited undetected after their many desecrations. Also there was nothing within the vault for robbers to steal. Why would robbers disturb the coffins so disruptively?

 

Poltergeist

 

No evidence is present to suggest a poltergeist other than the movement of the coffins themselves, and a typical poltergeist case involves the presence of a focus for the spirit (usually a young girl), which in this case does not apply since both the girls were deceased.

 

Voodoo/Witchcraft

 

Although there is motive for revenge since Thomas Chase was a cruel master, nothing was found at the vault to indicate some kind of witchcraft (markings, effigies and the like). The disturbances at the vault began presumably prior to Chase's burial anyway.

 

A Work Of Fiction. NO.

 

These burials and the reports of the disturbances are well documented and noted by many at the time.

 

Points To Note

 

Documents pertaining to the actual burials in the vault were lost in the hurricane which destroyed Christ Church Parish Church in 1831. The church was again reduced to rubble by a fire prior to 1935. The existing church dates from this time. Although Chase had enemies among his slaves and the theory sprang up that those slaves were somehow responsible with the movement of the coffins, it has never been linked or proved. The disruption of the vault undoubtedly caused much talk and gossip on the island and naturally drew unwelcome attention to the Chase family but it hardly sent them into ruin, so the intention to damage their reputation (if that is indeed what this was) seems pointless.

Duppy

In fact the slaves avoided the cemetery of Christ Church Parish because they feared that 'duppies' were at work there. Duppu is said to be malevolent spirits. Duppy is a word of Caribbean origin meaning ghost or spirits. Caribbean folklore revolves around duppy. Duppy are generally regarded as manifestation (in human or animal form) of the soul of a dead person, or a malevolent supernatural being. They are said to mostly come out and haunt people at night, and people from around the islands claim to have seen them. The "Rolling Calf", "Three footed horse", and "Old Higue" are examples of the more malicious spirits.

 

A disturbance of the two coffins (disruption of the vault) already in the vault upon the burial of Dorcas Chase has been included in some versions of this case, but there is no real evidence to support this account.

 

Made with help from The Mammoth Encyclopedia Of Unsolved Mysteries by Colin Wilson & Damon Wilson