The Chase Vault

The story of the Chase Vault could come straight out of a pulp horror magazine, but it is, by all accounts, true.  The vault is located on the tropical island of Barbados, in the cemetery of the Christ Church Parish Church in Oistins.  It was originally built for another man, James Elliot, in 1724, but Mr. Elliot was not buried there.  The only body interred while Elliot owned the crypt was Thomasina Goddard on July 13th, 1807.

The vault was named for Thomas Chase who purchased the crypt in 1808.  His infant daughter, Mary, was interred on February 22, 1808, in a heavy lead coffin.  Goddard’s wooden coffin was undisturbed.  Mr. Chase lost his other daughter, Dorcas, in 1812, and she was also buried in the vault.  Her coffin, also a large, lead casket, was interred on July 6th.

Shortly after Dorcas was laid to rest, her father Thomas also passed away.  On August 9th, 1812, the vault was opened to accept Thomas’ casket, but the mourners were shocked to discover both Mary’s and Dorcas’ coffins were disturbed.  Specifically, they were tossed around the room, with Mary’s coffin against a far wall, standing head down.  Authorities assumed vandals had caused the disturbance, the coffins were replaced, and Thomas was laid to rest.  The authorities did not explain how vandals had managed to casually toss about lead coffins that took eight grown men to move.

If this was the only incident, the story would have faded to obscurity.  However, when Samuel Brewster Ames, another infant, was interred in the vault on September 25, 1816, again the coffins were found disordered, some stacked on others, yet the marble slab covering the entrance appeared to have not been moved.  When the vault was again opened on November 17th, 1816, for Samuel Brewster himself (the father of the infant) again the coffins were moved.  Everything was set right again, resealed, and forgotten… but the stories began to grow.

On July 17th, 1819, the body of Thomasina Clark was to be interred in the vault, and this time the local authorities were present for the opening of the crypt.  Even the governor of Barbados was supposedly in attendance, and once again they found the coffins thrown about the vault like a child’s discarded blocks.  Goddard’s coffin was also in very bad shape, splintered and falling apart as if squeezed.  The coffin was tied together and placed against a wall, the other coffins returned to their positions and the door was sealed.

This time, however, the governor had sand dusted over the floor and he sealed the vault himself with his official seal to ensure no one disturbed the vault.  No other entrance to the crypt existed, and it was hoped that whoever was responsible for the vandalism would be stopped by the seals or caught by the footprints in the sand.

In April of 1820, the governor ordered the vault opened for inspection.  The seals were all intact, the sand was undisturbed, but the coffins, again, were thrown about.  It was said that the sturdy side of Dorcas Chase’s coffin had broken away, revealing a skeletal arm reaching out.  The governor ordered the coffins moved and buried elsewhere and the crypt permanently sealed.

To this day it remains undisturbed…by man at any rate.

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