Thursday, June 07, 2012

The Mysterious Chase Family Vault


There is a vault in a West Indies cemetery that prefers its coffins in disarray. An entire family was buried within - the Chase family. One by one, family members both young and old would die and be carefully placed in their eternal resting place - until the father (rumoured to be one of the most hated men on the island) was interred. When the ground keepers opened the door to store him within, all the coffins seemed to have scattered themselves about the floor.

The strange occurrence happened again and again. Some reports say people could actually hear the coffins moving themselves while locked inside the cement sealed vault.

The first published account of these moving coffins was by Sir J. E. Alexander's Transatlantic Sketches (1833):

"Each time that the vault was opened the coffins were replaced in their proper situations, that is, three on the ground side by side, and the others laid on them. The vault was then regularly closed; the door (a massive stone which required six or seven men to move) was cemented by masons; and though the floor was of sand there were no marks of footsteps or water.

The last time the vault was opened was in 1819. Lord Combermere (governor of the colony) was then present, and the coffins were found confusedly thrown about the vault, some with their heads down and others up. What could have occasioned this phenomenon? In no other vault in the island has this ever occurred".


The first to be housed in the edifice was Mrs. Thomasina Goddard in or around 1807. She was followed by two year old Mary Ann Chase in 1808 and then by another child - Dorcas Chase in 1812.

Those coffins were all very well behaved until the family head - Thomas Chase - was to be placed inside. Thomas, as we've already stated, is said to have been one of the more despised men on the island. When the crypt was opened to place him inside, the other coffins seemed to have moved themselves from their orderly places.

Those in the funeral party were angered at the finding, supposing heartless robbers to be responsible. This thought was soon abandoned as nothing was missing from the coffins, nothing of value had been placed inside in the first place, and (most significantly) the door to the burial site was a huge stone cemented in place. To open it, the cemetery workers quite literally had to do so with a hammer and chisel. The stone was also said to have been so big, a team of at least four men would be needed to move it. Confused, the townspeople placed the freshest body inside and resealed the vault.

The newest coffin was a 240 lb. lead coffin, an extremely difficult thing to toss about for anyone looking to drag it around until money fell out.

In 1816 another burial was to take place - this time for eleven year old Charles Brewster Ames. Again the coffins were everywhere but in their proper places. The 240 lb. lead coffin of Thomas Chase was also in the wrong location. The crypt had been completely sealed and, again, had no signs of tampering or forced entry.

52 days later, another burial was to take place in the crypt. A large crowd gathered for this one, and they weren't disappointed. This time the cement-sealed door was closely examined before opening, with no strange findings. Again the coffins had thrown themselves about. There was a difference this time in that the first coffin that had been placed inside - the only one made of wood - had been badly damaged by the tussle. A reverend was called in to check the scene, but left with no new insight. Once again the vault was sealed.


In 1819 another family burial was needed. The vault was opened with all the same results - except the wooden one found damaged the last time had not been moved one single inch. The governor of the island (Lord Combermere) had enough at this point and ordered his own investigation - nothing was found. This time sand was scattered on the ground to catch the footprints and movements of any pranksters. The governor's own seal was placed in the hardening cement, then the vault was ordered sealed until the next family tragedy.

But the governor couldn't wait that long.

Less than a year later the head-of-state ordered the crypt opened, this time only in front of himself and several friends. The seal was perfectly intact upon arrival, but the coffins were still scattered. Some of them had even flipped upside down, and one was lying halfway up the stairs leading to the door. The sand so carefully placed before gave away no footprints or signs of water. The governor then ordered the coffins removed to a new burial site, and the crypt was left open. It's standing open and empty to this very day.

Sources:
castleofspirits.com
onesuffolk.co.uk
funbarbados.com
ghost-story.co.uk
Jerome Clark - 1999 - Unexplained!: Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurrences & Puzzling Physical Phenomena


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