What’s going on at the mysterious Chase Vault?

Steps lead down into the tombs of the Chase Family Vault.

The caskets had been scattered all about and two were standing up on end.

There is a heavy stone vault in Barbados, the Caribbean.  It was built in the yard of Christ Church, overlooking Oistin’s Bay, in the early 1800s,  The Chase family who purchased the property used it to house their dead.

It is in view of the public.  You can go down the stone steps and inside the tomb if you dare.  The family has long since refused to place any of their dearly departed there.  They have moved the deceased to private individual graves.

The first Chase to go into the tomb was Mrs. Thomasina Goddard, July of 1807, then infant girl, Mary Ann Chase in February of 1808, and Dorcas Chase, a girl in July of 1812.  Nothing unusual had ever been reported concerning the burial vault.  Then, later in the hot summer of 1812, it was time for the body of the honorable Thomas Chase to be laid to rest in the vault. 

He was rumored to be a cruel man, even to his family.  The heavy slab was pried up by workers and the same workers then got so shook-up that they refused to take the body down the five steps.  They had sensed something very creepy coming from inside the tomb.  When some of the bravest later ventured down, they came across a bizarre scene. 

The caskets, partly made of lead and heavy, were in awkward positions.  They had been scattered all about and two were standing up on end.  Great pains were taken to put the caskets right again.  The tomb was checked for vandalism and secret entrances.  There was nothing.  The tomb had been sealed by a heavy stone that had not been disturbed.  Mr. Chase was a heavy man in a heavy box and it took eight men to position his casket in the preferred spot.  

A church board, in charge of the Christ Church grounds, had many meetings and questioned many workers.  They got no new information.  No one behaved suspiciously.  All were cleared of any wrongdoing.  It was a big mystery.

Four years later, they needed to bury another infant child in the tomb, a young boy named Samuel Ames.  When the tomb was unsealed and the funeral party descended, they were alarmed to find the casket of Thomas Chase, on the opposite wall from where it had been and he heavy casket was turned on its side. 

In fact, all of the coffins but one had gone askew.  They were replaced.  The tomb was sealed, many witnesses to the sealing—an armed guard was placed as a sentry near the tomb.  Mr. Brewster had died earlier and was moved to the tomb a mere two months later.  As you may have guessed, the caskets were once again turned over and thrown askew, even though the vault had been sealed and guarded.  Could it have been a flood?  An earthquake.  None of these were reported.

A new governor came into power in Barbados—Fielding Marshal Viscount Combermere.  He had heard of these happenings and did not believe in gallivanting coffins.  He promised severe and swift punishment for any vandals of tombs or tampering of coffins.  He consulted with the church board.  This offered him an opportunity to become better friends with the church board members and maybe that is why he was invited to attend the next funeral rite. 

Thomasina Clark would need the tomb in July of 1819.  When they went into the just-unsealed tomb they were greeted by a spectacle.  The coffins were piled about and one was falling apart.  The governor had a chart drawn to show exactly where the coffins were then replaced.  He had a team scour the place for secret doors and underground entrances.  He ordered the floors to be sprinkled with sand and ash.  This was to divulge any future footprints.  He ordered the slab replaced.  He ordered seals put on everything, with molten lead and cement.

When the governor was nearing the end of his term in 1820, he wanted to check the tomb.  There had been eerie noises coming from the area of the tomb at night and he wanted to leave his office with a clean slate.  He ordered the tomb to be opened in April of 1820.  It got off to a good start.  The slab and seals had not been disturbed.  The sand and ash bore no footprints—but oh my—the caskets inside were all topsy-turvy, some standing up on end.

There was something even more puzzling.  The caskets had to be taken out of the building to turn them completely around because of the interior architecture—not enough room.  Many of the caskets had been turned around with the heads facing opposite directions.

The family then moved all of the caskets to a cemetery.  Christ Church was destroyed by a hurricane in1831.  Its replacement was destroyed by fire in 1935.  The Chase Vault still stands.  Visitors to the island have ventured down the steps on occasion and probably ventured right back up, again.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of It Rises from the Pee Dee. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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