Photo: Kaspar C / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Inside The Chase Vault, Heavy Lead Coffins Were Tossed About By A Violent Supernatural Force

The Chase vault haunting legend is one of the more popular ghost stories to come out of Barbados. The tiny island in the Caribbean is home to a tomb that has become legendary for its restless spirits and moving coffins. 

In the early 1800s, the Chase family began burying their loved ones in an old crypt they had purchased. However, it was soon clear that something was terribly wrong with their chosen grave site. Every time they buried a new person in the vault, mourners were shocked to find that all of the other coffins had somehow shifted, seemingly thrown around the cavernous room and piled on top of each other. Each time, the heavy, lead-lined coffins were put back in their proper place and the vault was sealed up - but the activity didn't stop. The community was at a loss to explain what violent forces could be disturbing the Chase family tomb; they examined many theories, including flooding, vandals, and vampires. 

In the end, the mystery remained unresolved and the community emptied the vault, re-burying the coffins elsewhere. You can go see it yourself today, if you feel like visiting whatever spirits frightened the community of Christ Church 200 years ago.

Photo: Kaspar C / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

  • Almost Every Time Someone Was Interred, The Other Coffins Would Somehow Move
    Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / Wikimedia Commons / No Restrictions

    Almost Every Time Someone Was Interred, The Other Coffins Would Somehow Move

    The Chase family purchased the tomb in 1808 and began interring late family members there, beginning with their young daughter, Mary Ann Chase, that same year. In 1812, another daughter, Dorcas, passed and was interred in the family tomb.

    Merely a month later, family patriarch Thomas Chase joined his daughters. At his interring, the community who'd gathered to bury him discovered several of the coffins haphazardly out of place around the vault. Reportedly, Dorcas's coffin was "standing upright and upside down against one of the walls," which was particularly puzzling since the coffins were notoriously heavy. The family rearranged the coffins and sealed the tomb again. 

    Samuel Brewster Ames joined the vault's inhabitants in 1816. Brewster had passed months earlier and his body was relocated to the Chase vault from another cemetery. A crowd gathered to see if the previous burial's disturbances would be repeated, and they were not disappointed.

    Not only were the previously placed coffins "scrambled" throughout the vault, but the community also discovered the wooden coffin of Thomasina Goddard, the tomb's original occupant, had fallen apart. The community tied it back together in a bundle and placed it between another coffin and the wall.

  • Government Officials Took Notice Of The Moving Coffins And Did An Experiment

    Thomasina Clarke was the last person to be buried in the Chase tomb in 1819, and once again, those who buried her found a jumble of coffins inside the vault. At this point, local officials began to take notice of the chaos inside the Chase vault. They inspected it from top to bottom, making sure there was no way anyone could enter it once it was sealed shut, as many were convinced it was the work of vandals.

    Before the vault was closed, community members spread sand on the floor so that if anyone entered the tomb, they'd leave footprints. The governor and several other city officials even left their seals in the cement used to close the tomb. 

    When the tomb was reopened for a final time in 1820, the sand and seals remained undisturbed, but the coffins were once again scattered around the small vault.

  • It Would Have Been Extremely Difficult For Vandals To Enter And Disturb The Vault

    As the mysterious vandalism of the coffins in the Chase vault continued over the years, the local community increased security several times. They placed a large stone slab over the entrance, very different to the metal gate it has today. City officials sealed the slab with concrete, and each time they opened it to find it vandalized, they gave it yet another thorough inspection and re-sealed it even more carefully.

    Vandals would have found it impossible to get inside, and once they were in they would have faced just as many problems with lifting and rearranging the heavy, lead-lined coffins, some of which weighed hundreds of pounds.

  • Eventually, The Bodies Were All Moved Out Of The Vault And Into Individual Graves
    Photo: Author Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Eventually, The Bodies Were All Moved Out Of The Vault And Into Individual Graves

    After the final disturbance of the coffins in the Chase vault in 1820, officials decided that the seven occupants should be removed and placed into individual graves elsewhere in the cemetery. Many superstitious people believe that the reason for the coffins' rearrangements is because of the disruption of spirits.

    After the removal of the bodies, there were no reports of additional paranormal events at the Chase vault. 

  • The Chase Vault Has Inspired A Plethora Of Ghost Stories

    Though historians have found records for all of the late people involved, there are no burial records indicating that anyone was ever buried in the Chase vault. The folklore passed down through generations and written in old books, as well as first-hand accounts, is the only "evidence" that historians have found, and the Chase vault stories even mirror a story about moving coffins from Estonia around the same time.

    In fact, many of the tales surrounding the vault resemble the type people tell around a campfire. According to one documentarian:

    One such story goes that a woman on horseback heard menacing shrieks and groans emanating from the tomb as she passed it. Her horse allegedly went into a berserk panic, foaming at the mouth and threatening to throw the woman off. It was then reported that several other horses in the nearby village became insane in the ensuing days and mindlessly dove into the bay, where they drowned.

  • Some Skeptics Believe That Flooding Could Be The Cause Of The Coffin Movements

    Skeptics have proposed two theories as to how the coffins natural forces could have moved the coffins. The first was earthquakes, but no significant earthquakes were reported in the area between 1812 and 1820. 

    The second theory proposed: flooding. Some researchers worked out calculations to see if there was any way that the heavy coffins could float. Though it did appear somewhat plausible, many historians threw out the flood theory because none of the other subterranean vaults in the cemetery were affected.