The Chase Vault


The story of the Chase Vault.

The Chase Vault is a tomb that sits in the Christ Church Parish Cemetery in Barbados. Although it is empty today, the Vault holds a story that will live on for generations. The story is more famously known as “The Moving Coffins of Barbados.”

The vault is made from coral and sits in the ground. The Waldon family were the ones to build the tomb and its first occupant is thought to be the Honourable James Elliott Esq., who died on May 14, 1724, as indicated by a tombstone that once sat at the tomb’s entrance. What happened to the coffin of James Elliott is unknown, as the tomb had nothing in it when it was opened for the burial of Mrs. Thomasina Goddard on July 31, 1807. Mrs. Goddard was laid to rest in a wooden coffin and the entrance of the tomb was sealed with a large slab of marble.

It wasn’t long after that burial that the tomb was given over to the Chase family. They were very rich but Colonel Thomas Chase had an extremely bad temper and was extremely cruel to his family as well as his servants. The first Chase family member to be buried in the tomb was Mary Anna Maria Chase, who was two years old when she died. She was laid in a coffin made of lead and her coffin was placed in the tomb on February 22, 1808. Four years later, Mary’s older sister, Dorcas died. She was also placed in a lead coffin and joined her sister in the tomb on July 6, 1812. One short month later, the Colonel died and he was placed in a wooden coffin that was placed inside one that was also made of lead.

Eight pallbearers carried the Colonel’s coffin into the tomb and it was then that they noticed that the other coffins were not where they had been placed. Mary’s coffin was not only in the opposite corner but it had also been turned upside-down. The coffins were returned to the positions that they had been in. All of them were laid beside each other and Mary’s coffin was placed on top of them. The tomb was once again sealed off with a marble slab. Word got out of the mysterious moving coffins and the blame was placed on the servants. It was thought that they had done it to strike out against the Colonel’s cruelty.

On September 25, 1816, another Chase was to be buried in the tomb. This time it was Master Samuel Brewster Ames, who was only eleven months old at the time of his death. When the tomb was opened, it was found again that the coffins were displaced and unorganized. On November 17, 1816, the body of Samuel Brewster was being moved from his original resting place in St. Philip Cemetery to the Chase Vault. Reverend Thomas Orderson, along with a magistrate, were there that day to oversee the proceedings. Along with them were many people who were simply anxious to see what would be found when the vault was opened.

This time, not only had the coffins been moved but, they were in horrible shape. The coffin of Mrs. Goddard looked badly beaten and was thrown apart. The Reverend ordered an inspection of the tomb to check for cracks in the walls, floor, and ceiling, along with any hidden entrances. None were found and the vault appeared to be secure. Mrs. Goddard’s coffin was put back together and the tomb was once again closed and secured with a marble slab. There was more talk of placing the blame on the servants but this did not seem likely as they stayed away from the cemetery altogether, afraid that evil spirits resided there.

In 1819, the tomb was reopened once again to allow for the burial of Miss Thomasina Clarke. Many people were on hand that day to see what would be found, as the tomb was now a matter of interest for the entire country. Again, the coffins were in disarray however Mrs. Goddard’s coffin was still in the pile in which it was placed.

On April 18, 1820, Viscount Combermere wanted to get to the truth of the vault. There were rumours that noises could now be heard from inside and spirits were said to encircle the tomb. Combermere gathered his secretary, the mayor, eight servants, and several others to open the tomb. After having an inspection of tomb’s exterior, he ordered the slab to be opened. A noise was heard from inside and the crowd that had gathered fell silent. Upon its opening, a horrible sight was found. The coffin of Dorcas Chase was leaning against the door and the coffin of Mary Anne Maria Chase had been thrown against the wall. It had been thrown so harshly that a piece of it was actually missing. The other coffins were thrown about in a reckless manner. The floor, which was comprised of sand, showed no signs of anything happening at all.

It was after this that the Chase’s decided to empty the tomb and bury the family members in separate ceremonies. Today, the vault is empty and quiet but the rumours of what exactly took place within those walls still remains a mystery.

The Chase Vault

The Chase Vault

The Chase Vault

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