The Mysterious Moving Chase Coffins

CULTURE | November 1, 2019

Chase Vault. Source: (the-line-up.com)

Moving coffins? Is that really possible? Fact or Fiction?

There are some very wild tales that float around. People love to tell ghost stories, especially during the Halloween season. Sometimes, though, those stories can actually be true stories.

How can a person know for sure especially when the story originated back in the 1800s?  

Map of Barbados in 1736. Source: (vintage-maps-prints.com)

This particular story supposedly took place in Barbados in the Lesser Antilles. Sitting in the middle of an island was a church, Christ Parish Church, which also had a graveyard. The church was built in 1629 close to the water, but when high waters came through 40 years later, it was demolished. Later, in 1780, it was rebuilt farther away from the waters next to an old graveyard. There was an empty vault there as well that had been built in 1724 for James Elliot but was never used by him. The church itself had to be rebuilt three more times because of hurricanes or fires.  

Christ Church Parish Church. Source: (Wikipedia)

This particular family, the Chase family, bought the vault after losing their infant baby in 1808, whose name was Mary Ann Marie. Whether the Chase family knew it or not, the vault already had one occupant in it, Thomasina Goddard.

According to the history of the church there, it was empty until Thomasina Goddard was buried in it in 1807. Colonel Thomas Chase, the head of the family, did not want to move the body out, and thereby disturb it, so he made the decision to leave her in it and just added the body of Mary Ann Marie in the vault. What seems a little odd is the similarity in the name Thomas and “Thomasina.” Is there a connection there?    

Chase Vault. Source: (canyouactually.com)

Just four years later, in 1812, another child died who they had to bury named Dorcas. She was buried in the vault next to her sister. The cause of death was self-starvation because her father was abusing her. According to the story, Thomas Chase was a wealthy landowner who owned slaves but, due to his bad temper, abused them as well.

Oddly, a month after the death of Dorcas, Thomas Chase committed suicide, so he was the next one to be buried in the vault. Access to the vault, which was made of stone, was down a set of stairs and was built just below sea level with an arched roof that was 3.7 meters deep and 2 meters wide. When the family opened up the vault to bury Thomas, they were stunned in horror. The heavy lead coffins, that had been neatly lined up inside, had all been moved around and scattered. At that time, they assumed it was grave robbers, so they neatly lined the coffins back up and added the 240-pound coffin of Thomas’s. They then, with the help of several men, rolled the huge marble stone back into place and sealed the opening.  

Chase Vault. Source: (pinterest.com)

Another four years passed when, in 1816, Charles Brewster Ames, who was 11 years old, passed away; so once again, the family went to the vault and opened it to bury him in it. Another shock! All of the coffins once again had been moved about except this time it was four of them, the heaviest one of that belonging to Thomas. But there was no evidence of anyone entering through the entrance. The family replaced all the coffins back the way they were and, again, resealed the vault.

Wooden Coffin. Source: (youtube.com)

According to the story, this happened two more times within the next few years with each time, the coffins having been moved about with no obvious forced entry into the vault. In 1820, officials got involved and reportedly opened up the vault and took each coffin out and buried it in a separate grave. The vault was searched for any kind of secret passageway or any explanation for the moving coffins but nothing was found. The vault was left open and unsealed and still stands open today, but the stories told about it cannot be verified – only educated guesses as to what really happened inside that vault.

The most likely explanation is that somehow water was able to get inside of the vault causing the coffins to float, and then when the water drained back out, they were left in disarray.  

Tags: Barbados | Moving Chase Coffins

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Penny Chavers


Penny, besides writing, loves to spend her time with family and friends. In her spare time, she also enjoys playing the piano, board games, and taking online classes on topics that interest her.