23 Oct

31 Ghost Stories – Day 23: Angry spirits in the Chase Vault

Posted by Bryan White | Saturday October 23, 2010 | 31 Ghost Stories

The Chase Vault of BarbadosI remember hearing this one when I was little but the distorting quality of time left me confusing it with a story from the super-traumatic Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark that horrified an entire generation with its terrifying illustrations and often actually chilling stories. This was the kind of story that really spooked me when I was little. I’d heard a lot of ghost stories up to this point but I hadn’t really considered this possibility that spirits stuck around because they were pissed off so the notion that something was locked into its place of burial, trashing the crypt out of anguish spooked the fuck out of me.

The Chase family, a wealthy family quartered in Barbados, bought the crypt, originally built but never used by another family. In 1807 before any of the Chase family occupied it, the body of Thomasina Goddard was interred there and then followed in 1808 by the infant Mary Ann Maria Chase. The vault remained this way until 1812 when Thomas Chase’s daughter, Dorcas was then buried. Both Dorcas and the infant were buried in lead coffins while Thomasina was buried in a wooden coffin, details that are actually important to the story. Each time a new body was introduced to the vault, it would be sealed with a heavy marble slab. This would be the last time that the contents of the vault would remain undisturbed. Again, in 1812, the body of Thomas Chase was placed in the vault. It seems that just about everyone in the family was dropping like flies but this time when they opened the vault, the contents therein, the three bodies, that is, had been tossed violently around the crypt. Everyone assumed that vandals or thieves had broken in and the caskets were rearranged in orderly fashion. Four years later, the crypt was opened again for another Chase child’s body and again, the caskets, with the exception of Thomasina Goddard’s, were found thrown all over the place. These were three lead coffins, Thomas Chase’s coffin said to have required eight guys to move. Again, a few years later, the vault was opened to bury the body of Thomasina Clark and the coffins, with the exception of Thomasina Goddard, were flung all over the place, this time some of the bodies having fallen out. Attention from the local officials who attended this funeral finally warranted an investigation. What was most curious to onlookers was the lack of any evidence to support that anything had been stolen and that other vaults with easier access had gone undisturbed. The slab used to seal this vault was massive and was said to require the effort of many people to shut it. It would have taken many vandals to open and then trash this place yet this seemed to be the only one targeted. Such a pain in the ass for such little payoff. Officials suspected something sinister at play and the floor of the vault was scattered with sand before being sealed up.

Illustration of the Chase Vault beforeEight months after this last closing, the vault was again opened to check on its condition. The seal to the vault had not been disturbed but the coffins, again, were found all over the place, violently thrown over. There was no sign of anyone having been in there, though. The sand scattered around was as it seemed to be when they last opened the vault. Tired of the drama, the surviving members of the Chase family had the bodies moved elsewhere and the vault remains empty to this day.

I think you see where I’m going with this. Vandals would have had to go to great lengths to trash the place and the vault was thoroughly inspected for tampering but no sign could be found. Grave robbers were ruled out because nothing ever seemed to be missing. Earthquakes and flooding were thought to be the culprit but the fact that Thomasina Goddard’s wooden coffin was never disturbed was often used as evidence against these theories. So, what do you think happened in the vault? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famed author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, actually took an interest in this case. The man had a reputation for his belief in the paranormal and he, like, many others on Barbados who knew the Chase family suspected that angry, restless spirits had done the trashing. Thomas Chase had a reputation on Barbados for being a real hardass. He was generally hated by the population and his slaves had actually risen up on one occasion when they’d had enough starvation and whipping. What’s more, you know how word gets around and it was said that his abuse wasn’t exclusive to the slaves. His family felt the wrath, too, and that Dorcas’ death was probably the result of this abuse. She didn’t just die of disease or something. She died of suicidal starvation. Thomas’ death came hot on her heels, also a suicide and it wasn’t until Dorcas’ body was in the tomb that the crazy shit started to¬† hit the proverbial fan.

Illustration of the Chase Vault afterPersonally, it doesn’t make sense to me that the spirits of the dead would haunt the place of their burial since your average ghost story tends to lock spirits down to places of importance to them – usually their homes – but the Chase Vault isn’t the only recorded instance of spectral grave thrashing. This actually happened in another vault on Barbados, one in Estonia and one in England.

Shit happens when you’re dead, I guess.

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