Friday, July 29, 2016

The Haunted Crypt

Barbados is an island located on the easternmost edge of the West Indies and the site of what some claim to be one of the greatest mysteries of the nineteenth century.

The Chase Crypt
In 1808 the wealthy Chase family acquired a crypt in which to inter their dead relatives. Already eighty years old, the vault was built semi-underground and hewn out of the compacted coral that makes up much of the island’s foundations. Despite its age, the crypt had only housed a single occupant; Thomasina Goddard.
The head of the Chase family, Colonel Thomas Chase, decided not to disturb Goddard and she was not moved to another vault. She was soon saved from her lonely rest when the young Mary-Anne Maria Chase joined her in the vault in a lead-lined coffin. Several more members of the Chase family, including 2 babies and a grandmother known for her saintly conduct during life, were laid to rest in the vault over the next several years. Four years almost to the day after Mary-Anne's funeral, the vault was re-opened to allow her sister Dorcas' entry. The unfortunate Chase family suffered another death when Thomas himself passed away barely a month after Dorcas.
It was upon this reopening of the vault that the legend began. It was found that Dorcas' coffin had moved from its original position so that it now rested against the far wall "standing on end, with its head downward." Blaming vandals or thieves, the funeral party replaced the coffin and six strong men slid the heavy marble slab back over the entrance and left.
From then on, every time the vault was opened to allow the submission of another of the Chase's relatives the vault's contents would be in disarray, all except the two baby's coffins and the grandmother's. This included Thomas Chase's heavy casket which, according to records, took eight men to lift. Four times over the following years the marble slab was muscled aside and the sun's light would illuminate the coffins in morbid disarray.

Finally, the strange activities attracted attention from the island's officials and inhabitants who attended the next Chase internment in great numbers. The governor’s wife was present and writes: "In my husband's presence, every part of the floor was sounded to ascertain that no subterranean passage or entrance was concealed. It was found to be perfectly firm and solid; no crack was even apparent. The walls, when examined, proved to be perfectly secure. No fracture was visible, and the sides, together with the roof and flooring, presented a structure so solid as if formed of entire slabs of stone. The displaced coffins were rearranged in proper order, the new tenant of that dreary abode was deposited, and when the mourners retired with the funeral procession, the floor was covered with fine white sand in the presence of Lord Combermere and the assembled crowd. The door was maneuvered into its closed position and, with the utmost care, the new mortar was laid on so as to secure it. When the masons had completed their task, the Governor made several impressions in the mixture with his own seal and many of those attending added various private marks in the wet mortar.”

Eight months later, rather than waiting for the next Chase to die, the vault was ordered to be opened once again. The Governor and a party of men assembled at the crypt. The cemented seals were found to be intact and no evidence of tampering could be found until, upon reopening the crypt, once again except for the two baby's and grandmother's coffins, the contents were discovered to be in disarray. Some of the heavy coffins were upended and on top of others. Mary-Anna’s had come to rest against the left wall; a small chunk had been chipped off a corner from the violence of its journey. One coffin was found resting on the 4th step, its head pointing upwards toward the crypt's opening. The lid of another coffin had been partially forced open and from that opening projected the shriveled right arm of the corpse it contained. The arm was pointing toward the ceiling of the crypt. Several of the men recognized the coffin as one holding a member of the family who had committed suicide. The floor's sandy coating was undisturbed and no sign of flooding or earthquake was apparent.

Nathan Lucas, another eyewitness, described the event: "...I examined the walls, the arch, and every part of the Vault, and found every part old and similar; and a mason in my presence struck every part of the bottom with his hammer, and all was solid. I confess myself at a loss to account for the movements of these leaden coffins. Thieves certainly had no hand in it and as for any practical wit or hoax, too many were requisite to be trusted with the secret for it to remain unknown; and as for natives having anything to do with it, their superstitious fear of the dead and everything belonging to them precludes any idea of the kind. All I know is that it happened and that I was an eye-witness of the fact."

After this incident church officials decided to move the bodies to other burial sites in the Christ Church Parish cemetery and the Chase vault was left empty. It was once again sealed with the marble slab which was cemented closed. Visitors to the cemetery sometimes report strange sounds which seem to come from the Chase crypt, comparing it to someone moaning or crying, but church officials say it's nothing more than the wind. The crypt has never been opened again and still stands vacant beside the little church in Oistins on the island’s southern coast.