If my dad were alive today, assuming he could cope with a computer, I am sure he would be a keen blogger. He was an inveterate letter-writer. When I was searching for something else today, yet again, I came upon this letter that he wrote in 1968 to The New Scientist.
My parents at that time lived in Barbados and were about to launch into a new phase of their lives as managers of an apartment complex.
Dad was capable of being quite amusing, and his letters kept a small audience entertained for some years.
As I recall, he wrote up the story mentioned at the head of this letter, but if it was published he didn’t keep a copy.
He told me about it the first time I visited Barbados and I checked to refresh my memory.
So here is a small “ghost” (?) story for you:
My parents place was halfway between Oistins and Bridgetown.
The Chase Vault is adjacent to the Christ Church Parish Church in Oistins, on the south coast of Barbados.
Originally constructed in 1724, the church was re-built 3 times due to hurricane damage.
The vault is attached to the cemetery. A separate stone room with an arched roof, 3.7 metres deep and 2 metres wide, it sits just below ground level, reachable by stone steps.
There is a discrepancy over who the first occupant was, but reportedly Thomasina Goddard was already a resident when the vault was purchased by the Chase family in the early 1800’s,
The family was extremely wealthy and also very unpopular, known for abusive treatment of their slaves.
From what I could gather, the first family member interred in the vault was James Elliot Chase.
In 1808, 2-year old Mary Ann Chase was next, joined in 1812 by her sister Dorcas who had starved herself to death.
Only a month after this, the father, Thomas Chase died, having himself committed suicide.
When the vault was opened this time, the family were horrified to find the coffins in disarray, as if disturbed by vandals.
When, in 1816 the vault was again opened, for the addition of 2-month old Samuel Brewster Ames, the coffins had again moved and the solid, lead-lined casket of Thomas Chase was head down against a wall.
2 months later, the adult Samuel Brewster died, and once again the coffins had been moved “hetler-skelter”.
When the vault was opened next, in 1819 to admit Thomasina Clark’s heavy metal casket, once again all was chaos and this time (finally!) the family took notice, having the vault cemented and sealed by several Government officials, including the Governor himself, Lord Combermere. In addition, fine sand was scattered on the floor with the idea of capturing footprints.
A few months later, the vault was re-opened to see if all was in order, but for a fourth time the coffins had been moved, with no footprints in evidence and at this time they were removed for separate burial. The vault has remained empty ever since.
All suggestions that the coffins could have been moved by earthquakes or floods were dismissed.
A tourist who was in Barbados in recent times, went to view the vault and she reported that it did not feel spooky or sinister in any way, but that she was overcome by the need to weep. She said, honestly, that she could not really attribute this to the vault, however.
It’s a strange story, but then, none of it can be proved. A very similar story was apparently reported from Estonia in 1844, including the detail of suicide by the head of family.
And it is possible that no coffins ever occupied the Chase Vault as all paper records have been lost.
I want to know why Dorcas starved herself to death. I think old man Chase was bad news.