Friday, December 30, 2005

The Restless Coffins of Chase Crypt

Chase Crypt is a burial vault in Barbados with an interesting paranormal history. Let’s take a closer look…

This infamous burial vault gained its notoriety more than 180 years ago when coffins placed within it would not stay where they were placed. Many investigators have looked into this case, but no one has successfully offered an explanation that fits all of the evidence. Maybe supernatural forces are responsible, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame contended in his book ‘The Edge of the Unknown’. Perhaps the investigators have just lacked some crucial facts.
Background of the Chase Case:
The outside world might never have heard of tiny Christ Church, on the remote West Indies island of Barbados, were it not for a remarkable series of events that occurred more than 150 years ago. Even today, the residents of Barbados still talk about the mysterious happenings that kept their ancestors in a state of turmoil for almost a decade. In July of 1807, a routine application was made to the rector of Christ Church to bury the remains of Mrs. Thomasina Goddard in an empty underground vault in the churchyard. The vault was built in 1724, but we do not know why it was empty or who Mrs. Goddard was. In any case, her wooden coffin was placed in the tomb, which measured twelve feet long by six and one-feet wide.
In the following year, Mrs. Goddard was joined by the remains of Mary Anna Maria Chase who had died an infant. The cause of Mary Anna's death is unrecorded, but we do know her small coffin was made of lead.
In 1812, just four years after little Mary Anna's death, Dorcas Chase, an older sister, died under strange circumstance. It was widely believed that, driven to despair by her tyrannical father, she killed herself by refusing all food. Whatever the truth of these rumors, the funeral of the elder Chase daughter was uneventful, and her lead coffin was added to the tomb, which had come to be known as the Chase Vault. Please not that both the infant and Dorcas were buried in lead coffins, for some reason this seems to be important. Nothing unusual inside the vault was reported during these last two internments. The vault was resealed with a heavy marble slab that was cemented in place, a practice performed on all subsequent internments.
The mystery begins when the vault was opened one month later in August 1812 to receive the remains of Thomas Chase, the family patriarch. Astonishingly, the two previously-interned lead coffins were found to be drastically moved from their original positions. The infant's coffin was found standing on it's head. The coffins were placed back in the original side-by-side positions and the vault was sealed. The vault was opened again in September and November 1816 to receive two more lead coffins. Both times all lead coffins were found displaced. Many of the lead coffins were found facing the opposite direction from their original placement, as well as upside-down. The vault was again opened in 1819 for an adult in a wood coffin, and yes, the lead coffins were again found to be wildly displaced. The most puzzling part of the mystery relates to the condition of the first (1808) wooden coffin. Some had said that the remains of this coffin were not moved.
This phenomenon soon gained notoriety and the attention of the authorities. Rumors began to circulate about other-worldly causes. Lord Combermere, Governor of Barbados, witnessed the coffin disarray at the 1819 vault opening. Determined to solve this mystery and perhaps catch the perpetrators of a hoax, he initiated a controlled investigation. The vault walls were thoroughly inspected for other sources of entry. Brick masons tapping on the floor with hammers failed to detect any secret passages. Combermere then placed fine sand on the floor to detect human intrusion and had the door cemented shut. As a last safeguard against tampering, he imprinted his seal in the cement.
At the reopening of the vault 8 months later, hundreds of people were gathered to witness the inspection. Lord
Combermere's seal was still intact, showing no one had entered through the door. When the vault was opened, the lead coffins were again scattered. The heaviest lead coffin of Thomas Chase was reported to be actually leaning against the inside of the vault door. However, the remains of the first (1808) wood coffin was reported to be unmoved. Reports differ as to whether the 2nd wood coffin had moved. The sand on the floor appeared undisturbed. Exasperated, Lord Combermere had the coffins moved to another resting place and the vault was abandoned.
Proposed Explanations:
The supernatural theory of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and others proposed the movings were caused by the spirits of two individuals (Dorcas and Thomas) who had committed suicide and, therefore, were cursed and restless. After all, the coffins started moving only after Dorcas Chase was buried in 1812. Other explanations were human tampering,
earthquake, explosion and flooding. Earthquakes and explosions seem unlikely since neither was reported and no other crypt's contents had been disturbed. Human tampering seems to have been ruled out in Lord Combermere's controlled investigation by the undisturbed condition of his seal on the door and the sand on the vault floor. Also, it would have been very difficult to hide the man-handling of the 800lb coffin of Thomas Chase that had originally taken 8 men to place in the vault. It was this coffin that was found leaning against the vault door from the inside, thus blocking any alleged perpetrator's exit.
Flooding seems to have been the most popular theory. Actually, a water-tight 800lb lead coffin would float because the volume of water it displaces is of greater weight than the weight of the coffin. Other occurrences had been documented of lead coffins being displaced by water. However, is it possible that even a very slow seepage of water in and out of the vault could leave the sand undisturbed?

Perhaps, and then again perhaps not, but in any case, unlike the other coffin moving instances, no indication of flooding such as remnants of water or wet wood had been reported. It also seems likely that flooding would have also been observed in the other nearby vaults.Whatever the cause, it is proof that we reside just this side of the weird!

Maybe, as the cartoon below suggest, the coffins are not led but ...

I’m Average Joe

No comments: