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The Curious Case of the Moving Coffins of Barbados

No rest in peace here

In 1807, an eerie phenomenon was reported on the Caribbean island of Barbados. Right from the grave.

The Chase Vault was a burial place built within a small cemetery on the island for the wealthy Chase family.

When coffins stored inside the sealed vault were repeatedly found moved and disturbed over a span of years, wild theories emerged to explain the strange occurrence.

Though numerous examinations and observations were made, the reason behind the restless coffins was never conclusively solved.

The first signs of trouble

The troubles began when Mary Ann Maria Chase, daughter of the owner of the Chase vault, Thomas Chase, died in 1808 at the age of two years old.

Her heavy lead coffin was placed in the family vault built into the wall of the Christ Church cemetery.

A month later, the grieving father opened the vault to lay his infant son to rest and discovered his daughter’s coffin had shifted position, now standing upright leaning against the wall.

The crypt door had been locked, so vandalism seemed unlikely.

Nonetheless, Chase assumed the coffin had been jostled from an earthquake and had it put back in place.

The unusual disturbances continue

Over the next four years, as more of Chase’s family members died and were entombed, each time the vault was opened again, the coffins inside were found moved and shuffled around.

Some were leaning sideways, some lying on the floor.

The small size of the vault made it difficult for a person to get in or move around, and the door remained locked.

Sand had even mysteriously appeared on the floor.

Concerned about grave robbers, Thomas Chase took to leaving a layer of sand on the floor each time he closed the door to check for footprints. Yet even with the markings untouched, things would be amiss whenever he checked.

The Hamilton coffins join the chaos

After Chase family burials in the vault ceased, it was sold in 1816 to the Hamilton family for their use.

When they first opened their new purchase, they discovered the Chase coffins overturned and not in their original ordered positions.

As more Hamiltons were buried in the vault over just a few years, each time the coffins were found scrambled chaotically within, including coffins that had previously been undisturbed.

Attempts to solve the mystery

By 1820, word had spread of the strange happenings, and increased visitors came to leave tokens, gifts, and written messages begging the spirits to quiet.

Guards were posted outside the cemetery but saw nothing unusual.

The floor was covered in fine white sand to try to capture evidence of human intrusion, but the markings revealed nothing but shifting coffins.

Scientists studied possible reasons like earthquakes and underground streams lifting the coffins, but no natural cause was found.

Legacy of the moving coffins

After 1820, burials stopped at Chase Vault and the restless activity seemed to quiet.

Letters between prominent Barbadian officials continued to speculate about the cause but reached no conclusions.

The unresolved mystery lingered on the island, appearing in local folklore and songs for generations.

The baffling case of the moving coffins stands as one of history’s most curious unsolved legends.

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