Spooky goings on in Barbados

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Spooky goings on in Barbados

Travel writer and author Dr Robin Mead begins a new "Talking Point" column of Cruising news and views and an occasional Friday feature. He starts with a very strange story from Barbados.

Cruising to Barbados? Then you might like to spare a moment to investigate an island mystery.


On a headland above St Oistin’s Bay stands one of the island’s oldest churches, and next to it - as you might expect - there is a cemetery. In the cemetery is the great stone vault of one of the island’s leading families, the Chase family. It has been hollowed out of solid limestone, then covered with large stone blocks which have been cemented together. Several steps lead down into the vault.


Originally, a huge slab of marble served as the door to the vault, but it is not there now and, if you care to visit the churchyard, you’ll find the vault gaping and empty. Nobody will use it because of some very strange things that happened there between 1812 and 1820. In fact, quite a few superstitious islanders won’t go near the place at all.


The vault was built in 1724 and in 1807 the remains of someone called Thomassina Goddard were interred there. A year later, the Chase family bought it and decided to use it as a family vault. But Thomassina seems to have objected.


In 1908 two Chase children were buried there then the vault, with its one adult coffin and two children’s ones all lying side by side, was sealed.


When the vault was reopened in 1812 to receive the body of Thomas Chase himself, mourners were stunned to find that the two children’s coffins had been upended and propped against a wall by some unknown body or force. But everything was put back in place, and Thomas Chase’s coffin - lead lined and so heavy that it took eight men to move it - was placed beside them. Then the marble door was cemented back into place.


But in 1816, when the vault was reopened twice, all the coffins except Thomassina Goddard’s were again found upended and scattered - even the almost immovable lead-lined coffin. Next time the vault had to be opened, in 1819, quite a crowd had gathered. Once more, all the coffins except Thomassina Goddard’s were found to have been thrown around as if by a giant hand.


The island’s Governor, Lord Combermere - with a superstitious native population to think of - ordered everything to be put back in place and the vault to be sealed very thoroughly. He even put his own seal on the door. But when the tomb was reopened the following year all the coffins except Thomassina Goddard’s were again found to be strewn around haphazardly. The Governor’s seal on the door was unbroken.


The Governor had had enough. The vault was abandoned, and the coffins reburied in various island churchyards where they remain, undisturbed, to this day.


Who, or what, moved the coffins? Why was it only members of the Chase family whose remains were moved around? And how did Thomassina Goddard’s coffin escape the vault vandalism?


Your guess is as good as mine!


A fuller version of this story and photos can be found on Robin’s own website: robinmead.com

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