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The Creeping Coffins of Barbados

Sometime between 1812 and 1820 West Indian Folklore recalled this story which has mystified and confused people ever since. It tooks place in a tomb owned by the Chase family. The tomb stands at the entrance to the Christ Church Graveyard in Barbados and is built of large cemented blocks of coral. It measures 12 feet by 6 feet and is sunk halfway into the ground.

Nothing happened for the first two burials on 31st July 1807 (Mrs Thomasina Goddard) and 22 February 1808 (an infant Mary Anna Maria Chase), but, on 6 July 1812 the tomb was opened to bury Dorcas Chase. It took several men to open the heavy door and they found that the two coffins already there had been flung against the wall. As both coffins were encased in lead a great force was needed to do this. They buried Dorcas Chase and returned the other two coffins to their original positions.

On subsequent burials the same sight greeted the pallbearers. Each time the coffins were found flung against the walls. It was believed that people had been breaking into the tomb and moving the coffins, though when the burial of Thomasina Clarke took place on 17 July 1819 the Governor of Barbados, Viscount Combermere, supervised the sealing of the vault. Nine months later he returned to check the state of the tomb and again found it in disarray. Yet the seals on the door that he had personally put there remained intact.

In 1820 the vault was emptied without the mystery of the "creeping coffins" being solved. The coffins were all reburied in another place. There are no known scientific observations recorded around the time. The Chase vault still exists in the Christ Church Graveyard and remains empty.