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The Mysterious Moving Coffins of Barbados

The Chase Vault is a burial vault in the cemetery of the Christ Church Parish Church in Oistins, Christ Church, Barbados. It is best known for a series of unexplained incidents beginning in the early 19th century, involving the coffins within the vault.

Moving Coffins- Chase Vault, Barbados

Moving Coffins- Chase Vault, Barbados

Each time the vault was opened to bury a family member, all coffins except one had changed position.

The Chase Vault was constructed for James Elliot around 1724. The vault was built such that it was partially underground, and was approximately 12 feet (3.7 m) long and 6½ feet wide. However, Elliot was never buried there and the vault remained empty until Thomasina Goddard was buried on July 13th 1807. Then sometime in 1808 the vault was acquired by the Chase family, a fairly wealthy and important clan in Barbados.

The patriarch of the Chase family, Thomas Chase, was one of the most hated men on the island.

Moving Coffins- Chase Vault Barbados: detail 1

Moving Coffins- Chase Vault Barbados: detail 1

On February 22nd 1808, the body of Thomas Chase’s infant daughter, Mary Ann Maria Chase, was taken to the vault for burial. When the vault was opened, Goddard’s wooden casket was found to be undisturbed.

The vault was then opened on July 6th 1812 to bury Thomas Chase’s other daughter, Dorcas Chase. The account in the People’s Almanac states that Mary’s coffin was discovered to have been displaced when the vault was opened to inter Dorcas. Both of the Chase girls were interred in heavy lead caskets.

Moving Coffins - Chase Vault Barbados: detail 2

Moving Coffins - Chase Vault Barbados: detail 2

One month later, on August 9th 1812, the vault was opened again to accept the body of Thomas Chase himself. According to reports, Mary Chase’s casket was thrown from the north-east corner of the vault to the opposite corner such that it was standing on end, head downward. It was assumed the disturbance was the result of vandals or thieves. As such, the caskets were reordered and the large marble slab covering the entrance put back in place.

Sometime in 1816 the vault was opened to accept the body of another infant, Samuel Brewster Ames. The coffins, with the exception of Thomasina Goddard’s, were again found to have been disturbed. Thomas Chase’s coffin was supposedly so heavy, it took eight men to move it (back into place).

Moving Coffins- Chase Vault Barbados: detail 4

Moving Coffins- Chase Vault Barbados: detail 4

For a third time the coffins were then reordered neatly, some of them stacked on others in the small vault, and the entrance was once again sealed.

The vault was opened again on July 17th 1819, to accept the body of Thomasina Clark. Again, the coffins were found scattered.

By this time, the mysterious incidents had attracted the attention of local officials. Lord Combermere, the Governor of Barbados, was reported to have attended Clark’s burial. The Chase Vault was carefully examined by the Governor and his staff. No secret entrance into the vault was detected, and sand was then scattered across the floor to detect any footprints.

Moving Coffins- Chase Vault Barbados: detail 3

Moving Coffins- Chase Vault Barbados: detail 3

The coffins were reordered and Clark’s wooden casket placed in the vault. It was reported that Goddard’s wooden casket was falling to pieces, either through decay or because of the activity in the vault. The remains of her casket were tied together and placed against a wall. Finally, the vault was closed and the marble slab cemented in place. The Governor and his staff reportedly placed their official seals in the cement to ensure the integrity of the seal.

On April 18th 1820, some eight months after the burial of Thomasina Clark, the vault was ordered to be reopened.

Moving Coffins- Chase Vault Barbados: detail 5

Moving Coffins- Chase Vault Barbados: detail 5

The seals were found to be intact, but when the entrance slab was moved the coffins, with the exception of Goddard’s wooden casket, were again found to be in disarray. The account in The People’s Almanac includes the macabre detail;

a bony arm, that of Dorcas Chase, (was) sticking out a hole in the side of the coffin.” The sand on the floor did not show any kind of human activity within the vault. There was also no indication of flooding or earthquake“.

After this incident, the vault was finally abandoned, and the coffins re-buried elsewhere. The vault still exists today at Christ Church Parish Church, and is still vacant.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator and writer of Sherlock Holmes, proposed along with others that the disturbances were caused by the spirits of two inhabitants of the vault, Dorcas and Thomas, who had committed suicide and, therefore, were cursed and restless. The fact that the coffins had started moving only after Dorcas Chase was buried seemed to support that hypothesis.

There were other explanations of course, such as human tampering, earthquakes, and explosions but they were all ruled out. Explosions and earthquakes would have disturbed other vaults in the cemetery and human tampering was dismissed due to the fact that the vault seal had not been broken, the sand was undisturbed, the marble slab was so heavy it would have taken eight men to move it, and the coffin blocking the door would have made escape for human tricksters impossible.

Lord Combermere - Govenor of Barbados

Lord Combermere - Govenor of Barbados


The Govenor, Lord Combermere, died in 1891. While his funeral was taking place, a man named Sybell Corbet was busy taking pictures of The Combermere Abby Library. When the photos were developed, one could see a transparent figure sitting in a chair… the ghost of Lord Combermere himself.



The Mothman

Mothman drawing

Mothman drawing

The Mothman is the name given to a strange creature thought to have been sighted many times in the Point Pleasant area of West Virginia, on the border with Ohio between November 1966 and November 1967. Some witnesses described the creature as a man-sized beast with wings and large reflective red eyes, while others claimed that the creature possessed luminous eyes. Other times the creature was sometimes reported as having no head, with its eyes set into its chest.

A number of hypotheses have been put forward to explain what people reported, ranging from paranormal phenomena to owls and even conspiracy theories, but no definitive explanation has ever been reached.



The Mothman was first sighted November 12, 1966 by a group of five men who were preparing a grave in a cemetery close to Clendenin, West Virginia when what they described as a “brown human shape with wings” lifted off from behind nearby trees and flew over their heads.

Then, late at night on November 15 the same year, two young married couples from Point Pleasant, Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette, were out for a drive in the Scarberrys’ car. They were passing a World War II TNT factory about seven miles outside of Point Pleasant, in the 2,500 acre McClintic Wildlife Station, when they noticed two red lights in the shadow by an old generator plant near the gate of the factory. They stopped the car and were startled to see that the lights were the glowing red eyes of a large animal, “shaped like a man, but bigger, maybe six and a half or seven feet tall, with big wings folded against its back,” according to Roger Scarberry.

Mothman statue in Point Pleasant

Mothman statue in Point Pleasant

Terrified, the couples drove off in their car, heading for Route 62. Going down the exit road, they saw the creature again, standing on a ridge near the road. It spread its wings and took off, following their car to the city limits. They went to the Mason County courthouse and told their story to Deputy Millard Halstead, who later said “I’ve known these kids all their lives. They’d never been in any trouble and they were really scared that night. I took them seriously.” He followed Roger Scarberry’s car back to the TNT factory, but found no sign of the strange creature.

The next night, November 16, armed local townspeople went searching the area around the old TNT plant for signs of the Mothman. Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Wamsley and Mrs. Marcella Bennett with her baby daughter Teena were in a car on their way to visit their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Thomas, who lived in a bungalow among the “igloos” (concrete dome-shaped structures that were erected for explosives storage during WWII) close to the TNT plant. The igloos were now empty, some owned by the county, some by companies intending to use them for storage. They were headed back to their car when a figure appeared behind their parked car. Mrs. Bennett said it seemed like it had been lying down, slowly rising up from the ground, large and gray, with glowing red eyes. While Wamsley phoned the police, the creature walked onto the porch and peered in through the window at them.

On November 24, four people saw it flying through the air over the TNT area.

On the morning of November 25, Thomas Ury, who was driving along Route 62 north of the TNT, who said he saw the creature standing in a field by the road, then spread its wings and take off, following his car as he sped into Point Pleasant to report it to the sheriff.

Mothman plaque, West Virginia

Mothman plaque, West Virginia

On November 26, Mrs. Ruth Foster of the Charleston, West Virginia suburb of St. Albans saw the Mothman standing on her front lawn, but it was gone when her brother-in-law went out to look.

On the morning of November 27, it pursued a young woman near Mason, West Virginia, and it was reported again in St. Albans the same night, by two children.

The Mothman was seen again January 11, 1967, and several times during 1967.

By this time, most of the sightings had come to an end, and Mothman had faded away into the strange “twilight zone” from which he had come… but the story of Point Pleasant had not yet ended……….

At around 5:00 in the evening on December 15, 1967, the 700-foot bridge linking Point Pleasant to Ohio suddenly collapsed while filled with rush hour traffic. Dozens of vehicles plunged into the dark waters of the Ohio River and 46 people were killed. Two of those were never found and the other 44 are buried together in the town cemetery of Gallipolis, Ohio.

That same tragic night, the James Lilley family (who still lived near the TNT plant at that time) counted more than 12 eerie lights that flashed above their home and vanished into the forest.

The Mothman Prophecies (1976 book cover)

The Mothman Prophecies (1976 Book cover)

The collapse of the Silver Bridge made headlines all over the country, and Mary Hyre went days without sleep as reporters and television crews from everywhere descended on the town. The local citizens were stunned with horror and disbelief, and the tragedy is still being felt today (a book was later made of the Mothman story, called “The Mothman Prophecies, and then later a movie starring Richard Gere).

So who was Mothman? and what was behind the strange events in Point Pleasant?

Some believe the sightings where the result of mass hysteria, overactive imaginations, and large birds. Others see the Mothman as a harbinger… the omen of a horrible tragedy. Supposedly, the Mothman has also been seen in other parts of the world before a disaster.


SS Ourang Medan

Ghost ships

Ghost ships

According to the story, near Indonesia on February 1948 distress calls coming from the SS Ourang Medan, a Dutch freighter, were picked up by numerous ships. The message was,
All officers including captain are dead lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.

This message was followed by indecipherable Morse code, then one final grisly message… “I die.”

When the first rescue vessel arrived on the scene a few hours later, they tried to hail the Ourang Medan but there was no response. A boarding party was sent aboard the ship and what they found was such a frightening sight that it has made the Ourang Medan one of the strangest and scariest ghost ship stories of all time.

All crew members and officers of the Ourang Medan were dead, their eyes open, faces looking up towards the sun, arms outstretched and a look of terror was on their faces. Even the ship’s dog was dead, it’s face still locked, snarling at some unseen enemy.

When nearing the bodies in the boiler room the rescue crew felt a chill, even though the temperature was near 110°F. The decision was made to tow the ship back to port, but before they could get underway smoke began rolling up from the hull. The rescue crew left the ship and barely had time to cut the tow lines before the Ourang Medan exploded and sank.

To this day, the exact fate of the Ourang Medan and her crew remains a mystery, although several authors have noted their inability to find any mention of the case in Lloyd’s Shipping Register. Furthermore, no registration records for a ship by the name of Ourang Medan could be located in various countries, including the Netherlands. The identity of the Silver Star, which was reported to have been involved in the failed rescue attempt, has apparently been established with some certainty, but the lack of information on the sunken ship itself has given rise to suspicion about the origins and credibility of the account. Researchers have put forward the possibility that accounts of, among others, the date, location, names of the ships involved, and circumstances of the accident might have been inaccurate or exaggerated, or that the story might be completely fictitious….

Karen Banting

About Karen Banting

Karen Banting has written 26 posts in this blog.

Karen is an author & blogger with a lifelong interest in science & the paranormal.

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