May 6, 2008

Ghost in Tomb

I found this "Ghost in Tomb" story when I was cleaning out this weekend:

In the 18th century the Walronds, a wealthy family of planters, built a rock-hewn tomb at Christ Church, Barbados. It was sealed with a massive marble door, making it more a fortress than a tomb.

One family member to be interred there was Thomasina Goddard, in 1807. A year later the vault was taken over by the chase family-also slave-owning planters - who used it to bury two daughters in 1808 and 1812.

When the tomb was open again in 1812 to receive the body of their father, Tomas Chase, the girls lead coffins had been stood on end upside down. There was no sign of a break-in.

Nor was there in 1816, when the tomb was again opened for the body of a male relative. But the Chase coffins had again been wildly disarranged. That of Thomas. which had taken eight men to carry, was leading upright against a wall of the vault.

By the time of the next funeral, eight weeks later, word of the strange tomb had spread, and a huge crowd turned up for the ceremony. They were no disappointed. Although the tomb was sealed, the four Chase coffins inside were once more in disarray.

The Governor of Barbados, Lord Combermere, stepped in. In 1819 he supervised the orderly restocking of the coffins and had seals put around the door slab. The following year, after reports of noises, he revisited the site.

His seals were intact. But the lead coffins were in customary jumbled confusion. Only the crumbling, wooden coffin of Mrs. Goddard still lay peacefully in its corner.

No explaination seemed to fit the case. Slaves could not have moved the coffins in revenge without leaving some trace. There was no indication of flooding and the earthquakes would have hardly have shaken one tomb without disturbing other in the surrounding area.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle suggested that supernatural forces had moved the coffins to protest their lead construction, which prevented the speedy decay inside. He thought these forces might have been strengthened by the fact Thomas Chase and one of his daughters had committed suicide.

Whatever the reason, the moving coffins caused such a concern that the tomb was immediately emptied of all it's occupants.

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