Babb solves Chase Vault mystery
Movement of coffins within the Chase Vault in the Christ Church Parish Church cemetery is owed to naturally occurring acts of nature; not obeah; not anything supernatural; and it is no mystery, says Fielding Babb.
The historian, folklorist and prominent Barbadian artist last night sought to debunk the centuries-old belief that mystic forces were responsible for shifting caskets in the Chase family vault.
Tales of unnatural movement of the coffins began circulating in Barbados since 1812 when the sealed vault was opened to lay to rest other members of the Chase family. Each time the caskets had mysteriously moved from their spots.
The story took currency and went around the world after being published in 1833, and is firmly embedded in Barbadian folklore.
But when delivering the presentation A Cultural Look At Christ Church in the Christ Church Parish Hall, Babb said the basic laws of physics would explain the phenomenon.
“When we look at the vault, the water seeped through the vault and the coffins [floated], because the coffins were airtight,” he told some 50 engrossed parishioners, including Minister of Health John Boyce.
“Anything that is airtight [and] has a boat shape, it can float, once the weight of the water is stronger than the weight of the casket, and when the tide goes down, whatever position the weight [places it], remains the casket . . . . That’s all it was.”