Barbadian Gothic: The Moving Coffins of the Chase Vault in Socio-Cultural Context

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The Chase family vault (Oistins, Barbados) is widely known as the setting of a macabre nineteenth-century story of moving coffins. On several occasions between 1812 and 1821, on opening the sealed vault to add a new burial, the neatly stacked coffins were found scattered. This legend has never been examined within its contemporary setting, including the Gothic literary and cultural movement. This article seeks to show that the episode reveals much about the negotiation of power in an island society on the edge of slave rebellion, where the planter class were fearful of the enslaved peoples’ continued practice of the banned spiritual and healing rituals known as Obeah. The article further examines how the story reflects notions of otherness, death, materiality, and memory in early nineteenth-century Barbados, where the ordered Protestant world of the planters clashed with what they perceived as the elemental worldview of the enslaved African and Afro-Barbadian population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-75
Number of pages21
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2020


  • 2020

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