Hauntings in the Caribbean
By Karen Joslin
With its colorful and turbulent history, it's no surprise that tales of the supernatural abound in the Caribbean. Some believe that Blackbeard's ghost haunts the former Old Fort Nassau in the Bahamas; others report strange incidents at the Stirrup Cay Lighthouse. Some countries are home to a long tradition of supernatural occurrences, such Haiti's well-known apparitions of corpses that are said to appear in Port-au-Prince's City Cemetery.
But one of the most famous hauntings in the Caribbean, and perhaps the world, occurred at the Chase crypt in Christchurch, Barbados. Owned by a wealthy sugar plantation owner, its first confirmed occupant was Thomasina Goddard, placed there in 1807. Ownership soon passed to another plantation family, the Chases. Col. Thomas Chase, the head of the family, was reputedly cruel to both his family and his slaves. Two of his young daughters died (in 1808 and 1812), and their lead coffins were also put in the crypt.
A month after his second daughter, Dorcas' death, Col. Chase himself died. At his funeral, when the pallbearers opened the crypt, they were shocked to see that the coffins looked as though they had been thrown around the small room. They rearranged the coffins, including the new addition of Col. Chase, and replaced the heavy slab at the crypt's entrance. Rumors spread that Dorcas had starved herself to death, driving Chase to commit suicide. Over the next few years, every time the crypt was opened, the coffins had moved, apparently with violent force. Thomasina Goddard's wooden coffin even splintered into bits.
At first, people suspected vandals because Mr. Chase had plenty of enemies, particularly among his slaves. However, on two occasions the crypt was mortared shut, even including an impression of the Governor's seal; the mortar was never tampered with. Similarly, sand spread on the floor of the crypt showed no signs of disturbance, even with the coffins in complete disarray. A thorough examination of the crypt for secret passageways, cracks, or other explanations yielded no answers. In 1820, the family removed all the coffins and reburied them elsewhere. Although several natural theories have been proposed, such as flooding or seismic activity, many believe that even after death, the family simply couldn't get along. The crypt still remains empty.
While no one knows exactly what happened at the Chase crypt, there's no dispute about what's haunting Rose Hall Plantation in Montego Bay. It's Annie Palmer, the plantation's former mistress, and her victims. Still known as the White Witch of Jamaica, Annie earned her nickname by practicing voodoo, murdering several of her rich husbands, and treating her slaves harshly. Meting out torture or death for minor infractions was commonplace for her. Then she found a new way to entertain herself, by enticing slaves to be her lovers and killing them when she got bored.
Her slaves understandably weren't fond of her. Legend has it that, unbeknownst to her, one of her slaves was a powerful voodoo master. Deciding to take care of her for good, he performed a voodoo ritual, creating a grave for her. When he finished, he confronted her in her home. They battled to both of their deaths. Afterward, other slaves who knew of his plan buried her in the specially-prepared grave. While this story may be embellished, there's no doubt that Annie Palmer met a murderous end.
A Ritz-Carlton now stands on part of the old plantation grounds, and its developer restored the decaying Rose Hall great house to its former glory. During its renovation, workers experienced numerous eerie occurrences. For instance, the day after refinishing floors, they'd appear to be damaged by old blood stains.
Now a museum offering guided tours , the house's visitors report plenty of supernatural phenomenon, too. Whispers in the dungeon, old music, footsteps, and the sound of crying babies have all been heard. Photographs showing an original mirror and various rooms of the house often contain figures of people who weren't there when the pictures were taken.
Of course, these are just a few of the ghostly spots in the Caribbean. If you're ever lucky enough to visit the islands yourself, keep your eyes and ears open. You just might see a phantom ship sailing on the horizon, or hear the raucous laughter of pirates in an old saloon.
Karen Joslin writes for http://Barbados-Guide.info, http://Jamaica-Guide.info, and other Segisys travel Web sites.
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