Murder victim helps solve the case of her own death

The following story is one of the creepiest out there: it's the account of the life and death of young Elva Zona Heaster Shue from Greenbrier County, West Virginia. She was born in the year 1876.

Not much is known about her early life, only that she may have had a child out of wedlock in 1895. The following year she met a drifter named Edward Stribbling Trout Shue and fell in love with him, despite her mother's disapproval.


Zona threw caution to the wind - at least her mother's cautionary warnings - and married Shue. He wanted to begin a new life with her.

One day in early 1897, Edward sent a young hired hand back to the house the couple lived in. The boy found Zona lying outstretched at the foot of the stairs showing no signs of life. Distraught, he ran to find her mother, who went straight to the local doctor, George W. Knapp. When the doctor entered the house an hour later, he found Edward there. Edward had already carried his wife's corpse up to the bedroom, put a high-collared dress on her, and placed a veil over her face.  The death certificate recorded the cause of Zona's death as "everlasting faint."

Zona's mother, Mary Jane Heaster, couldn't let go of her daughter's death though. She started praying. According to the legend, a month after Zona's burial her ghost appeared to Mary. The specter was said to have come into Mary's room as a warm light and then transformed into the figure of Zona. The apparition revealed to her mother that she had been badly abused by her husband and that one night, when she hadn't cooked him what he wanted, he had broken her neck. To prove this to her mother, the ghost's head was said to have spun once around.

The next day Mary went to the police and told officials about the apparition. Though today one could hardly imagine the idea of opening a murder investigation because of a ghost's report, in those days it wasn't entirely uncommon. When they asked Dr. Knapp, he admitted that he hadn't completed his examination of Zona. Edward had been present and the doctor hadn't wished to upset the mourning husband further. Zona's corpse was dug up and a proper autopsy was performed. This time they could establish the true cause of death: a broken neck due to blunt force trauma, inflicted by another person. In other words, strangulation.

Edward was arrested. While he was in jail, they discovered that Zona had been his third wife. The first had divorced him on grounds of his cruelty to her. The second died under mysterious circumstances. Edward was on record saying that he wanted to have seven wives during his life. He was found guilty of murder and died in prison in Pennsylvania of an illness. Zona's ghost was never seen again, while her mother could rest at last. 

Regardless of whether you believe in ghosts, this story could spook anyone...


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