The ghost who gave legal testimony— no, really!
Just outside a Lewisburg in Greenbrier County, a typical black-and-white historical marker says something not so typical.
“Only known case in which testimony from ghost helped convict a murderer.”
The historical marker is referring to the “Greenbrier Ghost,” Elva Zona Heaster Shue, known as Zona. In 1897, Zona was a well-liked local woman and newlywed to a glamorous and mysterious blacksmith, Edward. Only 3 months after their marriage, she was found dead.
The local doctor/coroner was called to the house to inspect the body. Unfortunately, he didn’t arrive for nearly an hour.
A grief stricken Edward laid over her body, sobbing. Due to the gentleman’s “obvious” grief, the coroner gave the body a quick lookover and penned her cause of death as “everlasting faint,” which was later revised as “childbirth.”
Case closed? Not so fast.
Contrary to local custom, where the women of the town would usually prepare the body for burial, Edward dressed her in a high-necked stiff-collared dress.
Edward’s behavior at the funeral was baffling. He hovered over the Zona’s body, never letting her loved ones get close to say their goodbyes. When it was time to move her body to its final resting place, several people noticed that Zona’s head sported an odd looseness.
Within a month of Zona’s burial, her mother, Mary Jane Heaster (who didn’t believe in ghosts), told people around the town that her daughter had been visiting her bedside at night, insisting that she had been strangled to death by a raging, angry Edward.
After 4 of these nightmarish visits in a row, Mary Jane decided to take her story to the Greenbrier County’s prosecuting attorney. He was so intrigued with the tale that he reopened the investigation and exhumed Zona’s body, which indeed had a broken neck and crushed windpipe.
Edward was found guilty by a jury after 1 hour and 10 minutes of deliberation. The newspaper reported that he was convicted of murder through circumstantial evidence, rather than a ghost’s testimony. He was taken to the state prison in Moundsville, where he died shortly thereafter in 1900.
Mary Jane lived until 1916, and never recanted the ghost tale again.
Today, more than 100 years later, the folklore surrounding the Zona and her ghostly testimony is very much alive. And in Greenbrier County, she’s not the only ghost to have made an appearance.
Hear all the spooky tales of mysterious local legends in the area. Take a candlelight Ghost Tour of the Lewisburg Historic District and cemetery every weekend, September through November. This fall spooky walk is family friendly.
Reserve a Lewisburg ghost tour by calling 304-256-8687.
This post was last updated on July 21, 2020