The Greenbrier Ghost "Came Back From The Dead" Just To Snitch On Her Murderer

Thanks to The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, horror buffs know that in 1981, Arne Cheyenne Johnson entered a plea of not guilty by reason of possession to a court in Connecticut where he stood trial for murder. Although Johnson's defense tactics didn't work, there was one court case where paranormal testimony not only came into play but also succeeded in swaying a court. In 1897, Greenbrier County, WV, saw the death of newlywed Zona Heaster by mysterious circumstances.

Initially, Heaster's death was attributed to "everlasting faint" and later childbirth by the coroner, even though Heaster and her husband, Edward “Trout” Shue, hadn't been together long enough to produce a pregnancy to term. However, Heaster's mother, Mary Jane, soon began having dreams and visions of her departed daughter in which the true cause of her death was revealed. After bringing this information to the coroner and police, Mary Jane was able to relay Heaster's testimony during the trial. This led to the conviction of Shue and a stunning revelation about his true identity.


  • Zona Heaster Met Edward Shue In 1896, And They Married Soon After
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Zona Heaster Met Edward Shue In 1896, And They Married Soon After

    Depending on the account, Zona Heaster and Edward "Trout" Shue met in the summer of 1896 or October 1896 when the latter arrived in Greenbrier County to take up as the local blacksmith. Heaster was around 23 at the time and apparently smitten with the tall, muscular man who moved to her town of Livesay's Mill from Droop Mountain in nearby Virginia. The 37-year-old Shue appeared to be just as fond of Heaster, and their courtship was very short.

    In either October or November 1896, the pair were married in their town's Methodist church against the wishes of Heaster's mother, Mary Jane. During the first two to three months of the marriage, the pair set about making their two-story house near the blacksmith shop into a home.

  • One Day In Early 1897, Shue Asked His Neighbor To Check On Heaster And Help Her With Chores
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    One Day In Early 1897, Shue Asked His Neighbor To Check On Heaster And Help Her With Chores

    On January 22 or 23, 1897, Shue arrived at the home of Martha Jones in hopes that her son, Anderson, would visit Heaster at home and assist her with chores. Heaster had been ill for all of that January and was even under a doctor's care for a time. According to Anderson, Shue wanted Heaster checked on immediately that morning, but prior commitments kept the child away until the afternoon. Other accounts insist that Anderson went to the Shue home that morning. 

    Regardless of the time, Anderson arrived at the home and immediately saw a trail of blood that led into the house. He entered the dining room through its closed doors and nearly fell over Heaster's body. Anderson left the house and alerted his mother and then Shue before making his way to Dr. J.M. Knapp.

  • By The Time The Coroner Arrived, A Hysterical Shue Had Moved And Re-Dressed Heaster

    After being informed of his wife's death, Shue apparently ran home to wash Heaster's body and change her clothes to a dress with a high collar. He also moved the body from the dining room floor to their shared bed. Dr. Knapp's arrival did little to calm Shue's sobbing, nor did it prompt him to let go of Heaster's head and grant the coroner full access to her body.

    Unable or unwilling to remove Shue from the room in order to conduct a thorough examination of the deceased Heaster, Dr. Knapp provided the cause of death as "everlasting faint" due to heart failure, but he later changed it to childbirth.

  • Shue Held A Wake But Did Not Let Anyone Near The Body

    Shue held a wake for Heaster but acted strangely throughout the entire affair. She was still in the dress that covered her neck but also wore a scarf, as well as a veil over her face. Shue wailed and paced while keeping mourners from getting too close to Heaster's head during the viewing. Still, some later remarked that Heaster's head appeared to be very "loose" on her neck, which they possibly noticed while Shue fussed with pillows behind her head.

    From the time Anderson found Heaster's body to the moment her casket was placed in the ground and buried, Shue allowed no one access to his deceased wife - not even her own mother.

  • Mary Jane Felt That Something Was Wrong And Prayed For A Sign

    Although no one else suspected the normally stoic and likable Shue of Heaster's murder, Mary Jane never liked her son-in-law. After her daughter's death, the distraught mother prayed for answers concerning Heaster's killer and last moments alive.

    Some say it took weeks, but eventually, according to Mary Jane, her daughter came to her in dreams and/or in person to share with her mother the secret of who caused her death and how.

  • Heaster’s Spirit Reportedly Revealed The Details Of Her Last Day Alive

    Supposedly, Heaster appeared to Mary Jane over the course of four nights to reveal information about Shue. Heaster claimed that her death came at the hands of her husband after she failed to make meat with his dinner. Shue wrapped his hands around her neck and snapped it. She also told her mother that physical abuse was standard in the marriage.

    Heaster specifically stated that her neck was snapped at the first joint, and according to some accounts, the spirit spun her own head 180 degrees to get her point across.