Monday, October 17, 2005

The Much-Cited Greenbrier Ghost

A state highway marker west of Lewisburg (in nearby Greenbrier County) commemorates the "only known case in which testimony from [a] ghost helped convict a murderer....Interred in a nearby cemetery is Zona Heaster Shue. Her death in 1897 was presumed natural until her spirit appeared to her mother to describe how she was killed by her husband Edward. Autopsy on the exhumed body verified the apparition's account. Edward, found guilty of murder, was sentenced to state prison." Katie Letcher Lyle, who wrote this article is also the author of Man Who Wanted Seven Wives: The Greenbrier Ghost and the Famous Murder Mystery of 1897. Ms. Lyle used contemporary sources to check facts, and points out that, road signs not withstanding, the testimony concerning the ghost was introduced by the defense in an attempt to make the prosecution's case look foolish.

Book Cover: The Man Who Wanted Seven WivesBook Cover: The Man Who Wanted Seven Wives

What makes this a Pocahontas County story is the provenance of Trout Shue, incorrectly identified as "Edward" on the highway marker. Mr. Shue's parents lived on Droop Mountain, and Trout lived there with his second wife, Lucy, who died suddenly after eight months of marriage. Trout later moved to Greenbrier County and married Zona Heaster, who also died suddenly a few months after her marriage. The present day Shues who live on Droop are Trout's relatives, and the story is well-known here and in Greenbrier County.

Book Cover: Greenbrier Ghost

Another Web version of this story is available from Applit as part of a children's writing exercise. It's taken from another book about the case, The Greenbrier Ghost by Dennis Deitz (1990).

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