The Greenbrier Ghost the supposed ghost of Zona that returned from the dead to testify that she was in fact killed by her husband and wanted to see him jail.

How do we explain unnatural occurrences that actually makes sense? This is a debate the people of Greenbrier dealt with in Victorian times when the story of The Greenbrier Ghost came about. There is something of a dissonance in the universe as well as in our minds when something like the appearance as a ghost, finds the truth no living people knew.

This is the case of the Greenbrier ghost, the ghost that went to court to testify to get her murderer behind bars. The woman behind The Greenbrier Ghost is now resting in a cemetery near Lewisburg in West Virginia, USA. And she is known as the only ghost that have testified in her own murder trial in the American judicial system.

Read More: Check out all of our ghost stories from USA.

Background of The Greenbrier Ghost

In the small and dull village of Livesay’s Mill in Greenbrier County, nothing much happened. Surrounded by lush green scenery of West Virginia landscape, the lives of the people living there, moved slowly along and there were not much talk about ghosts and murders.

The Greenbrier Ghost the supposed ghost of Zona that returned from the dead to testify that she was in fact killed by her husband and wanted to see him jail.
The Greenbrier Ghost: Elva Zona Heaster was only twenty three years old when she was killed./source

Then a stranger arrived. The man was a young man, strong and muscular. The new and handsome worker at the blacksmith’s shop usually introduced himself as Edwards, but was called Trout by the rest for some reason. He was a mysterious figure in the new town, but a pretty face can hide dark secrets very well.

It was there he met a farmer’s daughter called Elva Zona Heaster, commonly known as just Zona. She was a popular girl in the Greenbriar County. Not much of her life before marriage is known, but there have been reported she had a child out of wedlock.

Normally a pretty stoic guy, Trout caught the eye of Zona and started courting her. They fell in love and married the same year as he arrived in 1896.

There marriage happened despite her mother’s disapproval. Zona’s mother really hated Trout from the get go he arrived. But from the outside, it was seemingly a happy marriage.

The Death of Zona

The marriage didn’t last long though. Three months after the wedding, it all was about to change. On that late January day in 1897, Trout was at the house of a Martha Jones for a visit. Zona was supposedly feeling sick and had stayed back home. Trout asked if Martha’s son, Anderson Jones could go and look to Zona if she needed anything.

Just a boy of 11 years, he followed his orders and went over to check on Zona. Once there, a horrific sight awaited him as he opened the door. The lifeless body of Zona was found at the foot of the stairs. Dead. She was only twenty three years old.

The local doctor and coroner was called for and when he arrived at their home, Zona was already prepared for the funeral, by Trout. He had quickly carried her upstairs and she was laid out on the bed. This was odd as according to Victorian custom it was the female family and friends who did the washing and dressing of the dead, not the husband.

Zona was dressed in a long gown with a high collar and he had wrapped a scarf around it that her husband said was her favorite, and was the reason behind her attire.

The Greenbrier Ghost the supposed ghost of Zona that returned from the dead to testify that she was in fact killed by her husband and wanted to see him jail.
Place of the murder: The home of Zona and where she was killed and supposedly came back as The Greenbrier Ghost, near Rainelle, West Virginia/source

Dr. Knapp, as the doctor was called, did a quick post mortem exam just to have it done. He concluded the cause of death was because of ‘everlasting faint’, more known today as a heart attack. He later changed the cause of death to something completely different. Then it was said she died of childbirth, even if Zona hadn’t said to anyone that she was pregnant, although the doctor had treated her of ‘female troubles’ before her death.

No matter what the reasoning behind Dr.Knapp post mortem exam, it wasn’t a thoroughly one, and it ended up to be completely wrong.

The Grieving Husband by her side

At the wake of Zona held at their home, Trout was unconscionable, cried and cursed the world for taking his wife from him too soon. Mourners, friends and family gathered at their home to pay their respect and to send her off. But Trout didn’t want anyone near Zona’s head and watched over her, making everyone stand back. He added a veil to her and propped her up on pillows, saying he wanted her to be comfortable.

He was weeping and pacing in front of her open casket until she was buried at the cemetery before he finally calmed down. The body of Zona was brought to a hilltop near her childhood home were she was supposed to rest forever. No one that attended the wake and funeral thought it was strange of his intense display of grief, he was after all playing the part as a grieving husband that had loved his wife dearly.

Although it was a bit uncharacteristic for the stoic man the people of Greenbriar had all come to know. So no one thought it strange, except Zona’s mother, she had thoughts on her own.

The Greenbrier Ghost Appears for her Mother

Mary Jane Heaster, the mother of the deceased did not like her new son in law as mentioned before. Zona was her only daughter, and first, she had been taken away from the place she was from to move in with him all the way across the county. And now she was gone for good.

The Greenbrier Ghost the supposed ghost of Zona that returned from the dead to testify that she was in fact killed by her husband and wanted to see him jail.
The Mother: Mary Jane Heaster never gave up on the daughter and according to her the ghost of her daughter appeared to her and told the truth about her death./source/ Wonderful West Virginia magazine

The mother knew that her daughters husband had something to do with her death and didn’t believe that she had died of the everlasting faint or that Zona had been with child. She was certain her daughter was murdered and was certain of the culprit. When she was told of the death of her daughter, she reportedly said:

“The devil has killed her!”

In desperation Mary Jane prayed for nights on end non stop, as the bible told her to find answer and guidance to what to do. She prayed that her daughter should come back to her, somehow. Either to tell things as they were, or even just to come and say goodbye.

Restless and in prayer, she stayed this way for several nights. And just as Mary Jane was going to bed one night after intense prayer, a strange light flowed into her bedroom. The light took shape into a human and just for a few moments, Zona was back as The Greenbrier Ghost. And not only did she appear before her mother, she also spoke according to her story.

For 4 nights The Greenbrier Ghost appeared again and again to explain to her mother how it all went down. According to the ghost the night before Anderson found her, she was preparing dinner for her husband.

When Trout came home he was livid. She had made apple butter, a spread and bread. But no meat. In a rage because of the lack of meat for his meal he attacked her and dislocated her neck.

Zona told this wasn’t the first time her husband had attacked and abused her. She told about a sad pattern of Trout’s terrible temper and how she was unable to reason with him when he got into these fit of anger.

On the second night The Greenbrier Ghost visited, she told her mother again how Trout had squeezed her neck and how he snapped it at the first joint and it killed her. The last night the ghost of Zona twisted her head 180 degrees to show her mother. She died, not of natural causes as Trout as well as the Doctor had claimed, she had been murdered.

Digging up the body

The towns gossip traveled about The Greenbrier Ghost. Mary Jane told the neighbors about the vision and that she was on a mission to set things straight. This was the time that the gossip about the handsome blacksmith came to light as well. Firstly it came out that he lied about his name, calling himself Edward and his shady past as a thief, and his troubling past with other women all came back to haunt him just when he thought he had gotten away with murder.

After Zona as The Greenbrier Ghost had related the tale, Mary Jane hurried to Prosecuting Attorney John Preson in Lewisburg. She told him of her paranormal visions, but he didn’t believe them, perhaps of natural reasons. But what did interest him though, was the poor post mortem exam by Dr. Knapp that didn’t make any sense. Could it be that the mother was right apart from raving about a ghost? On that grounds of the poorly exam by the doctor they exhumed her body for a second examination.

The Greenbrier Ghost the supposed ghost of Zona that returned from the dead to testify that she was in fact killed by her husband and wanted to see him jail.
The Grave of The Greenbrier Ghost: Although they thought the mother’s visions were nonsense, they decided to dig up her body and examine the body properly. The cause of death seemed to align almost perfect with what the mother claimed that The Greenbrier Ghost had told her in her visions.

This time, Dr Knapp teamed up with Dr Rupert and McClung for a second post mortem that lasted three hours. Dr Knapp claimed it was because of the widowers distress that had made him just do a shallow examination of Zona. Also present at this post mortem was Trout, but it seemed that he had pulled himself together and he was no longer the grieving husband that he had been at the wake. He was calm a they checked her stomach for poison and her vital organs.

Then they started examining the head and neck. Perhaps as medical men they also thought the mothers talk about The Greenbrier Ghost was all nonsense. But when they saw the truth themselves, they whispered among themselves:

“Well, Shue, we have found your wife’s neck to have been broken.”

On the neck of the body of Zona, they found finger-shaped bruises and that her windpipe was crushed. And, just as the spirit of Zona herself told, the first and second vertebrae was fractured. According to their examination she had indeed been murdered and Trout was arrested.

The Greenbrier Ghost takes the Stand

Trout accepted no responsibility of his wife’s murder, and pleaded ‘not guilty’. He was nonetheless charged of the circumstantial evidence that they had found and rounded up after the exhumation. Prison didn’t sit well with Trout and the Pocahontas Times reported that:

“Trout Shue É now in jail awaiting trial for the murder of his wife, has threatened to kill himself.”

During the trial, Trout said the chargers was nonsense, nothing more than the tales of a spiteful mother in law and that he was innocent and didn’t kill his wife. During the trial, they found out that Zona wasn’t his first wife. She was his third, and the first one left him because of his beatings. Her name was Allie Estelline Cutlip.

Trout beat his wife so bad that a group dragged him out of bed one winter night and threw him in the icy water of Greenbrier River as revenge. She gave birth to a child, Girta Lucretia in 1887. She got out though on grounds of divorce four years later. But the second one was not as lucky.

In 1894, Trout married once again. Lucy Ann Tritt died eight months later. But at this death, there was no investigation, and the Pocahontas Times only stated she died ‘suddenly’. But after the death of Zona, the rumors about what really happened to Lucy Ann started circulating again.

When Mary Jane took the stand, she stood her ground, firmly believing it was the presence Zona as The Greenbrier Ghost that solved the case. She also knew stuff no one else did, like what she had been wearing and about all of her injuries. This is not the only time however the supernatural visitation has gotten a headliner in the courtroom, like with the case of the Red Barn Murder in England.

Read also

The Red Barn Murder and the Ghost in the Dreams

The murder of Maria Marten, a case called The Red Barn Murder got a lot of media coverage in England because of the strange circumstances. The murder was allegedly solved by the appearance of the ghost of the victim, haunting people’s dreams.

But it was on the circumstantial evidence he was convicted and he was found guilty of more than the testimony of The Greenbrier Ghost perhaps. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at the West Virginia State Penitentiary where he died a few years later at the age of 39 in 1900. He know rests in an unmarked grave.

The Greenbrier Ghost after the Trial

It wasn’t that the testimony of The Greenbrier Ghost was the thing that got Trout convicted. If anything, it was brought by the defense to discredit Mary Jane. Was she really seeing her dead daughter? Did she lie? She lived until 1916, and never recanted her original story about the visitations, but she did never appear again.

Read Also: The Greenbrier Ghost got killed by a partner, we have multiple stories telling the same. How about checking out The Ghost of La Faraona Haunting the Agua Caliente Hotel or The Prisoner of Château de Puymartin

Now the state remember her as a marker along the highway to The Greenbrier Ghost. The sign reads:

“Interred in 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 the state prison. Only known case in which testimony from a ghost helped convict a murderer.”

More like this

Newest Posts



Leave a Reply