Society

An 1897 Ghost Helped Solve Her Own Murder

| by Sarah Zimmerman
Shue houseShue house

A 120-year-old ghost story has been making the rounds on the internet this month. It's the unbelievable tale of a ghost who returned from the grave to help solve the mystery of her own murder.

The legend begins when a servant boy finds Elva Heaster's dead body after returning from a day of running errands for her husband, Erasmus Shue, according to Dusty Old Thing. Panicked, the boy ran out of the house to retrieve the town's local doctor. By the time the pair returned to the house, however, Shue had already washed his wife (who went by Zona) and prepared her for burial, dressing her in a dress with a high-neck collar and a veil over her head. 

While the doctor examined the body, Little Things reports that Shue cradled his deceased wife's head and pushed the doctor away when he tried to get close to her head or neck. The doctor, not expecting foul play, declared the her death to be of natural causes.

At the funeral, her mother Mary Jane Heaster noticed that Shue was acting erratically, obsessively stabilizing his wife's head with pillows. The mother, who had never approved of Shue or his marriage to her daughter, was immediately suspicious and prayed for an answer to this mystery.

Weeks passed and as Heaster was getting close to moving on, she was visited by Zona's spirit four nights in a row in her dreams. Each night, the apparition would say the same thing: Shue had indeed murdered her by choking her and subsequently breaking her neck. According to Dusty Old Thing, Shue had apparently been upset that she did not cook any meat for dinner one night. 

Heaster took it upon herself to reopen her daughter's case, convincing the local prosecutor to exhume her body and complete a more thorough autopsy. Indeed, upon second inspection of the corpse, it was found that the first and second vertebrae in Zona's neck were broken and that her windpipe was crushed. Dusty Old Thing also reports that Zona's neck was covered in finger-shaped bruises.

Zona turned out to be Shue's third wife; his first wife divorced him on the grounds of excessive cruelty and his second wife died under mysterious circumstances. The evidence was enough to find him guilty of murder in 1897, according to Little Things. He later died of pneumonia within the penitentiary walls in 1900. 

Zona's ghost was never seen again.

Sources: Little Things, Dusty Old Thing / Photo Credit

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