The Greenbrier Ghost

West Virginia Appalachia Ghosts

West Virginia: the birthplace of Don Knotts, Brad Paisley, and the Mothman legend, the only state completely within the Appalachian Mountain range, and home to one of the most haunted places in the US, The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, which is also the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America and second in the world to the Kremlin.

It’s also full of legends, lore, and this unbelievable ghost story….

During the Victorian Era, European immigrants were still arriving in the U.S., and they transplanted their culture with them.

Before the digital age, you could head down the Appalachian Trail into West Virginia and find villages lost in time. In the 1930s, a group of anthropologists discovered a community of people in the Blue Ridge Mountains who still spoke Elizabethan English – a long-forgotten and dead dialect by the 20th century.  

West Virginia was one of 2 states formed during the Civil War – the other was Nevada. And after the War of Northern Aggression, the West Virginia population grew with the coal and logging industries. Today, the state is an outdoorsy person’s playland, as well as offering spots for the posh and boujee. But nothing can overshadow West Virginia’s hauntings. Nestled in the Alleghany Mountains of West Virginia is Greenbrier County. Home of White Sulphur Springs and Greenbrier Resort and Spa. And the home of West Virginia’s most famous ghost. 

Zona Heaster

In January 1897, Elva Zona Heaster was found dead in her home. Initially reported as natural causes, but that would change after a series of mystical events. 

Elva Zona Heaster Shue In the fall of 1896, Edward Shue arrived in Greenbrier, West Virginia. He found work easily, he was a blacksmith, and they were always in demand. Mr. Crookshanks – not Hermoine’s familiar for my Harry Potter fans, but a local business owner,  hired Edward immediately at his shop, and within a few days, Edward had his sights set on a lovely young local woman. 

Elva Zona Heaster was ten years younger than Edward and was easily charmed by his attention and adoration. Not to mention, Edward was pretty easy on the eyes. They married just a few weeks after courting. Not long after their marriage, Zona, as she was affectionately called, became pregnant. Unfortunately, there were some complications, Zona was seeing Dr. Knapp and cautiously kept her pregnancy a secret. Zona Heaster Edward Shue

Zona and Edward paid a young neighbor boy, Andy Jones, to help her out with simple errands. It was common to see Andy running from their home to the blacksmith shop, delivering messages between the two newlyweds. 

One cold afternoon in January 1837, 11-year-old Andy went to the blacksmith shop to check in with Edward. Edward told him he had some things to pick up at the market before going home and told Andy to go to the house and ask Zona if she needed anything picked up while he was out. 

Off Andy went – 

When he ran into their house, he was startled – there was Zona lying face down at the bottom of the staircase. She had 1 hand pinned beneath her chest, and her other arm was stretched out beside her. Andy called out to her – hoping she had just taken a spill. But then he noticed her neck. It was bent in a grotesquely abnormal way. 

Andy dashed home to his mother and told her what he had seen. Mrs. Jones immediately set out to find Dr. Knapp. It took almost an hour to find the doctor and get him to the Shue’s home. 

When Dr. Knapp arrived, Zona was gone. He stood at the bottom of the staircase, confused when, out of nowhere, the doctor heard the sound of sobbing coming from upstairs. Dr. Knapp rushed up the stairs to find Zona on the bed and Edward weeping beside her. 

Edward had carried her up to their bedroom, changed her into the burgundy high-collared dress she wore the first time they met, and arranged her on their bed. 

Dr. Knapp had been caring for Zona in the early stages of the complicated pregnancy; he was “familiar” with her… So, he began to examine her for injuries. When the doctor got to her neck, Edward pushed his hands away. He then began to cry louder and started running his fingers through Zona’s hair. 

Dr. Knapp decided to leave Edward alone to mourn his loss. When he got back to his office, he prepared the paperwork and death certificate. He listed the cause of death: “Everlasting Faint Due to Complications with Pregnancy”

Zona was taken to the Undertakers to prepare her for the burial. Edward insisted on helping the mortician. He got Zona into the casket, put a scarf around her neck, and laid 2 pieces of clothing on each side of her head – he said it was “so she could rest easier.” 

Edward got even weirder at the funeral. He paced around the casket, only stopping to adjust her clothing or scarf. People watched in confusion. 

Zona’s mother, Mary, watched him with suspicion.

The Greenbrier Ghost

Weeks went by after Zona’s death. Mary was still heavy in grief. Her intuition was nagging her. She began praying for the truth. She asked for Zona to return to her and tell her the truth – tell her what really happened. And her prayers were answered – Zona came to her mother. For 4 nights, Mary had visions of Zona. The first night, she appeared as a bright ball of light – an orb. Over the next few nights, Zona’s apparition began to form, becoming more clear – more real. And began revealing the truth. 

Zona told her mother that after months of abuse from Edward, he finally did it. He murdered her. There was an argument; Edward strangled Zona at the foot of the stairs, breaking her neck just beneath her skull. 

Mary went to the local prosecutor, Mr. Prester, and told him she knew for certain that Edward had murdered her daughter. She told him about Edward’s strange behaviour at the funeral, about how her daughter had changed since the marriage…  And she told him of her visions. 

Mr. Prester knew to do anything about this accusation, he would need more evidence. He began questioning locals about Edward. Everyone talked about his pacing around the casket and his odd demeanor. Mr. Prester then went to Dr. Knapp – The doctor mentioned to Mr. Prester that Zona had been moved and told him that Edward made a complete exam impossible to do.

Mr. Prester got the OK to exhume Zona. They dug her up and took her coffin over to the SCHOOL HOUSE, where they opened the casket and began investigating her remains. Dr. Knapp found that her neck was badly bruised, and there were finger impressions on her skin. The autopsy revealed a crushed windpipe, torn ligaments in the neck, and the vertebrae at the base of her skull were completely displaced. 

Every detail that Mary shared with Mr. Prester was indeed true. 

Without a doubt – Elva Zona had been murdered. But now they had to prove it was Edward who had committed the crime. 

Mr. Prester started doing some digging on Edward. He discovered that Edward’s real name was Erasmus Stribbling Shue – folks called him “Trout.” And good old Trout was a busy man – he had 2 wives before Zona, and some time in prison. 

His first wife was in 1885, and they had a daughter. He was arrested for stealing a horse, then his wife left him. But that’s not why she left; that was just her opportunity. Edward routinely physically abused her, and she took his lock up as her chance to flee his hateful hands. 

When he got out of prison for the horse thievery, he married wife #2 – Lucy. Less than a year after they were married, Lucy died of “mysterious causes.” Rumors began circulating that Edward had killed her, so he left town. 

First stop – Greenbrier – where he met, married, and murdered Zona. 

In June 1897, Edward went to trial.  

The defense attorney tried to make a mockery out of Mary and her claims of ghostly apparitions of her daughter. But Mary stuck to her guns, and the judge allowed her testimony to stand. The jury deliberated for less than an hour and found Edward guilty of murdering Elva Zona. He was sentenced to life in prison. 

Greenbrier Ghost

This was the only trial in US history to use a ghost’s testimony. And this Ghost got the last word. 

While Edward sat in the local jail, a mob of 30 men with guns and rope gathered – they wanted Edward to die for what he did to Zona. No such luck. The sheriff moved Edward to another prison, where he created creepy folk art and counted down the days. Can’t help but wonder if Zona visited him, too.  Edward died 3 years later, behind bars. 

The Greenbrier

Greenbrier

If you find yourself in West Virginia looking for luxury, pay The Greenbrier Resort in Sulphur Springs a visit.  Folks have been going to Greenbrier for over 250 years, and it’s 100% haunted.

Folks have reported:

  • Strange noises and disembodied voices in guest rooms
  • Shadow figures throughout the property
  • Audio anomalies recorded in empty guest rooms
  • Being touched or grabbed by unseen entities
  • Doors slam shut and swing open by themselves
  • Unexplained shimmers of light throughout the hotel

They still love a scandal there – the luxury resort is owned by the Governor of West Virginia, who is now referred to as “Tiny Trump.”