GREENBRIAR GHOST Sam Black Church, Virginia

Expedition Team:  Dave Miller

Date: September 13, 2021

This story is so intriguing I had to stop and investigate. It is the only known case in the USA in which testimony from a ghost helped convict a murderer. I pulled off I-64 exit 156 and a short distance away was an historical marker (Photo#1) at the former location of the house (Photo#2) where the murder took place (Photo#3 is a photo of the original house). I did a quick EVP but obtained no evidence. Here is the fascinating ghost story.

In October 1896, Elva Zona Heaster (Photo#4) married a blacksmith named Erasmus Shue. On January 23, 1897, Zona was found dead with the cause of death listed as childbirth. She was buried the next day at Soule Chapel Methodist Cemetery (Photo#5). Her mother Mary Heaster later claimed to have seen Zona’s ghost at her bedside and Zona insisted that Erasmus had murdered her. Armed with the story told to her by the ghost, Mary visited the local prosecutor and convinced him to reopen the case. Whether he believed the ghost story or not the prosecutor sent several deputies to reinterview several people including Dr. Knapp the local doctor. Dr. Knapp admitted he had not originally performed a thorough examination of the body, so this was justification for an autopsy and Zona’s body was dug up.

Zona’s body was examined in the local one-room schoolhouse, and it was determined that her neck was broken, the windpipe mashed and marks on the throat by fingers indicated she had been choked. Erasmus Shue was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife Zona.  During the trial it was discovered that Shue had been married twice before. The first wife accused him of great cruelty and divorced him, the second wife died under mysterious circumstances. Upon cross examination, Shue’s lawyer could not get Mary Heaster to waiver on her claims what Zona’s ghost had said. Shue was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison and died three years later.

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