As investigators and researchers of the paranormal world we often find ourselves in search of something that quantifies the very thing we are looking for. However, the paranormal field often has us seeking, searching the darkness if you will, sadly without resolution! Still perhaps it’s this failure to find conclusive evidence that keeps us forever searching and believing that there is something out there to be found.
It was during my usual trawl through the Internet in search of something new that I discovered the subject of this post. I have to admit it caught my eye and I did happen to exclaim, out loud, ‘no way!’ Finding a good story that explains an individuals paranormal experience are always interesting, but one which appears to be backed up by a court case and possibly seems to influence the outcome of the case is pretty much unheard of!
Still as ever please feel free to read through my account of this story and make your own mind up on this one. Please, please feel free to comment on this one as I would live to hear your opinions on it?
On the 23rd January 1897 in Greenbrier, West Virginia an 11 year old African American boy called Andy Jones found the body of Zona Heaster Shue laying lifeless on the floor. The body was stretched out with the legs together. One arm was at her side whilst the other was resting on her body, with her head tilted to one side.
In true fashion the local coroner Dr George W Knapp was called in, but took about an hour to arrive at the Shuh residents. In that time Edward (Zona’s husband) had moved the body to an upstairs bedroom. Knapp was slightly shocked to see that Edward had also redressed his wife in her best Sunday dress, which had a high neck and stiff collar. As Edward seemed beside himself with grief, cradling his wife’s head in his arms, making it very hard for Knapp to examine Zona. Although Knapp did note a slight discolouration on the neck and cheek, this seemed to be overlooked. Knapp ended the examination exclaiming that Zona died of ‘an everlasting faint’ which was again a little more than odd. Officially Knapp recorded that she had died from childbirth.
The oddity of Zona’s death hadn’t gone totally unnoticed, in fact her mother Mary Jane had suspicions of her own. Suspicions which were heightened at her daughters wake when Mary noticed Edward acting strangely and not like a husband in mourning. Others noticed his behaviour too. Although the most odd was that Edward placed a pillow on one side of his dead wife’s head and a rolled up cloth on the other, as if to prop it in place! Adding to this Edward had placed a scarf around his wife’s neck, which was slightly out of place. Towards the end of the wake a few of the guests noticed an odd looseness to Zona’s head. Mary Jane removed the rolled up cloth at the end of the wake and took it home.
This is where the story embarks into the paranormal a little.
Noticing that the cloth from her daughters coffin had quickly developed a horrid odour, Mary decided to attempt to wash it. As she submerged the cloth, the water turned red, the colour bleeding from the cloth. Astonished by this Mary took a pitcher and scooped some of the water from the basin. Oddly the removed water was clear!
The once white cloth was now stained pink and no matter what Mary done to remove the the discolouration the stain remained. Mary took this as a sign of her daughters death being less than natural.
Mary began to pray for her daughter to reach out from beyond the grave and explain the circumstances of her death. This was a prayer Mary made every day for weeks until the prayer was answered!
As Greenbrier was overcome by the bitter cold of winter and the darkness crept in, Mary lit her candles and oil lights to resist the early nights. It was then that, according to Mary, her daughter visited her. During these spiritual visits, Mary claims that her daughter explained the unnatural circumstances of her demise. Zona explained to her mother how her husband Edward was a cruel man that constantly subjected her to violence, but on the day of her death he went too far breaking her neck. It is said that Zona’s ghost proved this to her mother by turning her head completely around at the neck.
Without a moment to loose Mary took her story to the local prosecutor, John Alfred Preston. Preston listened to Mary’s story, although a little skeptical he realised that there was enough suspicion for him to peruse the case further. Preston ordered Zona’s body exhumed for an autopsy against Edwards protests, which revealed exactly as the Zona’s ghost had stated, the neck was broken. In addition the windpipe was crushed from violent strangulation. Edward Shuh was arrested for the murder of his wife following this gruesome discovery.
It soon came to light that Edward had a less than honest past, with two other failed marriages which had ended due to his violent temper. Although his first wife divorced him after he angrily threw her possessions out of the house, his second wife had not bee quite as fortunate. She too had died under odd circumstances and what seemed to be a blow to the head. Mary concluded that Edward was truly an evil individual.
When the trial kicked off in spring, Edward was relatively confident as he believed there was insufficient evidence against him. After all he wasn’t even placed at the scene of the murder at the time of death and there were no witnesses. Still the prosecutor had a few individuals testify against Edwards character, mentioning his peculiar behaviour, history and comments he made whilst in custody. Of course the testimony of Zona’s ghost was inadmissible, but it what can only be described as a mistake the defence lawyer called Mary Jane to the stand. Zona’s ghost was brought up by the defence, perhaps to try and discount the witness as insane. However, this may have backfired, as under oath Mary calmly explained her encounter and how it was the ghost that identified that Zona’s neck had indeed been broken!
It really isn’t known if it was Mary’s account of Zona’s ghost which persuaded the jury, but they did hand down a verdict of guilty on the charge of murder. Such a conviction should have brought with it the death sentence, but due to the circumstantial nature of the evidence, Edward was sentenced to life in prison. Edward Shuh died on the 13th March 1900 in Moundsville WV Penitentiary.
So, although the ghost of Zona Shuh didn’t actually appear in court itself and wasn’t witnessed by anyone other than that of her own mother Mary, did the paranormal activity here help capture Edward? It’s hard to say really. It could be said that Mary experienced what she did out of grief for her daughters passing, but simply managed to guess how Zona died. The prosecutor decided to exhume the body based on the odd circumstances surrounding the case, not because of the ghostly visitations. Still did Mary’s testimony which detailed her ghostly encounter sway the jury? Again it’s hard to say really. Realistically the jury should have remained focussed on the facts of the case. Perhaps Edwards history, his two previous marriages with possible violence and his odd behaviour was enough to persuade a guilty verdict!
As any paranormal related case seems to be this one also remains slightly unknown!
Let me know what you think ?
And if you wish to read the original article that got me thinking about this one check it out here