"Really? All that work and you couldn't spring for a statue of me?"
Being the ghost of a murder victim must be so frustrating. Not only do you know for a fact who your killer is (you were, after all, an eyewitness), but you also have to float around watching a bunch of bumbling mortals screw around failing to put all the puzzle pieces together. So it makes a lot of sense that some of these spirits want to roll up their intangible sleeves, spit through their hands, and get to work solving their own cases. Look, we're not saying that ghosts are real. We're just saying that in the following cases, the dead were a lot more competent than the living.
In 1897, a West Virginia woman named Elva Shue, wife of local blacksmith Edward Shue, was found dead by a neighbor. She was discovered lying at the foot of some stairs, her body in an awkward pose. After a cursory examination, a local doctor deemed the death natural and proceeded with her burial. And that would have been the end of the case -- except that the ghost of Elva Shue was having none of it.
The reason Elva was never properly examined was that Edward methodically kept anyone from inspecting her neck and head, cradling it obsessively and becoming aggressive when the coroner came anywhere near her. Then the new widower acted strangely during the funeral process, allowing only a cursory examination of the body and keeping her neck covered in a high-necked dress and scarf. If this were an episode of CSI, everybody would be screaming at the screen that Edward clearly murdered his wife. But despite this super suspicious behavior, the doctor didn't feel right to press the issue and listed Elva's cause as death first as "everlasting faint" and then "complications from pregnancy." And because this was the 19th century, people had no trouble believing women could die merely from being women.
Elva's mother, Mary Jane Heaster, hadn't liked Edward, and despite a lack of evidence, she was convinced he had murdered Elva. But given that both "investigating crimes properly" and "taking women seriously" hadn't yet been invented in 1897, Mary Jane could do nothing but pray that somehow the truth would come to light. Then, for four nights in a row, Elva herself supposedly appeared in Mary Jane's dreams, explaining that her husband had crushed her neck because he hadn't liked his dinner. To prove that her spinal cord had been severed, Elva's ghost turned her head around 180 degrees, then walked away while staring at Mary Jane. A creepy thing to do to your mother, but at this point it seems clear that Elva wasn't fucking around.
Mary Jane took this revelation to the local law guy, John Preston, and we'll never know whether Preston believed her or simply wanted to get the crazy-sounding woman off his back, but her panicked ramblings convinced him to look into the case. After learning about Edward's strange behavior, Preston, the only competent non-dead person in this story, ordered the body to be exhumed. It took him about five seconds to conclude that, indeed, Edward killed Elva.
However, the strangest part of the story isn't the claims of Elva haunting her mother or twisting her neck like an owl to light a fire under her ass -- it's that all this ghostly nonsense held up in court. During Edward's trial, Mary Jane was allowed to testify, and while it was Shue's lawyer's intention to make her look like a crazy old lady, this backfired horribly when Mary Jane stood her ground and managed to convince the jury of what she had experienced. The trial's acceptance of this ghostly evidence has led some to call it "the only known case in which testimony from [a] ghost helped convict a murderer," which is emblazoned on a plaque celebrating Elva Shue, who got her killer from beyond the grave.
via Mental Floss
In 1913, Royal Flying Corps Lieutenant Desmond Arthur fatally crashed his plane during a routine training exercise at an air base in Montrose, Scotland. This did not, according to local legend, prevent Lt. Arthur from continuing to make appearances at the base. Soldiers began reporting mysterious footsteps and phantom plane noises, as well as seeing a "ghostly figure," which is a very noncommittal way of saying you saw a ghost. One pilot claimed he saw a fellow soldier in flight gear walk to the door of their mess hall, only to disappear without entering, while a flight instructor said he woke up in the middle of the night and also saw a pilot sitting in a chair by his bed. In all fairness, Arthur would've knocked, but he clearly hadn't figured out doors quite yet.
It didn't help undead Arthur's popularity that these spookouts coincided with a grave inquiry into the cause of his crash. The initial ruling was recklessness on behalf of the pilot, which was bad for morale, seeing as how World War I had started and British pilots were expected to get all the way to Belgium before getting killed.
But claims of ghost sightings at Montrose continued. Another man who had known Arthur said that Arthur appeared in his room and tried to speak to him, but couldn't make any sound. The story became so infamous that, supposedly, a German pilot who was shot down and captured behind Allied lines asked what the latest news on the ghost was.
Royal Air Force
Because of these sightings, superstitious pilots started thinking there was something keeping Arthur from moving on. Eventually, a new investigation into his death commenced, which absolved Arthur of any blame (it turns out that planes in 1913 were kind of prone to falling apart sometimes). After his name was cleared, his ghost supposedly made final appearances in front of three of his old comrades, smiling at each of them before vanishing forever. Other sightings were claimed in later decades and Arthur because a staple of Montrose lore, although ghost experts, inasmuch as that's a thing, believe that these were simply other pilots who had been killed during the World Wars, and Arthur was content to stay dead after his reputation had been restored. But he was honored with a wreath-laying ceremony on the 100th anniversary of his death, just to make sure he wouldn't have an excuse to drop in again.
Inviting a psychic to help in a murder investigation is practically announcing to the killer that they should feel free to buy a house, settle down, and start coaching a local softball team. The police might as well start burning candles in church to ask Jesus if he saw anyone run that-a-way. But sometimes, even psychics can get lucky and find a needle in a haystack. Although it might not be the right needle.
In 2010, Australian psychic Cheryl Carroll-Lagerwey claimed she had a dream which showed her where to find the body of Kiesha Abrahams, a missing a six-year-old girl. And while we would personally give a wide berth to any murder locations we dream of, Carroll-Lagerwey decided to check the place out. She didn't find Abrahams, but she did find the macabre consolation prize of an adult woman's decomposing torso.
The mangled torso was eventually identified as the remains of Kristi McDougall, who had been strangled to death and chopped into pieces by her boyfriend. It wasn't totally random -- the body was found on a remote aboriginal reserve, which had already been searched thoroughly because police believed it was a possible dumping spot for Abrahams' body (she was later found elsewhere, and her mother was convicted of her murder), but there's really no better way to describe "finding a torso when you're not looking for one."
And while Carroll-Lagerwey's discovery led to the arrest and conviction of McDougall's killer, local police made it very clear that this discovery does not change their opinion about the use of psychics. The police chief later released a statement that acknowledged the good outcome but made clear that he has "certain strong feelings about people who claim they are psychic. I don't think it will help if we enter a discussion on that." Which is a nicer way of saying "Don't get me started on these dream idiots." Carroll-Lagerwey, for her part, credits her "Aboriginal dreaming" and a "bad feeling." As the old saying goes, even a blind squirrel finds a dismembered torso once and awhile.
In 1827, Maria Marten and William Corder had arranged to elope, as dramatic young beaus with sketchy reputations are wont to do. They agreed to meet at the Red Barn, a local landmark in their town in Suffolk, England, because small Victorian hamlets didn't have a Baskin Robbins to meet up at. But while two lovers entered, only one left.
William skipped town soon after his clandestine meeting, but no one saw Maria leave with him. He wrote letters to her family, but made increasingly transparent excuses for why none of them were coming from Maria herself -- she was sick, she had hurt her hand, the post office must have lost her letter. Presumably, at one point he tried suggesting that Maria simply needed a break from the strenuous, attention-sucking world of snail mail.
After a few months, Maria's stepmother began to have "troubling dreams" (or as we would call them, "hunches") in which Maria was murdered and buried in the Red Barn -- a building that only sounds spookier the more times we type its name.
via Wiki Commons
She was convinced that her daughter's spirit was drawing her to that location, and eventually her husband agreed to search the barn to soothe his crazy wife's mind. A few shovels' worth of dirt later, Maria's body was discovered. Authorities had little trouble tracking down William, who it turns out wasn't exactly a criminal mastermind and was just milling about in London with pistols and incriminating letters tucked under his bed. In one of the biggest trials of the era, he was found guilty of brutally murdering Maria over a petty argument and was hanged for his crimes.
The site of the callous murder became a popular landmark for rubberneckers, and over time the red barn was stripped clean by ye olde true crime enthusiasts looking for souvenirs. Likewise but much more disturbingly, William was also stripped clean -- his skeleton was put on display in a museum, while his skin was used to bind a book about the murder. What remains unexplained is why it took visions in a dream for people to consider what seemed like such an obvious series of events, but we're beginning to think that in the 19th century, people just had an easier time accepting that ghosts whispered truths than that women could figure things out.
The law of headlines dictates that any time a headline is a question, the correct answer is "Nope." Do cookies cause cancer? Are Brad and Jennifer getting back together? Can you look at this video of a puppy and a kitten who are friends without crying? But nowhere should this rule be more self-evident than when a serious journalist asks the question: "Did voice from grave finger murder suspect?"
The Chicago Tribune
This one goes back to the 1977 murder of Teresita Basa, a hospital employee who was found stripped, stabbed, and burned in her ransacked apartment. After weeks of investigating, the police still weren't any closer to finding the killer, with only a journey entry stating "Get tickets for A.S." considered noteworthy (pun 100 percent intended). Then, after six frustrating months, detectives received a tip about another employee at Basa's hospital named Allan Showery, a man with very suspicious initials. But who came through with the tip? Teresita Basa, if you can believe it.
When the police traced the call, they ended up meeting Jose and Remy Chua. According to Remy/Basa, Showery showed up at Basa's apartment to fix her TV, but ended up murdering her and stealing her jewelry. When asked how they knew so much about the murder, Jose claimed that on three occasions, his wife had been possessed by Basa and then explained the details of the crime -- you know, that classic scenario every marriage goes through sooner or later.
Police searched Showery's apartment and found a ring and pendant belonging to Basa. They arrested Showery, who eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 years. But while the case of Basa's murder was solved, there was still one big "WTF?" concerning her spiritual snitching. It was quickly discovered that Remy Chua was not, as initially claimed, a total stranger. She worked in the same department of the hospital as Showery and Basa, but had lost her job just hours before the first possession supposedly happened. But that doesn't explain how she knew that Showery was a killer, and investigations into that particular factor don't have many answers. The best rational guess anyone has is that she had suspected Showery, but was scared of him and didn't know how to relay this information except to claim a ghost made her do it. Remy, for her part, told the jury that Basa spoke "through my lips" and that "All I remember is hearing the name Allan. I just felt cold and thirsty." So if somebody ever gives you chills and cottonmouth, it might mean that a ghost is trying to tell you they're a murderer. Or you might need some hot tea.
We tend to think of the average murderer as a remorseless monster. However, because real life sometimes resembles that Poe story you were forced to read in high school, killers can be so haunted by their actions that they are driven to confess. Some, though, take the "haunting" part a bit literally.
In 2013, Adrian Daou confessed to the murder of Jennifer Stuart, claiming that after he committed the crime, he went for a walk and saw the ghost of his victim. Since that day, Daou claims he started believing in God and belatedly concluded that "it's not a good thing to kill someone." It's not the most inspiring religious conversion on record, but then, Daou also committed the murder because he thought it would help his rap career, so maybe he's not the best person to take life advice from.
In April 2017, serial killer Terry Childs confessed to two murders while serving time for three more. Childs says he was being "eaten up" by his victims Joan Mack and Christopher Hall. And no, he didn't mean in the abstract sense of overwhelming guilt; he told police they were in his cell, staring at him and "eating up his brain." The two new crimes he confessed to occurred in 1984 and '85, which makes these some pretty damn persistent ghosts.
In January 2017 (apparently a banner year for ghost-induced confessions), Jose Ferreira confessed to a 1982 crime wherein he pushed 13-year-old Carie Ann Jopec down a stairway to her death because she refused to have sex with him, which hits about every number on the "male monster" bingo card outside of the school shooting category. Her mother credits Jopec, rather than the police, for solving the crime, because 33 years after she was killed, Ferreira claimed that the girl's spirit had been haunting him and confessed. So keep that in mind if you ever plan to haunt someone: Persistence can get you results in ways that a couple of quick jump scares never can.
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