Almanac – January 23

1897 – Zona Heaster Shue was found dead in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. The resulting murder trial of her husband is perhaps the only case in United States history where the alleged testimony of a ghost helped secure a conviction.

According to local legend, Zona appeared to her mother in a dream four weeks after her funeral. She said  Erasmus Shue  (her husband) was a cruel man who abused her, and who had attacked her in a fit of rage when he believed that she had cooked no meat for dinner. He had broken her neck; to prove this, the ghost turned her head completely around until it was facing backwards.
Supposedly, the ghost appeared first as a bright light, gradually taking form and filling the room with a chill. She is said to have visited Mrs. Heaster over the course of four nights.

Zona’s body was examined on February 22, 1897 in the local one-room schoolhouse. Shue had “vigorously complained” about this turn of events, but was required by law to be present at the autopsy. He responded that he knew he would be arrested, but that no one would be able to prove his guilt.

The autopsy lasted three hours, and found that Zona’s neck had indeed been broken. According to the report, published on March 9, 1897, “the discovery was made that the neck was broken and the windpipe mashed. On the throat were the marks of fingers indicating that she had been choked. The neck was dislocated between the first and second vertebrae. The ligaments were torn and ruptured. The windpipe had been crushed at a point in front of the neck.

On the strength of this evidence, and his behavior at the inquest, Shue was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife. He was sentenced to life in prison…which didn’t last long, as he died in 1900.

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1898 – Sergei Eisenstein born. Pioneering Soviet Russian film director and film theorist, often considered to be the “Father of Montage“.

He is noted in particular for his silent films Strike (1924), Battleship Potemkin (1925) and October (1927), as well as the historical epics Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Ivan the Terrible (1944, 1958).

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1910 – Django Reinhardt born. Pioneering virtuoso jazz guitarist and composer. Reinhardt is often regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of all time and regarded as the first important European jazz musician who made major contributions to the development of the idiom.

Reinhardt invented an entirely new style of jazz guitar technique (sometimes called ‘hot’ jazz guitar) that has since become a living musical tradition within French gypsy culture.

With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, he co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France, described by critic Thom Jurek as “one of the most original bands in the history of recorded jazz.

Reinhardt’s most popular compositions have become jazz standards, including “Minor Swing”, “Daphne”, “Belleville”, “Djangology”, “Swing ’42”, and “Nuages“.

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1957 – American inventor Walter Frederick Morrison sold the rights to his flying disc to the Wham-O toy company, which later renamed it the Frisbee.

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1989 – Salvador Dalí died.  Dalí was a skilled draftsman, best known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work. Dalí’s expansive artistic repertoire included film, sculpture, and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media.

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1997 – Richard Berry died. African American singer, songwriter and musician, who performed with many Los Angeles doo-wop and close harmony groups in the 1950s, including The Flairs and The Robins. He is best known as the composer and original performer of …. oh, c’mon – you all must know this…

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