Some Basic Facts

Ernie Lee Russell Yost’s first wife was Bessie and they married in 1922. Details about their relationship are unknown as well as what year they divorced.

Yost married Nellie Marie Wright in 1942. Yost assaulted Nellie at least once, but more likely on many occasions.

One witness who knew Yost describes him as follows: “He was six feet tall, a little heavy and mean to Nellie. He was a control freak and would order Nellie around. He was part of a devil worshiping cult. Weird things happened in the house after Ernie died. Tenants would move out, saying the thermostat seemed to change on its own.” (It should be noted that the current occupants of the house say nothing weird has happened in the home for many years.) Another witness says, “He was average-looking and possibly had sandy-colored hair.”

Ernie Yost named his boat, “Hell’s-A-Poppin’,” carved “Hell’s Half Acre” into his steps and constructed a life-size effigy or satanic doll using excelsior covered by muslin. The doll had a plastered neck, a painted face, and dirty straw for hair. The West Virginian newspaper carried a photograph of the doll on its front page.

Yost compiled books on the occult, astrology and Satanism. One of his astrology books claimed that April 7, 1948 (the day of the killings) was “a good day for action.”

Nellie left the home she shared with Yost and filed for divorce using Tucker Rock Moroose as her attorney.

Yost, who was 45, built two bombs in his basement—the day and time are unknown but it was probably within days of April 7, 1948.

At around 8:30 a.m. on April 7, 1948, Yost left the house after setting his “house dog” outside, presumably so she would not be killed when the bombs exploded in the basement. Yost’s relatives believe the dog was named “Tutu” or “Tujo” and was female.

Yost then drove to the law office of Tucker Moroose. Nellie had a nine a.m. appointment with her attorney, Moroose. Yost found his wife in the waiting room and tried to talk her into coming home and dropping the divorce. She refused. Moroose arrived shortly thereafter, and Yost and Nellie followed him into his private office where Yost shot Moroose and Nellie with a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver. Nellie died immediately (probably around 9:15 a.m.), and Moroose died in the ambulance at 9:48 a.m. Yost also shot himself in the law office. He had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, was leaning in at a crazy angle and his blood trickled to the floor in a stream, according to the newspapers. He was taken to the hospital with life-threatening wounds.

The preset bombs exploded at 4 p.m. that day. The basement was severely damaged. The dog, who was huddled against the back door, was not wounded in the blasts. No one reported the explosions or fire at the home.

Yost’s twenty-one-year-old daughter, Vivian, feared the dog was trapped in the house. Vivian went to the police station and asked them to accompany her to her father’s house to rescue the dog. Upon arrival at the home, the three of them found smoke and fire from the explosions. Fire engines were called. A crowed congregated on the street to watch the commotion. The flames were extinguished. Yost’s boat was pulled from the garage in order to get it out of the way. One onlooker says, “It was embarrassing when the boat rolled out of the garage because we saw the words, “Hell’s-A-Poppin'”. We all looked at each other, shocked and horrified.”

The basement was destroyed by fire and smoke, but the home remained intact.

Occult expert, Chris Bilardi hypothesizes as to why the Yost story did not come to the surface until Charlotte Laws concluded her research. He says, “The Yost story was most likely buried quickly because of embarrassment, similar to what happened in 1928 in York County, Pennsylvania when a witchcraft and spell-related murder made international news. This was an embarrassment to the state of Pennsylvania. They wanted to sweep the story under the rug and after the crime, even passed an anti-fortune telling law and other thinly veiled anti-witchcraft laws.”

Hellzapoppin movie Yost
It seems fairly certain that Yost was influenced by the Universal Pictures film, Hellzapoppin. The movie opens with actors in devil costumes (horns, pitchforks, etc.) who are roasting people alive on skewers.