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Haunted Carbondale: Hundley House fascinates almost a century later

  • Stories of the Hundley murders have haunted Carbondale residents for nearly a century.

    Stories of the Hundley murders have haunted Carbondale residents for nearly a century.
    Geoff Ritter photo

By Scott Thorne
Special to the Times
updated: 10/16/2020 7:10 AM

Located at 601 W. Main St., Hundley House has attracted national attention for its reported hauntings and for the double murder that took place there the night of Dec. 12, 1928.

That night, someone shot banker and former Carbondale mayor J. C. Hundley and his wife, Luella. The murder remains unsolved.

Quite active socially, the Hundleys had returned from an evening out and were finalizing plans to close up the house for the Christmas holiday and decamp for Florida until the New Year. According to the Hundleys' butler, the last person to see the couple alive, Hundley had gone upstairs to prepare for bed while Mrs. Hundley went over last-minute details with him before the couple left by train the following day. He said later that both appeared in good spirits and were anticipating the trip.

Sometime after midnight, a neighbor across the street up nursing a sick baby heard a gunshot and saw the light go out in Hundley's bedroom. She called the police, but due to the late hour, the authorities from Murphysboro responded. (Carbondale was significantly smaller than Murphysboro at the time and the Hundley property was located at what at the time was the edge of Carbondale.) Due to the rain and muddy roads, the authorities took well over an hour to get there.

When they arrived, no one answered at the house, and the front door was locked. Entering through the kitchen door, which was shut but unlocked, they found Luella Hundley dead at the foot of the servant's staircase at the back of the house, while J. C. Hundley lay on his bed, barely alive, although he did not survive the trip to the hospital. Both had been shot with what the police later determined was a .45 caliber Colt army revolver.

Suspicion immediately fell on Hundley's son from his first marriage, Virgil, who, while well liked in the community, had a reputation as a bad businessman continually in need of money. Reportedly, the elder Hundley had just cut his son out of his will, but Virgil testified, during his later trial for the murder, that the two men had patched up their differences before the murder. No changed will was ever found, and Virgil's wife testified that he was at home at their house next door the night of the murder. Acquitted of the murders, Virgil and the other principals in the murder -- his wife and his sister, Dora -- left Carbondale. Reportedly working for the railroad for several years, Virgil divorced his wife and eventually returned to Carbondale, purchasing a house on the south side of town, where he died in the 1960s. He, his father and stepmother are all buried near each other in Carbondale's Oakland Cemetery. The case still remains open and a reward offered.

Since the 1990s, at least, Hundley House has been reportedly haunted by the spirits of J. C. and Luella. Passersby have reported hearing a gunshot and seeing the porch swing moving without a breeze. Past owners of the house have reported televisions and CD players turning on and off by themselves, doors slamming and groans as if someone in pain, especially around the back staircase.

"The Ghost Lab" paranormal investigators investigated Hundley House in 2010, with their investigation appearing on the Discovery Channel on Jan. 8, 2011.

Hundley House recently sold and is in private hands, so it's probably best to view Carbondale's best-known haunted house from the sidewalk.

• Author Scott Thorne runs Castle Perilous Games and Books in the heart of Carbondale. Haunted Carbondale walking tours leave the store at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays during October. Email for more information.

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