A Tale of Murder at Comyn Hall
While the home is now filled with apartment renters enjoying a fancy living space, the was a murder at Comyn Hall. The home was once the site of a grizzly murder with a confusing and disturbing tale. J. Samuel McCue was accused, tried, and put to death for the murder of his wife, and it’s possible both of them are still hanging out inside the home.
This historic home known as Comyn Hall doesn’t really look that ominous from the outside. Before becoming an apartment complex in 2012, the building ran as Charlottesville Home for the Aged, which took over in 1929 and ran through the late 2000s. Before all that, Comyn Hall had a dark time.
The Life of J. Samuel McCue
Sam McCue served three terms as Mayor of Charlottesville. He worked as a municipal court judge and was a successful attorney. His work in domestic relations and debt collection made him hated by many, though he did have some admirers. Shortly before the death of his wife, Sam had finished his final run as Mayor.
Of his admirers, it’s believed that Same was a womanizer and stepped out on his wife, Fannie, often. These indiscretions caused him to have enemies even outside of his work. It’s because of his many enemies that some people think Sam paid for a crime he didn’t actually commit. When Sam’s wife was found murdered at their home located at 601 Park Street, he was the very first suspect.
The Murder at Comyn Hall
Sam shared Comyn Hall with his wife Fannie and their four children up until 1904. Of course, while both are long dead now, some people believe they’ve seen the ghosts of both within the home, as well as other places in the area. After her tragic death at Comyn Hall, it’s possible that Fanny has found it hard to move on.
On September 4, 1904, someone bludgeoned Fannie with a baseball bat before strangling and shooter her. Her body was then left in the bathtub in some water on the second floor of the home. That night, leading up to the death of Fannie, nothing seemed too out of the ordinary.
According to witnesses that evening, things went a little something like this – Fannie was home after a visit with in-laws and was reportedly in the parlor with a neighbor when Sam arrived home from Washington, D.C., around 6 pm. He headed upstairs to clean up and change his clothes. Only one of their four children was home.
The family enjoyed a dinner together, of which the oldest son, Willie, said was uneventful – meaning his parents didn’t have any arguments or anything that would make one think something tragic was about to happen hours later. After dinner, Sam and his wife headed out to attend services at the First Presbyterian Church, but as they were heading out, Sam told his wife he needed to run back in and use the bathroom. When Sam finished up his trek back into the house and came back out to the fence, Fannie was gone. Sam headed to the church and found his wife seated in their usual pew.
While there wasn’t any reason to think anything was going on between the husband and wife at that point in time, some people got the wrong idea about the two showing up for church separately, which was uncommon for the couple. Some also thought that Fannie’s time out of town might have instigated what would happen later that night.
It was around 9 pm that the couple left the church and started their walk home. They met Sam’s uncle, Marshal Dinwiddie, at the gate to Comyn Hall and chatted with him for a moment. Fannie reportedly invited him in, but he said he had to get home. The neighbors across the street were on their porch when the conversation with Sam’s uncle happened, hearing all of it and watching them walk into their home at 9:15. Those neighbors, the Massies, also witnessed Sam’s brother, Dr. Frank McCue, rush into Comyn Hall only about 15 minutes later. Mr. Massie had seen something else earlier that evening, but no one found it particularly important at the time.
Sam’s story about the events of that night went that someone attacked him after entering the second floor of their home. He claimed to be knocked unconscious when he noticed someone in the bedroom and reached for his shotgun. When he regained consciousness moments later, he smelled gun smoke and headed back to the first floor to call for help. He pleaded with the operator to get help because he had been attacked and that his wife may have been shot. Then he got through to his brother. When his brother arrived, Sam told him to find Fannie. Their son was out of the house for a social call while all of this was going on.
Sam’s brother heard running water coming from the upstairs bathroom and entered the room, lighting a gas lamp. There, he found Fannie in the tub half-filled with water. She had no pulse. By the time the brother returned downstairs, a police officer had arrived. When Sam heard his brother tell the police officer that Fannie was dead, he dropped to his knees, sobbing. It was a reaction most people wouldn’t expect from someone guilty of murdering their wide, or perhaps Sam was a good actor.
Sam was taken into custody for the murder of his wife – and with no alibi, he would be quick to get the guilty verdict. The prosecution against him said that Sam and Fannie had gotten into a violent argument on returning home from church, and this fight led to Sam bludgeoning, strangling, and then shooting his wide. Some thought this was crazy, knowing that their son could have walked back in at any time and caught him in the act of murder.
Sam’s brother was on his side in the trial, expressing the fact that Sam was barely coherent after his head trauma. Unfortunately, Sam’s brother’s account of the wound grew as time went on, and the other doctor to examine Sam the night of the murder said the facial wound wasn’t that bad. There were plenty of other people speaking out against Sam – like those other churchgoers who decided the couple must have been arguing since they didn’t show up to church together as usual.
Rumor had it that the McCue’s didn’t have a happy marriage, and many family members lacked any surprise over the end of that relationship happening in death. Even their son Willie said that his parents often fought violently, though he had said that they were getting along fine that evening over the dinner table before heading to church.
Sam was housed in the Old County Jail until he was hanged on January 20, 1905. While there would remain speculation by some that Sam was innocent, he still took the fall for Fannie’s brutal murder.
The Ghosts of Comyn Hall
Sam McCue’s ghost has reportedly been spotted at both Comyn Hall and the jail at which he was housed and hanged. One reason for his haunting of the Old County Jail could be that he was the very last person ever to be executed in Charlottesville. It’s said that he actually confessed to the murder the day of his execution, but perhaps he only said those words so that everyone left alive could move on instead of spending more time wondering what really did happen. Then again, maybe he did do it.
Both Fannie and Sam have been spotted at Comyn Hall over the years since their deaths. People claim to feel the presence of someone else in the home, and spirits have been spotted that have been described as looking like the couple. Most people claim to see Sam in the basement of the home, perhaps because the tub Fannie died in was stored down there for many years. While the ghost of Fannie is most often spotted in the bathroom where her dead body was discovered, even after the tub was moved from that room.
The presence of spirits in a home where a tragic death has occurred is common. Fannie may be looking for her husband, her murderer, or perhaps she doesn’t realize she is dead. For whatever reason, the deceased couple still roams within the walls of Comyn Hall; their story is definitely heartbreaking.