The Legend of Gimghoul Castle

Gimghoul Castle CHAPEL HILL -- 1/14/01
The Gimghoul Castle ghost story has been circulating in these parts for over a hundred years.

A vague memory of a somewhat inebriated evening more than 20 years ago is the only connection I can make to the legendary castle. Yes, we saw the supposed "bloody rock," where folklore claims a young man lost his life in a duel. We certainly didn't stick around long enough to see if the ghost truly existed. No trespassing signs posted very obviously dissuaded us from making ourselves at home.

Legend has it that the ghost is the soul of an 18 year-old man named Peter Dromgoole, who could very well be nearby this spot where his body was buried in a shallow grave in 1833. They say his companions left him here, dragging the rock on top of him in an attempt to cover up the occurrence. Nothing like good friends, huh?

In one particularly poignant recounting of the tale, a local girl named Fanny, the object of Peter's affections, was said to have returned to the castle daily, not knowing her love had been murdered, praying for his return until her ultimate death from sorrow and loneliness.

In another account, Fanny was told of the duel as it was happening, and arrived at the scene in her night clothes as Peter fell to the ground, the blood from the fight splattering onto the rock, staining it for all time. Peter died in her arms, more than likely gasping the UNC fight song with his last breath.

In what may be the actual history of Peter Dromgoole, a relative wrote in the 1920s that it wasn't him at all in the duel, but an uncle, who in fact survived the fight. This account had Peter leaving for Europe, never to be seen or heard from again. Either way, he's dead now, so his ghost must be roaming around out there somewhere.

Gimghoul Castle

The one thing that seems to quite possibly be a fact in the Gimghoul Castle legend is the secret society known as the Order of Gimghoul. Founded in 1889, the order is said to be composed of noted UNC alumni. Rumor has it that the order still meets from time to time at the castle, but no concrete trace of the group, such as a picture or a roster of the group's current members, seems to exist.

I was recently informed that some of the old records of the Order of Gimghoul reside in the Wilson Library at UNC. It's said members are named in these documents, and those that are older than 50 years are available to the general public. Sure enough, I found an Inventory of the Order of Gimghoul Records, 1832-1997 - Collection Number 40262 online at http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/uars/ead/40262.html.

The castle, located on Gimghoul Road in Chapel Hill and originally known as Hippol Castle, is said to have taken somewhere between 4 and 6 years to build, beginning in the early 1920s, at a cost of $50,000. Legend claims that atisans from France were hired to painstakingly cut the 1,300 tons of stones used to construct it. Gimghoul Castle is listed in the International Registry of Castles and the North Carolina Historical Society.

As for the ghosts said to haunt the place, only Peter and Fanny can tell you for sure, and they aren't talking, not to me anyway.


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