Carolina ghost stories: Gimghoul Castle

The castle sits outside Carolina’s eastern boundary and is intertwined with the legend of Peter Dromgoole.

Gimghoul Castle
Ghost Stories Gimghoul Castle

To the east of campus sits famed Gimghoul Castle. This castle and its surrounding area, located at the end of Gimghoul Road, has long inspired rumor among students and residents alike. Ask any Carolina student about the castle, and most would tell you the story of Peter Dromgoole. But who was he? And what happened to him?

As told by the UNC Graduate School, legend has it that Peter Dromgoole, a student who enrolled at the University in 1833, fell in love with a local woman known as Miss Fanny. However, Peter was not the only student entranced by Miss Fanny, as there was another student jealously vying for her love. In the spirit of the times, Peter and this challenging suitor decided to settle the matter with a pistol duel. The two met one night near present-day Gimghoul Castle, and Peter lost the duel — badly. He died on a rock, permanently staining it with his blood. The duel’s winner and panicking witnesses used that very rock to cover the shallow grave they quickly dug for Peter’s body.

Fanny heard of the duel and returned to the very site each day, wondering where her missing Peter had gone. It is said that she died of a broken heart as she waited for her murdered lover to return. Another version of the story shares that Fanny arrived just as Peter was shot, only to have him die in her loving arms, his blood staining her nightclothes and that same rock.

Supposedly, visitors can still visit this very rock and see these strange blood-red stains. While the story is fiction, Peter Dromgoole was a real person. Apparently, Peter, who did indeed apply to Carolina in 1833, failed his entrance exams and absconded off to Europe. The story seems to have been inspired by Peter’s uncle, George C. Dromgoole, who fought in a duel in 1837.

Still, as one of Carolina’s most popular legends, the story encouraged the creation of the University’s most mysterious secret society: the Order of Gimghoul.

According to Carolina’s Virtual Museum of University History, in 1889, five undergraduate students founded the Order of Gimghoul after hearing University President Kemp Battle share Peter’s story. The students named their newfound society the Order of Dromgoole in Peter’s honor, later shortening it to Gimghoul. The organization is said to claim certain noted Carolina alumni among its members.