In North Carolina, on UNC campus east of Chapel Hill there is a monument to a mysterious student love triangle where a blood-stained rock is the only clue to the unknown fate of Peter Dromgoole.
Gimghoul Castle (originally known as Hippol Castle) is located at a top of a hill known as Piney Prospect. Built in the 1920s, artisans from France were brought to work on its construction.
Next to it is a boulder with a red discoloration that supposedly covers the grave of Peter Dromgoole. There are several versions of the story that led to Peter's tragic ending.
Born into a prominent Virginia family, Peter attended the university in 1833. Like modern-day students he developed a taste for wild company and gambling.
He fell in love with a girl named Fanny who lived in Chapel Hill. They would meet in secret at Piney Prospect.
Fanny rejected another suitor in favor of Peter. This man challenged his rival to a duel, and they met at Piney Prospect with their seconds to settle the score. That day Peter was mortally wounded with a bullet to his chest. As he lay dying he called out the names of his mother and his sweetheart. He was not yet 20 years old.
Dueling was against the law, and the rival with the help of his seconds buried Peter under the big rock. Prior to the duel, his parents had received reports of his bad behavior in school, and after his disappearance, many thought he returned home.
Within a year Fanny is said to have died of a broken heart. In an alternate version, she never knew of Peter's death and continued to come everyday where she would meet her lover. Thinking he forgot her, she died of sorrow.
The reddish stain that supposedly marks the place where Peter was interred in secret has withstood decades of rain, frost and snow.
If Peter met his end as a result of a duel is unknown, however he did attend Chapel Hill as a student, but the rest of the story is an enigma.
The only truth ascertained is that he applied to the University of North Carolina, but failed his entrance exam. He left for Europe, and nothing more was ever heard of him. The story of the duel could have originated with one fought by his uncle George C. Dromgoole in 1837, which had a better outcome.
At the beginning many thought Peter went out west to seek his fortune, since he had done so poorly at the university. It was not until after the Civil War, when an officer and alumni who attended the school during those years, told the story of the duel.
In 1889, five students established the Order of Dromgoole after hearing the story of Peter's duel. Later they shortened the name to Gimghoul. Celebrated alumni have belonged to it. Some consider it an exclusive society, which disbanded but only in name, but continue to meet in secret.
Neither the Order of the Gimghouls or anyone else have found the answer as to the fate of Peter.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer