The Order of Gimghoul has generated curiosity and unanswered questions within UNC. With its own castle off campus, the secret society has drawn people to Wilson Library, where private records are kept on the order. Staff writer Morgan Howard spoke with a Wilson university archivist, Nicholas Graham, and a manuscript reference librarian, Matthew Turi, about the mysterious organization.
The Daily Tar Heel: How long have you been working at UNC?
Nicholas Graham: I’ve been working at UNC for about 10 years, but I’ve been in University Archives just since Oct. 1.
DTH: Have you ever personally researched the Order of Gimghoul society before?
NG: I used to work in the North Carolina Collection when I was here as a graduate student in the library school, so I think many years ago, I did a little work on it. I think I was just looking up the history because I was curious, like I think a lot of students are. I found what was published, but I hadn’t actually looked at the records, and I haven’t recently looked at them.
DTH: So where do you think curiosity for this society comes from?
NG: A couple of things. I mean it’s mysterious — it’s a secret society. I think UNC used to have a lot of secret societies. If you look at the yearbooks, you see a lot of mysterious-sounding groups, and Gimghoul is just one of them. But they’re one that survived, and they have a castle. That certainly make me curious.
Matt Turi: I think you’re right; we have other societies that are closed — I wouldn’t call them secret, but none of them have the sort of cache that Gimghoul does.
NG: If you look at yearbooks from the ’20s, ’30s or earlier, there were a lot of these groups around then — maybe a dozen or so. Now there are few that I’m aware of that are still around.
MT: I don’t understand the broader context, but this is common at other universities.
NG: The Ivy League schools have some of the most famous ones. Skull and Bones at Yale is nationally the most famous. It was something that universities did, and I think clearly at least a few have hung on.
DTH: Is Gimghoul still active today?
NG: Yep, it’s still an active group on campus.
DTH: They have to obviously send you things to be in University archives?
NG: The records that are here are private. They’re only for access by members and former members — or just current members?
MT: Well, there’s a restricted portion only for members and former members, but then there’s an open portion.
NG: And the older records, like 50 years older are open, and there’s also things you can find in the collection like newspaper clippings and articles about Gimghouls. There’s often confusion. People will look at the records, and those are the dates just of the papers we have. That doesn’t really reflect whether or not the organization is still active, because they still use those papers, I’m sure. So they don’t want to give them to us quite yet.
DTH: How accessible are these records?
MT: I don’t know in terms of percentage of the actual collection, but the portion is accessible because of the agreement we have with the order. It’s accessible to everybody who comes here and fills out the appropriate agreements and agrees to behave in certain ways. They’re accessible as they can be to the public in the agreement we have with the order.