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Wednesday August 17th

Born & bred, even after you're dead: Halloween tour tells tales of UNC ghosts

Sarah George-Waterfield leads Thrills 'n Chills tour around UNC campus Thursday night.
Buy Photos Sarah George-Waterfield leads Thrills 'n Chills tour around UNC campus Thursday night.

If any students happened to be on North Campus last Thursday evening, they may have caught a glimpse of something rather out of the ordinary. 

Whether in the Pit or on their way back to their dorm, they might have spotted a woman, dressed in an elegant Victorian gown and carrying a lantern, gliding through campus, followed by a large entourage of both UNC students and community members. This was not just some sort of strange apparition, but rather the 2nd annual Thrills n’ Chills Halloween Tour run by the UNC Visitors’ Center. 

The tour, which is offered as part of the Priceless Gem Tour series, takes thrill seekers to the spookiest spots on campus. Graduate manager for the Visitors' Center, Sarah George-Waterfield, acts as a costumed tour guide, entertaining her audience with stories of the ghosts. 

“I think that ghost stories on campus are some of the most evocative and interesting,” George-Waterfield said. “But, they are kind of the least known also.” 

Therefore, George-Waterfield came up with the idea for this tour last year and saw such success that the tour was held again. 

Sarah Champion, administrative manager for the UNC Visitors’ Center, said the tour was George-Waterfield's brain child.

“It’s been one of the most popular tours so far," Champion said.

The first highlight of the tour came at Caldwell Hall, which currently houses the Department of Philosophy. The building, however, once housed the medical school, and for some unknown reason, the door to what used to be the dissection lab has remained perpetually locked to this day. Over the years, students in Caldwell Hall have reported hearing voices and footsteps from within the locked room even when no one else was in the building, George-Waterfield said. 

More recently, students claim to have seen a ghost resembling the first chair of the philosophy department, Henry Horace Williams, floating through the halls of Caldwell Hall. On second glance, the vision disappears. 

The second highlight came on the outskirts of campus near Battle Park. Not too far from Gimghoul Castle, on an area known as Piney Point, there is a rock that has been stained red with blood for generations. 

Legend has it that UNC student Peter Dromgoole fell in love with a girl from Chapel Hill, Fannie, in 1832. Peter and Fannie would come out to the rock to spend time together. Another student was also in love with Fannie and challenged Peter to a duel, which he lost. He bled out on the rock where he had spent so many hours with his love, Fannie, and was buried in a shallow grave nearby. 

Not knowing what happened, Fannie came searching and calling for Peter. She died later that year of a broken heart and their two ghosts reportedly haunt Piney Point, always calling out for each other, George-Waterfield said. 

“It’s the Peter Drumgoole story that I love telling,” George-Waterfield said. “It’s the most fleshed out.” 

The Gimghoul Castle has been said to be home to the Order of Gimghoul, a not-so-secret secret society. From time to time, photographs have appeared to depict the group, including many prominent UNC men. In each image, the figure of the devil can always be found somewhere.

Of course, no Halloween tour could be complete without a walk through the graveyard. Although no particular ghost stories are tied to those that lie in the cemetery on campus, there is no mistaking the chill that settles over the area. 

“The scariest part of the tour was walking through the cemetery at night, just because of all the stigma around cemeteries,” said first-year Nandie Elhadidy, who went on the tour with her friends. “It was fun, but it was also creepy.”

The next stop on the tour was Memorial Hall. During renovations of the hall, a construction worker fell to his death. Adorned in a fedora, his ghost has often been spotted sitting alone in the audience and is said to bring a feeling of dread upon the room. For that reason, the staff of Memorial Hall always leave one open seat for this ghost guest.

The last stop of the tour was at The Carolina Inn. A man named William Jacocks lived in Room 252 from 1948 until his death in 1965. His ghost has been known to haunt that room, raising shades and moving towels and rugs. In addition, the door to the room is sometimes inexplicably unable to be unlocked until taken off the hinges, George-Waterfield said. 

To put the whole tour together, George-Waterfield had to complete extensive research.  

“There were a whole bunch of different sources that had some of them. There are certainly books that have been written about Chapel Hill ghost stories and North Carolina ghost stories,” George-Waterfield said. “But honestly most of the stories that we get on campus came from hints and whispers of them from the people that work and live among these spirits all the time.” 

With so many ghosts on campuses, University students and community members should keep a watchful eye out this Halloween as they may just catch a glimpse of something extra spooky. 


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