The old Brigantine Castle. Brigantine’s claim to fame in the late 70’s, an era that helped put Brigantine on the map.
The Brigantine Castle launched on the Memorial Day weekend of 1976. Closed Spring 1985. Went down in a blaze on September 25, 1987.
The most famous single attraction in the history of Brigantine Beach. Infamous and controversial too.
Businessman Carmen Ricci approached the City of Brigantine in 1975. Ricci had an ambitious plan to renovate the old Seahorse Pier at 14th Street North.
The Seahorse was a beer joint and fishing pier. It was beaten up over the years by storms and neglect. Ricci obtained city approval to build a massive wooden structure over the surf. It would include a medieval style haunted castle with turrets soaring to over 100 feet. It would be a haunted castle themed attraction.
Work started in early 1976, and The Brigantine Castle was ready to open just 150 days later.
In addition to the haunted house, The Brigantine Castle also featured restaurants, miniature golf, arcade games, gift shops and a fishing pier. The castle also boosted the entire economy of the island.
Visitors loved the live spooks that haunted 5 levels of twisting walkways and scary artwork.
TV advertising campaigns in Philly and New York brought visitors to the Brigantine Castle by the car and bus load.
The lines went down the block. People waited hours to get in the first year. But there was a downside. Neighbors began complaining about inadequate parking and bathrooms.
Visitors clogging parking spots. Urinating on lawns. Knocking on doors to use bath rooms. Eventually the city had to limit the number of buses coming into Brigantine.
At one time:
- Brigantine Castle employed over 35.
- Attracted over 1 million visitors to Brigantine annually.
- Annual revenues in excess of $2 million.
The Brigantine Castle had a talented cast of actors with professional makeup and costumes.
The Brigantine Castle faced lawsuits from neighbors that led to a restriction on bus traffic. But a horrible amusement park tragedy elsewhere in Jersey is what ultimately shut down the Brigantine Castle.
On May 11, 1984, eight teenagers were trapped and killed by fire inside the haunted house at Six Flags Great Adventure. This forever changed the way public safety officials handles such attractions. Fire codes, mandatory sprinkler systems and structural integrity. The Brigantine haunted house did have sprinklers and external fire escapes. The rest of the pier did not.
Brigantine Beach officials required the Ricci, the owner, to conduct an engineering study. The study revealed that the pier structure was unsafe and in need of significant repairs.
Ready to open the 1985 season, tensions worsened between owner Ricci and Brigantine officials. Ricco decided to close for good.
The castle and pier were later sold to a developer. A condo complex was planned for the site. Demolition began in late summer 1987. Then, a fire broke out a few months later on the morning of September 25. The Brigantine Castle and pier were completely destroyed. All that remained were some pilings. In January 1988, two Atlantic City men were arrested and charged with arson.
Thx to Bob Lund for inspiring this recap of Brigantine history.