Looking Back. The Popular & Infamous Brigantine Castle.

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.

Brigantine Castle Spatola
Paul Spatola as The Wolfman

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.

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27 thoughts on “Looking Back. The Popular & Infamous Brigantine Castle.”

  1. Greatest job in the world! I worked there 6 summers as a creature, makeup artist and assistant manager and loved every minute of it and made friends that have lasted a lifetime. Worked many haunts after that and none have ever compared.

  2. Guido Battaglini

    R.I.P. Sandy Battaglini, she was best makeup artist back in the day for the Castle. She passed March 21, 2017. She is so missed by her family and friends.
    Guido Battaglini

    1. I worked with Sandy at the Bucks County Playhouse. I am saddened to see your note that she has passed. Sandy was so full of fun and positive energy.

  3. It was probably the biggest permanent haunted attraction at the time. I went through Wildwood’s Castle Dracula and it was pretty good, but the walk through part was kind of short. It burned in a fire accidentally started by two young juvenile males on Jan 16, 2002 after they broke in and lit a lighter to see. They were arrested outside, but got no jail time because they were minors. Dracula opened a year after Brigantine, 1977 and the walk through version of Castle Frankenstein opened 1978 on Fun Pier. It closed during 1982, then burned Aug 1984. The only live actor haunt operating today in South Jersey is the Ghost Ship on Mariner’s Landing pier in Wildwood. Morey’s the owners of that pier since 1977, once had a 3 floor walk through haunted house on their pier to the north from 1972-1984.

  4. Too bad Brigantine is nothing but a huge retirement home for older people. There’s absolutely nothing left to do on this island and it’s pretty sad. Start bringing entertainment back and make this island fun again

  5. The Brigantine Castle is still today the best of the best. Nothing compares to that castle. I been through so many haunted house in my 46 years on this earth and NOT ONE can compare to Brigantine Castle.
    A special thank you and shout out to PAUL SPATOLA and the old crew from the Castle for keeping it alive. Even tho the Castle is gone, they keep it alive for the world to know what once was.
    I am a very big fan of the Castle. I have so many pictures I need to develop that are put away. It’s the old negatives. Need to fix Nd a machine to do it. I have pictures of the old crew and of the Brigantine Castle that were given to me by Carmen Ricci. I also have pictures of the sister property of Brigantine (the haunted mansion in long branch nj).
    I have a Brigantine Castle brochure that was never released. One of a kind!
    Soon I will be sharing them with the world and DarkInThePark.com.
    Thank you for putting up this article it was great.
    PAUL SPATOLA let’s get a reunion going. There are a lot of old fans would love to here everyone’s story’s.
    #thecastlelives #brigantincastleforever

  6. I don’t like spooky places because I hate it when people jump out at me but I just had to visit this place back in the day. It was so long ago that I don’t remember much only 2 things: the rubber things sticking out of the wall that felt like my ankles were being grabbed & wasn’t there a picture in the first room that came alive? That fascinated me because I always like to see how things are done.
    We took my daughter who was a bout 10 at the time. She had to be carried thru because she was terrified. I have visited a few more but none were like the castle.

    1. Hi Linda.,
      My name is Catherine and I too was carried out because of the rats…lol . I will forever remember the picture and the castle. I am so very sad to hear of its demise…

  7. My father Bob H. owned the Seaside cottages back in the 80s. Long gone now and replaced with condos I beleive. Still have a few found memories left of Brigintine. Miss him and my childhood memories. Wish they would rebuild the old Castle.

  8. The best thing that ever happened to Brigantine was the Castle and pier. So many fun and memorable times with friends and family there. Sold my house back in 2015 after owning there since 1970. I don’t even go the island anymore. Nothing quaint or loveable about it anymore. Nothing but over priced condos, ridiculously crowded and nothing more than overflow parking for the Atlantic City ghetto.

  9. Okay people enough of the nonsense.
    The fact is I traveled with my grandparents in June of ’76 from my 8th grade graduation directly to Brigantine to their house there.
    In June of ’76 the castle had not yet been completed so how the hell are they saying that it opened on Memorial Day in May of 76 which is impossible given the timeline I have laid out. Can somebody please get in touch with me and provide the actual date that the castle opened cause it was not Memorial Day -absolutely impossible. My email is Mark Friedman 131@gmail

  10. I remember seeing the Commerical for the haunted Castle when I was maybe 11. I asked my mom and dad if we can go when they were on vacation in august. We always did day trips to the shore , boardwalks etc but it was a far drive (we lived in Woodbridge) compared to just going to seaside or Asbury. Still they took me and a friend one of their days off and I loved it. So much fun. We never had enough money to go to Disney or anywhere far so we always took day trips and looking back today I wouldn’t change that for anything. My parents worked hard in blue collar jobs and a good home , food on the table , clothes were always first. So doing the day trips was so cost efficient and yet the most fun too. My mom has been gone for 3 years now and dad for 6 months. Nothing will bring them back but nothing can take away the memories of our trips to the jersey shore and Brigantine will always rank high on the memory list.

  11. I grew up in Brig. my dad owned a business there. I used to ride my bike over to the Castle and is kids hung out at the arcade across the street in the evenings. Wild & free! I never went into the Castle itself- I was always too scared! Love that island and my childhood there.

  12. If memory serves the Brigantiene Castle was a fishing pier prior to.
    I remember that end of the island having had a summer home on 8th St across from the church and then one on 17th.
    When I became a young man I drove from Laurel Springs NJ always with a date to bring her in that castle. It was a wonderful time and today at the age of 65 I still reminisce about those wonderful times

  13. My grandparents owned 3 houses on a lot, there are now condos there I believe but for the life of me I can’t remember the name of the street. There was a Jim’s fishing/bait/tackle/candy store across the lot. We spent many a summer down there. We walked to the Pirates Den arcade and ice cream shop and to the Castle. My parents hung out at the Rod and Reel bar with my aunts and uncles. I remember we used to catch frogs and tie strings on their back legs and one person would stand on each side of the road and hold the ends of the string and watch the cars run over the frog. So many childhood memories were made there

  14. Hi used to go to Brigantine in the late 50s/early 60s as a child and we stayed at a place I think called CAMP HAPPY. It was a bunch of little cabins. Trying to remember actually where the cabins were…I remember it was not far from the BRIGANTINE HOTEL, now I think called The Legacy…….I visited BRIGANTINE a few times years ago and it has changed so much….Anyone know or have any info on CAMP HAPPY….Also if I remember there was a bar and pier at the north end. Any info on that. My parents spend a lot time there….Thanks

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