Monday, May 3, 2010

New Jersey's Haunted 70's

New Jersey was fortunate to have had a brief period in the mid-1970's to the early 1980's when haunted attractions were a major hit in the state. What started with Brigantine Castle in Brigantine soon spawned the Haunted Mansion in Long Branch and then the Haunted Castle at Six Flags Great Adventure.

According to an online history, Brigantine Castle's demise began after the seaside community limited the number of charter buses that could bring in tourists to the Castle, as well as restrictions on advertising. When a summer storm damaged the underinsured attraction, the owner closed the Castle for good in 1984.

The Haunted Mansion was born after its owner had visited Brigantine Castle and asked its owner for help in building one in Long Branch. If you view the commercials for the two attractions preserved on their individual history sites, you'll see the similarities in the promotion (even including parts of the same video). At its height, the Mansion would attract 100,000 people a week. The haunted aspect of the attraction was toned down in 1985 when the pier it was located on was dubbed "Kid's World."A gas leak in 1987 caused a fire that burned the Mansion down to its pilings.

This "golden period" of haunted houses came to a tragic end in 1984 when eight people perished in a fire at the Haunted Castle Six Flags attraction and building inspections became more strict. Built in 1979, it was destroyed by fire in 1984.

There was apparently a fourth attraction called Castle Dracula in Wildwood, but I have no recollection whatsoever of it. It opened in 1977 and also met its death as a result of fire.

Although I remember the first three attractions, it was only because of their advertising. I may have seen Castle Dracula ads too, but it doesn't shake any of the cobwebs in my brain. I never actually visited any of them, since unlike many fellow haunters, while I enjoyed Halloween as a kid it wasn't an obsession of mine until, oh, last year.

One of the ads at some point said "...and Renfield and his spiders." I'm thinking it was Brigantine Castle, but I can't find any confirmation of it. Does anybody else remember this? I recall them showing Renfield sitting in a cell shoving spiders into his mouth.

Now none of these places approached Disney's Haunted Mansion (but then again, what does?), but it seems a shame that for a state that had a brief, shining moment in permanent haunted attractions it really has nothing to show for it now.



  1. I was fortunate enough to have been to Brigatine as a kid, and almost every summer in Dracula's Castle. They were really great fun places. Good post!

  2. Even though I grew up in South Jersey I never went to any of these places--the TV commercials alone were enough to terrify me!

  3. JT and Will,

    Now of course I'm sorry I didn't go to any of these attractions when they were around. Today I wouldn't think twice about heading down to the Jersey shore on a whim (I do it all the time -- love Martell's Tiki Bar in Point Pleasant! You can't beat having drinks served to you on the private beach!).

    Back in the '70's though, it was a big deal if my parents wanted to drive that far. IIRC, traffic jams were just as much a problem back then as they are today. It would be nice to see someone revive one of these haunts however.


  4. Rich,

    You are correct. Brigantine Castle...Renfield and his spiders.

    I though I was the only one that remembered that. They used to play the commercials all the time on WOR- Channel 9.

    For some reason I was thinking about this and just plggeded some words into google and came accross your blog.

    Never made it to the castle. I was probaly about 8-10 yrs old at the time and none of the grown-up around me had any interest.


    Haunted Mansion was a sister attraction to Brigantine Castle. Above is a link the commercial with Renfield.

    1. Thank you! I can now go to sleep at night.


  6. I was actually one of the actors at the Hainted Mansion back in 1980. I comiuted from New York City by train for the fun of the job not the money as we made minimium wage.

  7. Me and my brothers went too the long branch haunted mansion it was our favorite place too go too I went back too long branch and it was sad too see it all gone. I remember the first time my brother took me in I was so scared I ran out the back as fast as I could it later become my work place once I turned 16 teen I had my first summer job there . I work one summer there and that was it .
    My brother called me and said the haunted mansion burned down I could not believe it was gone alot of fond memories for me and my brothers .


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