Brigantine Castle was located on the ocean beach at 14th Street North and Brigantine Avenue in Brigantine, NJ. The castle pier was originally a dime beer place known as the Seahorse Pier. Then, in the mid-1970s, entrepreneur Carmen J. Ricci presented plans to the city to renovate the pier and construct the castle. Ricci managed to get city approval for the project by presenting a scale model and attractive artist renderings of the castle. Construction on the castle complex began on January 1st, 1976, and was completed in 150 days to open for memorial weekend of 1976. There were four individuals involved in the design and creation of the castle complex. These individuals were Jim DeMusz (artist and designer), William Browning (artist and lead designer), Bob Dorian (voice of the castle advertising and designer), and Carmen J. Ricci (designer, creator, and supervisor of the project). The construction of Brigantine Castle in such a short period of time was an amazing accomplishment. Mr. Ricci stated, "We had a lot of fun and some pain building this great complex. For its day it was something you had to see and probably would be today also."
In its early years, the castle was drawing a million tourists annually from along the East Coast. This was due largely to Ricci’s extensive advertising campaign which included TV commercials in Philadelphia, North Jersey, and New York. Another reason for the success of the castle was the talents of its original manager Sandy Batallini. According to Carmen Ricci, "her talent and creativity is what made Brigantine Castle one of the best haunted attractions of its era." Mr. Ricci went on to describe Batallini as an actress who would, "put her heart and soul into every day's performances."
Although early business was great for Brigantine Castle, it was creating many problems with the Brigantine community. The castle facilities were not adequate to handle the busloads of visitors to the pier. Kids were urinating in lawns, traffic and parking became a problem, and kids were knocking on people’s doors asking to use their bathrooms. This lead to a law suit being filed against Ricci by Joe Higgins in the late 70s. Although Higgins’ organization lost the lawsuit, the city did adopt some ordinances which limited charter bus traffic and castle advertising. This lead to a drop in business at the castle.
There are many factors which lead to the closing of the Brigantine Castle complex. The main reason was an August storm which caused 500,000 dollars worth of damage to the castle pier. Although Ricci held a government flood insurance policy, the federal government refused to pay for the damages caused by the storm. Another reason for the demise of the complex was stricter state regulations brought about by the May 1984 fire at Great Adventure which killed 8 children in a haunted house. For these reasons, and because the castle was drawing fewer visitors, Carmen Ricci decided to close the castle for good in 1984. He finally sold the pier in April of 1987 for approximately $1 million. The new owner planed on demolishing the castle and building a recreation facility. Ironically, the week that demolition was to take place, the castle caught on fire and completely burnt to the ground. The fire was on September 25, 1987.
The new owner never built anything on the site because the pilings were damaged. All that remains of the castle today are some of those burnt pilings.
by B. Cherkasky
Sources: “A castle not wanted”. The Sun. April 10, 1985.
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