Thursday, October 16, 2014

Castle Dracula - Wildwood, NJ (Guest Post by Sean Gallagher)

When I was a child, my family and I often traveled to the Jersey Shore to bask in the Summer sun.  For us, a trip to Pt. Pleasant or Seaside, NJ was a quick break from the everyday hustle and bustle of the real world.  But, just a bit further south, was Wildwood, NJ.  My time there was rare, but one thing I'll never forget was this giant castle that stood out head and shoulders above the other attractions.  I was far too small and even more afraid to get anywhere close to it, but I'll never forget my Father and cousin entering what I considered Hell's gates.  Although I was too young to understand, I was looking at one of the most beloved New Jersey landmarks of all time!  Given that I don't have the memories or knowledge to truly capture what this place was, I reached out to one of my best friends, Sean Gallagher.  Today, in this very special guest post, I invite you to sit back and read from his point of view.

Take it away, @Writer_Sean

Castle Dracula - Not "Dracula's Castle," as I and many others called it - But Castle Dracula!  Regardless, the name rings a bell for all Horror fans.  EVERYONE knows who Dracula is!  He is, undoubtedly, one of the oldest and most iconic horror figures of all-time.  Dracula has taken on many different incarnations and appearances over the years, but one thing that has always remained consistent is his gigantic castle!

Enter: The beach town of Wildwood, New Jersey.  Wildwood, known for having one of the longest boardwalks in America, is filled with various attractions.  It's history began in the early 1900s and has continued to grow throughout the following decades.  Over the years, it has been home to amazing pizza, ice cream, rides, arcades, and other forms of entertainment.  One of those forms would be something a bit more on the scary side.  Let's talk Haunted Houses!!  After all, it IS Halloween season here on The Holidaze!

I won't get into the history of the various Haunted Houses showcased on the Wildwood boardwalk throughout the years.  Instead, I'll focus on one that is unquestionably the most popular and certainly coolest looking one yet - Castle Dracula!!

Built in the mid-70's, Castle Dracula was the Haunted House to trump all others.  It was constructed like an actual castle, which meant it was HUGE!  It towered into the sky and could be seen from miles away.  It's length stretched across the remainder of the boardwalk and it even had it's own draw bridge and giant-skull moat.  There were knights manning the fort, statues of lions, and an animatronic Dracula that would pop out onto the balcony from time to him.  Haunting organ music (Bach's Toccata and Fugue heard above) blared from the speakers and various "vampires" stalked the boardwalk, unexpectedly scaring people out of nowhere.  This was THE Haunted House!

My first encounter with Castle Dracula was in 1993 during my first trip to Wildwood.  As a young kid, my family and I frequently vacationed in Pt. Pleasant and Seaside, NJ.  I was already big into Horror movies so when we were driving across the bridge into Wildwood, I saw that huge castle from the back seat.  "That looks cool," I thought!  After we checked and settled in, we drove to the boardwalk as the castle started to get closer.. and closer.. and closer.  When you saw this, you knew you were almost there!

When I arrived to the boardwalk, I stared at the castle for a good half hour (or 5 minutes, but as a kid it felt like an eternity!) before realizing I was way too scared to go in.  I decided on the bumper cars, instead, telling my my parents I'd go in the castle later.  After that, as I was walking into the bathroom, a castle vampire was leaving the bathroom!  I was totally freaked out and ran screaming!  If I had to use the bathroom before seeing the vampire, just imagine how I felt AFTER I saw him!

I never did build up the courage to go in, that year.  My younger sister entered Castle Dracula and had gone in multiple times every year.  She loved it!  The following year, I played when of the costumed vampires' in Street Fighter II in an arcade across from Castle Dracula and the vampire stayed in character the whole time!  Needless to say, I was still too scared to go in that year, either... and the following year.. then the following year.  Well, you get it.

In the late 90s, I noticed a giant water slide next to the castle.  I thought it seemed odd and out of place.  Even though I never went in, I still enjoyed hanging out by the castle.  I loved listening to the creepy music and watching vampires come out and scare us all on the boardwalk.  I enjoyed seeing people leave the castle, or better yet, those who couldn't make it all the way through.  That water slide just seemed to kill some of that vibe.  Not fully, but it did make me curious.

Well, I FINALLY found the courage to enter Castle Dracula.  I said, "When I go down to Wildwood next Summer, I am going into the castle!"  It was 2002, the Summer before my senior year in high school, and I was ready.  But when we got to Wildwood, we received devastating news.  Castle Dracula had burnt down that January.  Apparently, the fire was caused by a group of teenagers who hardly got in any trouble for it at all.  Years later, a complete water park was built in that exact spot as an extension of that giant water slide.  Memories were washed away with Castle Dracula and that part of the boardwalk was never the same again.

Trying to describe Castle Dracula through words in a guest post simply doesn't do it justice, which is why I'm so thankful for YouTube.  Take a look of outside the castle on a beautiful day in 1991.

But of course, like any great Haunted House, Castle Dracula didn't truly come alive until the sun went down!  The following videos, also shot in 1991, not only show Castle Dracula from the outside, but the inside as well.  The owner of these videos recorded the entire moat ride and castle walkthrough!  How cool is that execution scene!?

Check 'em out!

Like all places open for a long period of time, some parts changed and others stayed the same, but these videos capture a brief moment in Castle Dracula's history.  Sure, this may not be "scary" compared to our modern times, but it was amazing and practically everyone who has ever gone to Wildwood wants this historic haunt rebuilt.  There was a spirit captured in the air, the spirit of horror, which is now sadly gone.

My love for this places is so strong that I'm currently writing a a book that takes place in Wildwood during the early 90s with a nice focus on Castle Dracula.  Keep your eyes open for that in the near future!  Until then, I encourage you to visit Dark in the Park for more information on Castle Dracula, including images from inside and out!

Finally, I would like to give a huge, special, thanks to an amazing friend and person, Cliff, for graciously allowing me to guest post on his great blog.  Bring on Halloween and The Holidaze!

1 comment:

  1. They've brought back Action Park, I still have hope that this will be rebuilt. It would cost alot of money, but almost every one from the 80's and 90's has this seared into their memories. This was Wildwood. We had about 20 families take over a Wildwood hotel for a week every year for 12 years and this is one of my biggest memories. I still have hope. Great article, I never get tired of Castle Dracula.


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