By Richard Mabey Jr.
There are bits and pieces of the old roadside attractions of New Jersey and New York that were sold off and are now on display in front and backyards all over America. The most classic examples are remnants of the old Freedomland and Palisades Park. And, in light of this trend, where the owners of roadside attractions auctioned or sold remnants of their parks, there is the eerie and haunting question, whatever happened to the horse mounted knight at Gingerbread Castle?
I was first introduced to the horse mounted knight during the Summer of 1958, when I was just four years old. Back then, it was the glory days of the roadside attractions. It was well before the invasion of the theme parks in Florida. The hard-working men and women of northern New Jersey would pack a picnic lunch, fill the big two-gallon thermos with fresh lemonade, and the family would load up in the station wagon and drive along the hallowed highways of Route 46, Route 23, and a host of county roads to the fun-filled roadside attractions that were once abundant in northern New Jersey.
And, of course, the Gingerbread Castle in Hamburg, was a must-see on the list of the top ten roadside attractions of New Jersey. As a child, I remember Grandma and Grandpa Mabey would come with my mom and dad and my sister, Patti. And, from time to time, Grandma and Grandpa Kemmerer would come along also. I guess I was about eight years old when I remember my paternal grandfather fittingly defined Gingerbread Castle as being, “something special to see.”
But, there was an eerie, haunting, scary quality to Gingerbread Castle. There was the black cat perched high on one of the peaks of the castle. Then there was the big Humpty Dumpty sitting on the backyard wall, with an expression on his face that bordered on being sinister. And, it seemed that his eyes would follow you with every step you took. And then there was the large, ceramic witch, flying on a broom, residing inside the castle itself. There was a very real part of the Gingerbread Castle that seemed to be designed to actually scare children. I know, first-hand, that parts of the imaginary castle scared me as a child!
But back to the horse mounted knight. Originally it was placed atop the roof of the castle. Then, at some point in time it was taken down and placed in the backyard of the castle, just to the left- hand side of Humpty Dumpty sitting on the stone wall. In my hours upon hours that I spent researching the mysterious horse mounted knight, I found an old black and white photo of my dad and my sister, Patti, standing beside the infamous knight. In the background of this picture, on the upper right-hand side, you can see Humpty Dumpty. This picture was taken during the Summer of 1964.
The mounted knight was often referred to as “Prince Charming.” There was a kind of eerie quality to this copper, eight-foot tall statue. It was very thin and had the quality of being two-dimensional, as if it had just jumped off the pages of a children’s fairy tale book. It is credited as being created in 1928 by Joseph Urban, the man who designed Gingerbread Castle.
In researching what happened to the horse mounted knight, I found that it may very well have been auctioned off. If you go onto this website, prices4antiques.com, then click the “Database Search” tab, then type in “Joseph Urban Knight” a picture of the infamous mounted knight will appear, you just need to scroll down a bit. If you click onto the picture of the knight, the website will bring you to the information about this landmark monument of the Gingerbread Castle legacy.
If you have any clues as to whatever happened to the mounted knight, please do email me. Perhaps, together we can solve this haunting mystery from the annals of New Jersey’s golden era of roadside attractions.
Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He can be reached at email@example.com. Please place the wording “My Life Weekly” in the subject line.