Kip’s Castle and Its Strange Past: Unveiling the Mysteries


Kip’s Castle is a magnificent estate that mimics a medieval Norman castle, situated on the boundary of Montclair and Verona townships in New Jersey. The home spans 10 acres and boasts breathtaking views of New York City. But beyond its stunning veneer is a bizarre and interesting history dating back over a century.

The Original Owners

Kip’s Castle was constructed in the early 1900s by Frederic Ellsworth Kip, a rich textile inventor and manufacturer, and his wife Charlotte Bishop Williams Kip, who designed the structure and gardens. The “Kypsburg” castle included 30 rooms with vaulted ceilings, six fireplaces, and a rose garden. The Kips remained there until Charlotte died in 1926 when Frederic sold the land to a Spanish aristocrat called Signono Munoz.

The Religious Cult

Munoz, who acquired his money in the oil sector, converted the castle into a religious retreat for the “Universal Peace Mission Movement” cult. The cult was founded by Father Divine, a charismatic preacher who claimed to be God and attracted thousands of followers, the majority of whom were African Americans.

Father Divine promoted racial peace, celibacy, communal life, and economic independence. He also worked miracles, including healing the ill, reviving the dead, and multiplying food. Munoz gave the castle to Father Divine, who lived there with his inner band of adherents, known as the “Heavenly Family”.

The Indian guru

In the 1980s, the castle was sold to Osho, an Indian guru also known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Osho was a controversial person who promoted a philosophy of free love, meditation, and defiance of conventional standards. He had a large number of disciples who donned red or orange clothing and lived in communes all over the world.

Osho utilized the castle as a monastery, giving lectures and leading meditation sessions. He has faced legal issues, including tax evasion, visa fraud, and bioterrorism. He died in 1990, and his supporters abandoned the castle shortly after.

The Law Firm

Schwartz, Tobia & Stanziale, a legal company, acquired the castle in 1985 and restored it to its full magnificence. The castle served as the firm’s office, as well as a venue for public tours and events. The castle became a famous tourist destination, especially during Halloween when it was decked with eerie decorations and lights. The company also intended to build townhouses on the land but met objections and litigation from local officials. In 2006, the corporation listed the castle for sale.

The County Park

The County of Essex purchased the castle in 2007 using subsidies from the New Jersey Green Acres Program and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. The castle joined the historic Essex County Park System and was dubbed Kip’s Castle Park.

The park is available to the public for recreational, educational, and cultural purposes. The castle holds administrative offices, as well as a museum, conference area, and wedding and event site. The park also has a 12-member advisory board that oversees the estate’s care, repair, and development.

Final Words

Finally, Kip’s Castle in New Jersey has seen amazing transformations throughout its century-long history. From its beginnings as the home of textile magnate Frederic Kip to its time as a religious retreat for the “Universal Peace Mission Movement” cult and later as a monastery for the controversial Indian guru Osho, to its current role as a county park and cultural venue, the castle stands as a testament to the many chapters of its history and the tenacity of its architectural splendor.

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