For 40 years, Jim Bishop has been building a castle on a mountainside in central Colorado. "Did it all myself, don't want any help," he says mechanically as he unloads a pile of rocks that he's hoisted to the 70-foot level on one of the castle towers.
Every year since 1969, Bishop has single-handedly gathered and set over 1000 tons of rock to create this stone and iron fortress in the middle of nowhere. Bishop calls it "a monument to hardworking people" and "America's biggest, one-man, physical project." "I always wanted a castle. Every man wants a castle," Bishop continues, his voice a broken record, answering the same questions he's obviously been asked thousands of times before.
It hasn't been easy. For most of those 40 years Bishop was engaged in a running battle with Washington bureaucrats over the rocks that he used, which came from the San Isabel National Forest that surrounds the castle property. Bishop felt that they were his for the taking, the government wanted to charge him per truckload.
Another bone of contention that stuck in Bishop's craw belonged to the Colorado state Chamber of Commerce, which refused to list Bishop Castle as an attraction in its official tourism guides.
Happily, those angry years are in the past. Both Uncle Sam and the Colorado Chamber now recognize that Bishop's dementia concretia is marketable, and that he's transformed some heavy, unwanted rocks into pure tourism gold.
The castle is a popular spot. "I been here three times," said one visitor. "I'm taking my kids to see what one man can do," said another. Other popular comments: "He's crazy," "Where does he get the time?" and "Where does he get the money?"
Bishop's goal is to complete his castle before he dies. He has no thought of slowing down. Although the castle is mostly a hollow shell of cemented rocks and ornamental ironwork (Jim Bishop's regular line of business), his future plans include a moat and a drawbridge, a roller coaster mounted on the castle's outer wall, a balcony big enough to hold an orchestra, and a second castle for Phoebe, his wife. (By 2005, Jim had added a large metal mesh dome on top of the castle, which rotates when visitors run in it.)
"I want to live as long as I can and keep building that castle bigger and bigger and bigger."
PARENTS ALERT: Bishop's Castle may look like Hogwarts, but Jim Bishop is no cuddly Dumbledore. He's a tough-talking man with strong beliefs, and sometimes he expresses them bluntly and loudly. If you or your children want to avoid potentially offensive rants (involving politics and race), you may want to steer clear.