(Sound of old truck backing up.)
DAVE ISAY: Jim Bishop backs up his rather bedraggled-looking green Dodge truck.
Attached to the front of this truck is a cable — part of a pulley system which is gradually hoisting about 1000 pounds of Colorado granite up the side of a one hundred-foot tall tower.
JIM BISHOP: Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, muscle for muscle, I consider it the world’s biggest one-man physical project with the help of God. Always open free to the public.
ISAY: Jim Bishop is an intense man with a sharp-featured face. He is rather thin for someone who lugs around tons of boulders each day, which he has been doing now since 1969, constructing this castle on a small parcel of land that he purchased as a teenager.
BISHOP: Without cranes, without money, without a rich daddy, by hand, high school dropout. I work for a living, paid for as I go. No bankers, no loans, no blueprints, no building permit, no inspectors. A place of freedom. A fight for freedom . . .
ISAY: The castle has a fairy-tale feel to it, surrounded by the snow-covered Rockies. It is constructed of rough granite boulders and concrete. There are arches and flying buttresses. There are onion domes and spires and suspended walkways leading from one tower to the next — all of it structurally sound, he insists.
At the apex of the castle’s roof is a gargoyle – a 25- foot long stainless steel dragon’s head made of scrap metal, it’s hinged jaw wide open, a long silver tongue darting out.
BISHOP: The nose of the dragon is a chimney. The mouth will be a burner of propane, also sucking in diesel, so makes orange fire and black smoke. And a little electric starter will light it up, and it will blow fire way out: a fire-breathing dragon.
ISAY: One of many plans Jim Bishop has for this castle . . .
BISHOP: You want to walk in and look at it?
ISAY: Bishop leads the way inside of this structure — an empty shell filled with piles of rocks and wood. But not for long, he says.
BISHOP: Creeks, fountains, wishing wells. They’ll be double wrought iron gates here, a wrought iron and glass scenic elevator, and a gravity belt escalator down that far buttress. The weight of the people will turn automotive alternators, charging batteries — a tourist- or people electric system. And this tunnel will go back to here . . .
ISAY: Why, one may wonder, is Jim Bishop doing this? ’To be somebody,’ he says. ’For recognition.’ This recognition, however, has not been easy to come by.
Despite the fact that the castle gets hundreds of visitors each day during the summer months — ”a poor man’s Disneyland,” he calls it — Jim Bishop has never been able to convince Colorado to put it on the state’s travel map.
And, over the past quarter century, Jim Bishop has gotten almost no attention from the press. It is a source of profound frustration for him. Indeed, it has become something of an obsession — on par, almost, with the building of this castle.
BISHOP: You ever hear of a guy named Buttafuoco?
BISHOP: They go on and on about Buttafuoco. What in the hell did he do? Did he ever build anything with his hands? Conan O’Brien — where in the hell did he come from? Arthur Godfrey — was he an actor? You hear about ’em over and over. They’re all newsworthy. And here you guys are — after 24 years, you’re here.
ISAY: Bishop’s castle is always open free to the public. It’s located 16 miles north of Rye, Colorado, off Highway 165.
BISHOP: I’ve heard of Imelda Marcos. I’ve heard of Saddaam Hussein. I’ve heard of all these other people. Have they ever heard of this? They don’t care, do they? They don’t care. I care. If they’re so newsworthy, why ain’t this newsworthy?