Summer 2015 Adventures: Colorado and Bishop Castle

I returned on Monday from an extended weekend in Colorado Springs, gathering with college friends to catch up and sample the local culture. (No, none of us consumed marijuana.)

Colorado features a variety of activities and beautiful sights, but one of the most bizarre is Bishop Castle, an architectural marvel for which mere photos and online descriptions could not prepare us. When we decided to check out the … structure … nestled on a piece of private land surrounded by the San Isabel National Forest, all we knew was, “Some guy tried to build a castle in the middle of Colorado.”

I mean, there are worse locations…

Online descriptions of Bishop Castle include gushing admiration for its fulfillment of the American Dream and the determination required for such an endeavor, as well as praise for the grandeur of the structure itself. Based on these accounts, I was expecting something on par with other New World ‘castles’ I had visited, like Stan Hywet Hall in Akron, Ohio, or Casa Loma in Toronto.

Much like Game of Thrones‘ Sansa Stark, I found my dreams of castles, knights, and dragons crushed under a heaping dose of reality. Instead, I stood amidst trash bins and portable toilets and looked upon a tower of iron and stone that could only have been conceived and executed within the mind of a lunatic. It was the Tower of London’s meth-addict cousin.

(Photo courtesy of my friend Jessica)

My disappointment quickly gave way to mirth and bewilderment as we began our exploration of the place, and to sheer terror as I defied my acrophobia to join the Saturday masses scaling (part of) the asylum’s heights.

A dragon! Yay!
I should note that this is also not a good spot for people with claustrophobia. (Also not my photo)

There were a few times where I felt nauseated and my legs felt like Jell-o because of the heights, and I was too focused on not falling from the ironwork or tumbling down the stairs to stop and take my own pictures of the scariest parts. There were some spots with very narrow metal spiral staircases, like in the picture above, but without railings–just a long, loose piece of rope to hold onto. While trying to maneuver around crowds of fellow visitors, without falling.

Other weird parts was that the castle is technically still a construction site, but there is no place in the building that you look at and say, “Oh, that is clearly going to be a bathroom” or “That looks like where the kitchen is going to be.” It’s just big open “halls,” rickety balconies, and narrow stairwells.

As you can imagine, a man who tries to build his own castle on almost-federally-owned land, using his own materials and methods and not really caring if anything is up to code, is going to have a few clashes with some form of the government. Visitors to the site can clearly see that Bishop responded appropriately:

(Photo not mine)

In the end, I felt a bit torn. Sure, it’s admirable that a guy would design and build his own castle, and I’m all for mocking the government at every possible chance. But the shoddiness and haphazardness of the design and construction, not to mention the many, many angry rants scrawled on plywood all over the site, is more than slightly terrifying. The recent legal disputes surrounding the ‘building’ are also fascinating.

Still…it has its pretty spots.

(Photo also by Jessica)
Yes, that’s a random ghost in one of the stained-glass panes
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