The Castle Project: Colorado’s Haunted Mansion: a film review by Mark R. Leeper.

The Croke-Patterson Mansion, considered one of the most haunted sites in Denver, is studied by its new owner, Brian Higgins, who claims to have seen ghostly happenings while renovating. This film, ‘The Castle Project’, tells the history of the mansion, the stories about some of its former owners, shows some automatic camera footage worthy of ‘Paranormal Activity’ and reveals Higgins’ own speculations why this house seems to attract spirits. What director Higgins captures on film is less than convincing to the sceptical eye.

Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10

Full Disclosure: I am a confirmed sceptic when it comes to paranormal stories. There is not much in this that could convince me of the existence of ghosts. I keep an open mind, but there is no evidence in this film that would be difficult to fake for the camera.

The Castle Project: Colorado's Haunted Mansion
The Castle Project: Colorado’s Haunted Mansion

The Croke-Patterson Mansion really is a notorious building in Denver and has been the focus of stories of ghosts and strange happenings. Much like the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, it has stoked local imagination and inspired legends. Whenever you have a local myth of this sort it will attract stories that are purely made-up but attention-getting or profitable. Director Brian Higgins, who is also the building’s owner and its newest architect, wants to turn the mansion into a ’boutique hotel’ with a mysterious reputation. This may suggest his motives for making this film.

The Croke-Patterson is an ornate Chateau-esque home built in Denver in 1891. The building is purported to be haunted and it is the setting for a large collection of stories and rumours of odd noises, odder odors, guard dog suicides and apparitions. In working on the building, Higgins came in contact with the building’s strange history. He decided to spend some nights in the house and set up an automatic camera to record any strange phenomena. The results he brought together to create this documentary.

The film divides its narrative into chapters on topics such as Thomas Patterson, a newspaper editor who traded ranch land to own the house. There is a chapter on the architecture. There are chapters devoted to eyewitness accounts of strange happenings in the house. Of particular interest is the chapter on Night 1. The automatic camera picks up lights on the wall. Higgins quickly dismisses the possibility that what he is seeing are so-called ‘orbs’ as described in the film as, ‘ghosts traveling as balls of light’. He claims instead it is dust. It looks nothing like dust or like orbs. It is very obviously a beam from a light coming from the right of the camera with the source out of camera range. It loses its round shape when it hits a wall at a different angle, just what you would expect from a flashlight beam. By not acknowledging the obvious, Higgins sheds serious doubt on his credibility.

There is not a lot in this ‘documentary’ you could not find in a ‘found-footage’ horror film. None of the images captured on camera would be hard for even an amateur filmmaker to create.

‘The Castle Project: Colorado’s Haunted Mansion’ is being released in the Halloween season which, of course, seems appropriate. But there is not much reason to consider this as being any more than a low-budget horror film dressed as a documentary. I hate to squelch the cottage industry built around the reputation of this mansion, but I rate ‘The Castle Project: Colorado’s Haunted Mansion’ a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10.

‘The Castle Project: Colorado’s Haunted Mansion’ was released on DVD October 1 and will also be available through video on demand.

Mark R. Leeper

 (C) Mark R. Leeper 2013

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