Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mystery Castle: A Bizarre Find


From the foothills of South Mountain an odd looking structure is seen perched above. We drove down a small dirt road to find a bit of a scattered parking lot. After parking between a rock and a cactus, we walked up the path towards the remarkable entrance.

One of the things you will take note of is the attention-grabbing way it looks somewhat like a castle, a fort, and cabin all rolled into one amazing structure. You can’t miss the long wood balcony, and the peculiarly placed turrets and parapets. The first thing you see is an old wooden wagon wheel built into a wall. You just know that this place is going to more than some boring tourist trap.


I have to say I was blown away by all the materials that were used to create this place known as “Mystery Castle”. We waited a few minutes before the guide whisked us upstairs for the tour. They started with the history of this rather unique place.

In 1930, Boyce Luther Gulley was diagnosed with tuberculosis, left his wife and daughter in Seattle, Washington, and headed southwest to Arizona. Selfishly, he never told them of the disease and disappeared without a trace. It would be 15 years before Mary Lou Gulley and her mother would find out what happen to their missing loved one. An Arizona lawyer sent them word that Boyce had passed away. Imagine their shock to find out that he had been living in Arizona this whole time when they assumed he was dead.

One of Mary Lou’s vague memories of her father was when she was a small child at the beach and making sand castles together. She asked him to build her a large castle that was strong and one she could live in. It would be many years later before she would see that promised fulfilled. He built the strange castle on the mountain near his mining claim with his little girl in mind.

As soon as Mary Lou and her Mother found out about the castle, they moved to Arizona to live there. According to her father’s will, they had to live in the castle at least three years. After the three years, they were able to open the trapdoor which had some interesting treasures hidden there. To their surprise, buried under the floorboards were two $500 bills, gold nuggets, and a Valentine’s Day card. Mary Lou was touched because she made the card for him when she was a little girl and he saved it all these years. It wasn’t long before she fell in love with her castle. She still lives in a small house behind the castle and gives tours during the time of year when the weather is cooler in Arizona.

Not only is the story of how this castle came about interesting, but all the unusual materials the castle was constructed from is out of the ordinary too. The castle is approximately 8,000 square feet with 18 rooms. These rooms consist of a caretaker’s quarters, a bar, a chapel, thirteen fireplaces, and a wishing well. He used river rock, recycled materials such as railroad ties, unused telephone poles, discarded metals, copper, various types of glass, old car parts and furniture from abandoned structures. When you visit the castle today, it still looks the same as the day that Boyce built it.


These are just outside pictures of the castle, I will show inside pictures on my next post.

10 comments:

  1. Wow, what a really nifty place! Thanks for the tour. I look forward to your next post with pictures of the inside. What a story. :)

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  2. FANTASTIC photos (as usual), Julie! When we lived in Phx my sister took Wayne and I here once. It's so wild you and Sharon went and have written about it because I was going through old albums and finding past jaunts to write about and I came across the pics my sister took when we went. You really captured the essence of the place, which looks the same way it did 12 years ago. (Well, I guess that it's always looked.) So fun to revisit through your eyes!

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  3. Lois; I took so many pictures and didn't want to overwhelm everyone with too many in one post. I thought it would be easier to just put the inside pictures separate.

    Courtney; I knew of this castle and was thrilled when Sharon wanted to visit it as part of our South Mountain trek. I am sure that Mary Lou takes the summer time to make sure the place is kept up for the winter tourist season.... cool place to check out when in the valley.

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  4. Beautiful and interesting. I love that strange staircase. People in the west are more interesting. You would never find a castle consturcted of telephone poles etc. in the South. Great story.

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  5. Jessica; each room was made of unique materials. If you notice, he also used rocks with petroglyphs on them as part of his walls.

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  6. I love how he even recycled his old car. That's hilarious. The place had the weirdest feng shui to it. It seemed to amplify the granite boulders it sat within and made for a powerfully energetic feel. The pictures came out soooo beautifully!

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  7. What a fabulous story and amazing castle. Makes me want to go see it. You have an pretty darn cool neighborhood down there in AZ.

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  8. Sis, many of those car parts made interesting windows and building art. The place did have an unusual feel to it. I felt a bit claustrophobic in the bar because of the low ceiling. All and all, the place is very bizarre and worth the visit.

    MM; we do have weird places around this state and Sharon seems to know where they are all at. Whenever you come for a visit, do check the Mystery Castle out.

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  9. Hey Barry, it would be an interesting place to live, but I don't remember seeing a bathroom.

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