One of the places we stopped on our vacation was the Phoenix Mystery Castle. I’d highly recommend visiting if you’re ever in the area.
It was built in the 1930’s by a man named Boyce Gulley. Well, at least it was started in the thirties. He worked on it for something like 15 years.
It all started when Mr. Gulley of Seattle, WA found out he had tuberculosis. He disappeared that day, never again to see his wife or three year old girl. He ended up in Phoenix. He started building a house on a mining claim, which, of course, he had to mine a little each year to keep. He had always promised his little girl that he would someday build her a castle.
He built the house out of whatever he could find freely/cheaply. You’ll see a few pictures as we go on.
Anyway, about fifteen years after Boyce had left, a lawyer showed up on the doorstep of his long-estranged wife and daughter with a message: Mary Lou Gulley (the daughter) was now the owner of a Castle her father had built in Phoenix.
By the way, Boyce Gulley apparently beat tuberculosis and ended up dying of cancer.
Here’s a couple of highlights:
Mary Lou Gulley still lives there. Her bedroom is the only room that is off the tour. We were told that this was so we didn’t disturb her feline friend “Cleocatra.” She wasn’t giving tours on the day we went, but she was up and about. The tour starts in the main living room area of the house, and as we were ready to start the tour, some of the folks that were supposed to be in our group were standing around talk a ways away from the rest of us. Mary Lou gave them to the count of ten to get with the rest of the group.
This is the main living room where we started the tour. As you can see, there are stuffed animals all over the place. Also a whole bunch of rocks painted to look like animals. The portrait on the wall is of the builder.
Here’s another of Mary Lou’s myriad stuffed attractions.
An interesting way to fix a broken window at the mystery castle. I have no idea if this was Mary Lou’s or Boyce’s doing.
The Many of the rooms in the Phoenix Mystery Castle aren’t connected by such standard, boring things as hallways. There’s this big open area in between two sections of the upstairs. In the upper left you can see part of a bizarre little staircase that leads to the roof/veranda known as the “Mother-In-Law’s Room.” You’ll see a picture of that staircase again in just a moment.
Also, in the lower right of the picture, you can see my fat self.
You may notice a fireplace in several of the pictures. The house has a total of 18 rooms and 13 fireplaces. Take special note of the broken bottles and other random items used as part of the wall.
Much of the brick around the house is malformed and looks melty. Mr. Gulley got all of that brick for free, as they were rejects. Nowadays, that brick is called “architectural interest” and costs much more than standard brick.
Here’s that staircase closer up.
There was a room that had a whole bunch of pants nailed to the ceiling like this. I’m not exactly sure what that’s all about.
I didn’t get a good picture of this, but it’s Mr. Gulley’s bed. His room has two levels, and his bed is on rails so that it slides underneath the upper level. Also on the upper level is a couch given to him by Frank Loyd Wright.
A better picture of the rails. Also a neat cactus mosaic on the floor.
The fireplace in the chapel room. Sorry folks, Mary Lou stopped letting people schedule weddings in here a few years ago. You’ll have to find someplace else to get married.
A shoe rack and a shoe from said rack in the back of the chapel room. The sign on the shelf reads,
In the chapel
If the bride
Leaves one shoe
Then forever will
The groom be true
There chapel is like right next to the cantina/saloon room, which I thought was a natural fit.
The bar was made from an actual wagon that was sawed in half. The light you see in the back is one of (I think) six skylights that light the cantina. I thought the Christmas lights added a touch of class to the joint.
There is a lot of the house that is unfinished. Especially in this lower level. There’s a huge pile of dirt down there where Boyce had been digging before his death.
These are the guards to the dungeon of the castle. the alligator’s foot is on the door. Our guide told us that the cellar has a tunnel to the old mine and there are parts of it that haven’t been explored since Mary Lou inherited the house.
These are not glass bricks. At least they weren’t made to be glass bricks. You probably don’t remember this, but before tupperware hit the scene, people used glass dishes to store food in the refrigerator. Apparently, Mr. Gulley bought a whole bunch of them at a super closeout price. The house is full of such windows.
As far as I could tell, there are no interior staircases in the Phoenix Mystery Castle. To go from floor to floor, you have to leave the house and then come back in.
Exterior art at the Phoenix Mystery Castle.
My wife and a cactus in the yard.
I of course left out more than I put in to this little review. The Phoenix Mystery Castle is a great place to visit, especially if you’re like me, who likes Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not museums better than Disneyland. And the tour is only $5 a person. (Currently, that is. Who knows what the future holds?) So next time you’re in Phoenix, check it out and let me know what you think.