Saturday was my pre-birthday celebration. I wanted to go to Mystery Castle, a place I have wanted to visit since I was nine, and have lunch at a local vegan restaurant.
Mystery Castle didn't disappoint. Not only is it a whimsical creation, but it has an incredible story attached to it. Boyce Gulley, the builder, lived in Seattle, Washington with his wife and daughter until he contracted tuberculosis. He thought he only had a few months to live so he left his family and headed south. He landed in the Arizona desert. He and his daughter used to build sand castles together at the beach. His daughter, Mary Lou, would cry when the water washed them away and she asked her dad to build her a castle someday that would reach high into the sky and couldn't be washed away.
And that is exactly what he did. It took him over fifteen years to do it and he died from cancer before he could call his wife and daughter to him. They learned of the castle's existence from his will. They immediately packed their bags and headed to Arizona to reside in the eight thousand square feet creation with eighteen rooms, thirteen fireplaces and a plethora of antiques and treasures. The daughter still lives there today. The tours started in the late forties after a Life magazine article profiled the castle and its curious beginnings.
Boyce Gulley was ahead of his time in creating an environmentally friendly home that is also a part of its landscape. It is made of rocks and recycled bottles. He even recycled his car that he drove down in for building materials. He also had some pretty creative ideas, beds on tracks to make a hideaway bed, getting the most space out of the guest bedroom. He built an entire room around a dead saguaro cactus so he wouldn't have to chop it down. For those that aren't in the know, when a cactus dies it leaves behind a wooden skeleton. The wood can be harvested to create art or build furniture. That same room also contains chairs and stools made from cactus wood.
There is a compass embedded in the floor of the patio that points to true north. There is a wishing well on the patio that sits directly over the bar in the room below. When the bar was in service in Gulley's day (he loved to entertain), you just wish aloud above the well your drink of choice and it would arrive through the well. The tour guide called it a dumb waiter wishing well. Down below in the bar itself are two beds called the drunk bunks so one didn't have to go far to pass out.
There is a chapel on the other end of the castle where weddings were eventually held for a time. There is a shelf with women's shoes and a folklore saying that a bride leaving a shoe behind will always remain wed. The actual saying was much more poetic than that, but you get the gist. Some of the shoes looked really old and were pretty amazing looking.
I could go on and on about this amazing place and the builder's inventive creations, but I will let you explore this fantastical place for yourself.
Mystery Castle on Uptake Attractions
800 East Mineral Road
Phoenix, AZ 85042-8341