On the way to South Mountain in Phoenix you can find an amazing place, known as the Mystery Castle. After hearing the story behind it and then actually visiting it, I can truly say that it is an amazing place and really worth visiting.
Boyce Gully built this castle in 1927 and it took him 18 years to complete it. Before then he lived in Seattle with his wife Frances and his daughter Mary Lou. He used to take his daughter to the beach and they would build sand castles together, then the waves would wipe them away and she would cry. Boyce would comfort her by telling her that she was his princess and that one day he would build a castle for her.
In 1927 Boyce discovered that he had tuberculosis and he was told that he had only 6 months to live, so in order to protect his family he disappeared from their lives and moved to Phoenix where he was hoping that the climate would ease his suffering.Over the next 18 years he would keep faith to his promise and build that castle he had promised Mary Lou when she was just a little girl.
Boyce had very little money so he had to relay on all types of building supplies, often having to get very creative to be able to build this massive structure. He often went to dumps or any other place where he could find parts that he could in some way utilize, such as telephone poles, train rails for his guest room bed that could roll in the middle of the room and roll out when not being used, tires from his car to build the round window structure and the old glass dishes for the windows. The floors in one of the rooms were from a schoolhouse.
In the years that followed he would occasionally write to his daughter but she never found out where he was up until in 1945 when she received a telegram informing her of his death and of the existence of the castle. He also left a letter explaining why he had left them so many years before and a recent picture of him sitting in the living room so she could see what he looked like at that time.
When Mary Lou and her mother arrived to the castle they were amazed by what Boyce had done, it was an 8000 square foot building with 18 rooms and 13 fireplaces, a chapel and the dungeon, where there was trapdoor that Mary Lou was not allowed to open for 2 years and where she would then find his fathers treasures: cash, golden nuggets, jewelry. Probably he gave her that condition hoping that she would try to live in the castle, which she did for the rest of her life. In 2010 when Mary Lou passed away on her obituary she was defined as “the resident princess and proprietress of the Mystery Castle,” and she invites everyone to her castle, in fact as it says “the Castle remains open to the public so that all may explore the wonders that lie behind its magical doors.”
Throughout the castle there are many little things that you can see that tell you more about Boyce and Mary Lou and what I like to think as both very creative minds. When you visit you have the opportunity to uncover some of the mystery. For example Boyce had built 13 fireplaces throughout the castle first because it was the only way of keeping it warm, but also because he was the 13th child of his family and he thought that this was a lucky number.
Instead through out the outside you can find snake designs on the ground, in this case the snake is symbol of wisdom, propensity and protection.
The guest room also called the “saguaro room” was built around the saguaro that was standing there, he also used the parts of some other saguaros (when there were no laws protecting them) to build some of the furniture that is in the room.
The wedding chapel was used to celebrate weddings and the last took place 16 years, tradition wanted that the bride left one of her shoes because it was believed that “if the bride leaves one shoe then forever will the groom be true”, some would leave also two, just in case!
Before her death Mary Lou created the Mystery Castle Historical Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization that would “ensure the Castle and the spirits of her father, mother … and the other keepers of the Castle would live on.” We are lucky to have the opportunity still today to go and explore this amazing place, and uncover some of it’s mysteries but I wonder how many more will be forever a mystery to us!
Tours are offered from 11am to 4pm on Thursday through Sunday each week. (Open from October through May)
Reservations are not necessary.
Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 5-12.
The Mystery Castle is located in the Foothills of South Mountain Park (two miles south of Baseline Road) at 800 E. Mineral Road in Phoenix, Arizona 85040.
To visit, take 7th Street South to Mineral Road, then head east and follow the road to the Mystery Castle entrance.
For more info go to: http://www.mymysterycastle.com