Why is it called the Mystery Castle? Why the Phoenix Monument was built and what’s inside

A castle in the desert may seem unusual in the 21st century, but as you would expect in the Southwest, especially Arizona, nothing is impossible.

Located in the foothills of South Mountain Park and Preserve in Phoenix, is the famous Mysterious Castle. This castle, built in the 1930s by Boyce Luther Gulley, is made up of an odd assortment of building materials including recycled car parts, telephone poles, plow discs, tiles, stones, bricks and metals.

But the Mystery Castle is more than just an eclectic structure. It is one of the points of pride of Phoenix, which means it is one of the 31 landmarks and attractions in Phoenix, with places such as the Phoenix Zoo, Hole-in-the-Rock in Papago Park and St. Mary’s Basilica, which represents the best of the city features.

Here’s why the castle was built and other fun facts that make it special:

5 other things to know: Mysterious Phoenix Castle is now open

History of the Mystery Castle

The Mysterious Castle, in South Mountain Park, was built by Boyce Luther Gulley using recycled materials in Phoenix, seen on November 19, 2021.

Boyce Luther Gulley came from Seattle, Arizona in 1929 to fight tuberculosis, leaving his family behind. Back then, before antibiotics were created in the 1940s to cure disease, Arizona’s desert climate was touted as a place that had restorative benefits for the health of TB patients. But he didn’t sit still in the wilderness. Gulley spent the following years building the mysterious castle for his daughter Mary Lou.

According to mymysterycastle.com, Gulley got the idea to build a castle in the desert from her daughter. The castle’s website notes that Gulley remembers they built sandcastles on Seattle Beach together, but her daughter would be sad when the tide washed them away. Mary Lou said, “Please, Daddy, someday build me a big, solid castle that I can live in. “

And that is what he did.

However, it was not until Gulley’s death in 1945 that his wife Frances Bradford Gulley and Mary Lou discovered the castle. They eventually moved in and called him home.

Portraits of Mary Lou Gulley, left, her mother Frances Bradford Gulley, center, and her mysterious castle builder father Boyce Luther Gulley, right, hang at Mysterious Castle in South Mountain Park on November 19, 2021 .

Portraits of Mary Lou Gulley, left, her mother Frances Bradford Gulley, center, and her mysterious castle builder father Boyce Luther Gulley, right, hang at Mysterious Castle in South Mountain Park on November 19, 2021 .

According to the current castle keeper, Juan Ramon Gastelum Robles, the castle started to become a tourist attraction as early as the 1940s, when people stumbled upon this unique structure.

“This place was open, it’s a big open space,” Robles said. “People wanted to see what it was and Mary Lou started touring in the 1940s. Then she saw a lot of people coming and she started touring for 25 cents in 1948. With that, we also could have a cup of coffee and a donut. His mother distributed it.

Juan Ramon Gastelum Robles welcomes visitors to the Mysterious Castle in South Mountain Park in Phoenix on November 19, 2021.

Juan Ramon Gastelum Robles welcomes visitors to the Mysterious Castle in South Mountain Park in Phoenix on November 19, 2021.

The castle even caught the attention of Life Magazine and on January 26, 1948, the popular national publication ran an article titled “Life Visits Mysterious Castle: Young Girl Rules Weird Secrets of a Fairy Tale House built in the Arizona desert. “

Frances died in 1970, but Mary Lou continued to organize tours for tourists and curious guests from across the country and the world until her death in 2010.

No room is alike

This “house” certainly has its relaxation areas. With rooms on different levels, doors leading from one part of the house to another, and different types of decoration in each room, it’s not hard to see how the castle must have been a playground. dream for any child, or adult for that matter.

The Mystery Castle has 18 rooms and 13 fireplaces. A remarkable stone fireplace can be found in the living room on the second floor. The stone fireplace not only keeps the living room warm, but it also keeps the master bedroom behind it heated.

Although Gulley was not an architect by profession, he clearly had designer talents. Throughout the castle, Gulley’s ingenuity with space can be seen within the very walls of the structure.

Various seating areas, offices and storage space follow the outline of the building and are constructed from the walls or constructed from stone and other recycled materials like cart wheels and old glass. The other parts of the castle include a guest space called the Saguaro Room, a kitchen, an outdoor courtyard with a wishing well.

There is even a bar downstairs. Hanging out in the second floor courtyard but too lazy to go downstairs for a drink? Well, you might wish for one. A fun feature of the wishing well is that you could drop a bucket attached to a rope and it would fall exactly up to the bar on the first floor. Then, “voila”, a drink would be sent to you.

At least that was the idea. It actually doesn’t work anymore, so don’t get too upset if you’re thirsty on the tour. You can, however, purchase a Mysterious Castle shot glass or pint from the gift shop next to the courtyard.

The furniture and the decor are still there

A room inside the Mysterious Castle on November 19, 2021, in South Mountain Park, built by Boyce Luther Gulley using recycled materials.

A room inside the Mysterious Castle on November 19, 2021, in South Mountain Park, built by Boyce Luther Gulley using recycled materials.

According to Robles, who has been its keeper for 41 years, when the structure was built by Gulley, most of the castle’s antiques, artwork and furniture were brought in by Frances and Mary Lou. Tour guests can see paintings by Frida Kahlo, portraits of Mary Lou, Frances and Gulley, leopard and tiger print cushions, beagle posters and paintings, Native American art and woven crafts, rocks with cat faces painted on them, little knick knacks and family keepsakes like photos and framed articles written about the mysterious castle.

there is a chapel

There is a wedding chapel on the ground floor of the castle. The room resembles a cabin in the woods with stone walls, floors with wood finishes, and an all-wood ceiling. The eye-catching part of the room is the fireplace surrounded by faux flower arrangements, which almost looks like an altar, certainly perfect for a wedding ceremony.

The Chaple wedding in The Mystery Castle on November 19, 2021, in South Mountain Park, built by Boyce Luther Gulley using recycled materials.

The Chaple wedding in The Mystery Castle on November 19, 2021, in South Mountain Park, built by Boyce Luther Gulley using recycled materials.

Robles said the castle has been used for hundreds of wedding ceremonies since it opened to the public. Mary Lou would play the pump organ in the next room for the wedding.

“Even today, every now and then there are still ceremonies here,” Robles said. “The last wedding was about seven months ago, really. But it was just the ceremony, not a big wedding. You can even bring your own priest here.

Stone and tile work is everywhere

While the castle is best known for being made of junk materials like car parts, bricks, and stone, there is actually a lot of detail in the architecture. You just have to look closely. Throughout the castle there are intricate stones on the floors, often with rocks of varying colors. There are ceramic tiles depicting scenes of people cultivating and traveling in the west. In the middle of the courtyard, there is a drawing of a ground compass made of tiles and stones. I guess the saying is true, it’s all in the details.

The mystery castle is open to visits

Tours are offered from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Thursday through Sunday from October to May. Admission is $ 10, $ 5 for ages 5 to 12. Payment is made in cash or by check only. For more information call 602-268-1581 or visit mymysterycastle.com.

You can connect with Shanti Lerner, Arizona Republic Culture & Outdoors reporter by email at shanti.lerner@gannett.com or you can also follow her at Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix Mystery Castle: What’s Inside & Other Fun Facts



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