Mystery Castle – A Monument to Enduring Love

Phoenix, Arizona.

Boyce Luther Gully loved his wife and his daughter. When he was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and not wishing to expose his family, Boyce left his Seattle home without telling his wife and daughter why or where he went. He found himself in Phoenix in the late 1920’s and started building a house. Given a diagnosis of only six months to live, there must be something good about the dry desert air. His tuberculosis went into remission and he would live well over a decade longer than expected. The house, really a castle built for his daughter, became his obsession and construction would consume the entire time Boyce Gully had remaining, and in 1945, he died of cancer leaving the 18-room three story castle still not completely finished. Indeed, it wasn’t until 1992 that plumbing and electricity were added, though some of that infrastructure had been started during initial construction. No doubt that by 1992, that early construction was obsolete.

Though he never told his family where he moved, over the years he did communicate with them through an attorney on occasion. Meanwhile his construction project continued. He kept costs down by taking “seconds” from local building materials factories and suppliers. Old parts were recycled. One of the rooms has two automobile wire wheels cemented into the wall to act as windows.

He built 13 fireplaces located throughout the castle. Boyce was the last of 13 siblings and he always considered 13 to be his lucky number. One of the fireplaces is featured in the image above.

 

The home he built for his little princess and his wife features a chapel, a bar/party room, and even a dungeon. Upon Boyce Gully’s death, his attorney informed the family and told them the story of their inheritance. Mary Lou and her mother immediately traveled to Phoenix where Mary Lou insisted they take up residence. With some trepidation, her mother agreed. They sold their Seattle property and became residents of the castle.

Over the years, Mary Lou gathered many collectibles to display in her home. An artist friend created a large collection of pet rocks, a small example of her work is the Wabbit Family realistically painted on rocks of varying sizes. The house is filled with pet rock cats and many, many pillows featuring images of cats.

For many years the home was isolated at the base of South Mountain. There is a spiral staircase that leads to a rooftop deck where Mary Lou could enjoy the commanding view of the surrounding desert and the growing metropolitan area. As Phoenix grew, the Sonoran Desert land around the home gave way to housing developments, restaurants, and strip malls. People began to notice the unusual building. People would stop regularly and ask for tours which Mary Lou politely declined until one day it was decided that for a fee, why not give a tour.

Mary Lou Gully passed away in 2010 after living in the castle for 65 years. The legacy of her father lives on as a 501c3 corporation now conducts tours daily. Since discovering the castle, Lynn and I have visited it twice. Both times in the morning. The tour lasts an hour and it attracts many visitors during the fall, winter and spring. They are open Thursdays through Sundays except through those hot Phoenix summers. First tour each day starts at 11 a.m. and they are open for tours until 3:30 p.m.  No reservations are required, but be sure they are open for the season before you visit. The schedule and contact information can be found on their website here

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 5-12. As we waited in line to pay our $10 each, a woman and her two teenage boys in line ahead of us attempted to pay by credit card. She was politely told that they accept cash only. She opened her purse but could only find two $10 bills. The person collecting the fee told her that her admission would be $10, and the two boys would get in for child’s admission, though they were clearly both over the age of 12. That was nice of the person at the gate.

Obviously, I want to leave some surprises for your own visit. There are lots of neat rooms that you will enjoy touring. On the tour you will learn the secret of the trap door in the floor and the large metal crocodile that guards the opening. Except for the two rooms in the gift shop area, photos are allowed. I submit for your approval, a small gallery of images I captured on my visits to the Mystery Castle. Given the subject, I decided that a black-and-white treatment would be appropriate for many of the images as I processed them. In most browsers, you can click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.

 

John Steiner

 

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