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“Life Visits a Mystery Castle,” proclaimed the cover of Life magazine in 1948, featuring a teenage Mary Lou Gulley on a spiral staircase that overlooked the eccentric house her father, Boyce Luther Gulley, had built. The name Mystery Castle stuck (800 E. Mineral Rd., 602/268-1581, 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Thurs.–Sun. Oct.–May, $5), and Gulley is still welcoming visitors into her home.
In 1930 Boyce had abandoned his wife and daughter in Seattle, moving to the dry climate of Phoenix after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. He built Mystery Castle from a hodgepodge of found objects: rocks, adobe, glass, auto parts, even petroglyphs.
He had been inspired by his daughter, who would cry when her sandcastles were washed away by the tide and ask her father to build her one in the desert large enough to live in. When he died in 1945, a lawyer contacted Mary Lou and her mother, and they moved into the eccentric castle.
Today, you can tour the 18 rooms, furnished with quirky pieces designed by Boyce as well as an original sofa designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. When Mary Lou is feeling up to it, she’ll help out on tours.
Getting to Mystery Castle
To reach Mystery Castle, head south on 7th Street, past Baseline Road, and make a left where the road dead-ends at South Mountain. The home is closed June through September.
© Jeff Ficker from Moon Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona, 1st edition