Mystery Castle

Odometer (Legend):  517,298

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Odometer (ILX):  21,385

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This weekend I’ve hosted my Salt Lake City-based friend, Branson here in Phoenix, Arizona.  We went out on the town to explore some of the area’s “points of pride.”  The first was my rooftop.  We had to do a check-in and see how my rooftop durability test fleet is holding up.  There are six 1:18 scale die-cast cars on my roof.  A couple of them have been up there for nearly 3 years.

diecast_test_fleet

This 1957 Chevy Nomad ain’t looking so hot.  Whitewall tires are now “Yellow”-walls.

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BMW 3-series has some faded taillights.

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We then pulled the two Acuras out for some photos in Tempe, Arizona near my home.  It was fun to be able to see my own Legend driving down the road.

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backs

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We headed out in the Legend to hit up lunch at Zoe’s Kitchen, then headed up to South Mountain Park — the largest city park in the United States.  It covers over 16,000 acres of land just south of Phoenix.  There’s a fun 5-mile twisty road (speed limits posted at 15 mph) that winds to the summit overlooking the Phoenix valley.  The Legend, though a bit floaty with its worn-out suspension, was still fun to drive up the mountain.

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Had the air been clearer, this could’ve been a great shot of the Phoenix valley in the background.

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The summit, called Dobbins Lookout, sits at elevation 2,330 feet.

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There’s a stone structure at the top of the mountain.  It’s not clear whether this was once a dwelling but I think not.

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Our next destination was a 67-year-old castle made of garbage.  That’s right!

Tours are offered at the Mystery Castle for 7 months of the year, from October through May.  This 8,000 square foot home was built over a course of 15 years by Boyce Luther Gulley until his death in 1945.  He’d add on to the structure with each passing year, procuring building materials from the surrounding area.  Most of the home is constructed of garbage, essentially.  Recycled materials like bricks, telephone poles, glass bottles, and even the hubcaps of Boyce’s old car were used.

At the time when the home was built, it was a remote 10 miles away from Phoenix down rugged dirt roads. The home was built for Boyce’s daughter Mary Lou who at the time lived in Seattle.  It wasn’t until after Boyce’s death when Mary Lou was 19 years old that the family learned of the inheritance and moved into the castle.

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Today, tours cost $10 and take about 45 minutes.  Branson and I got to see both levels of the home as well as its 18 rooms and 13 fireplaces.  One of my favorite features was a bar next to a wishing well of sorts – a pulley system that could be used to bring drinks up from the level below.  It was called the bar of wishes.  As our tour guide put it, though, “But it was a dry bar and a dumb waiter, so don’t get your hopes up!”

Another of the fascinating features was a trap door in the lower level.  At Boyce’s request, Mary Lou and the rest of the family were not allowed to open the trap door until they’d lived in the castle for 2 years.  Within the trap door they found two $500 bills (that must’ve been a sizeable chunk of change in the 1940’s!), some gold nuggets, and a Valentine letter that Mary Lou had sent to her father when she was growing up.

I’d toured the castle a few years ago and I had the chance to meet Mary Lou.  She’s since passed away (November 2010) but right up until her death she was still able to scale the steep staircases around the property.  She had an affinity for cats, and the castle was home to up to 18 at a time.  Mary Lou’s favorite cat, Cleocatra, is still alive.

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Master bedroom.  This place didn’t have electricity until 1992!

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View of Phoenix from the kitchen area.  The windows are all hand-made and thus wavy due to glass irregularity.

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Our tour guide enthusiastically educated us on this crazy piece of architecture.

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Here’s a look at the Legend parked in the desert while we toured one of the patios.

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A 1948 Life Magazine feature brought attention to the castle with a picture of Mary Lou at the top of a freestanding staircase in one of the courtyards.

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This “Window to Phoenix” was framed by discarded bricks.  When the home was built, the entire town of Phoenix would fit in the window.

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Entrance to the lower level consisting of a chapel and a bar.

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Here’s an ancient organ in the castle’s chapel.  It was brought in from Tombstone, Arizona.  Notice the window in the wall – it was made from a hubcap off the builder’s car.

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And so concludes this tour of offbeat Phoenix roadside destinations!  Hope everyone else had a great weekend, too.

2 Responses to “Mystery Castle”

  1. I would like to see that castle. May do so while you’re at work Friday.

    • You should! There’s an entire section of home that was built around a dead cactus! The cactus stayed in the same position; this guy built the house around it. Odd. But you might enjoy hitting this place up for a tour!

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