Fortress in the Desert: Exploring South Phoenix’s Quirky Mystery Castle

Things to Do — By P. Escarcega on April 30, 2011 at 7:52 pm

The Mystery Castle is not really a castle, but it’s as intriguing as just about anything you might find on an English hillside. In the foothills of South Mountain Park in South Phoenix, this 18-room structure is a wild juxtaposition of building materials and architectural styles. Cement, sand, native stone, water, Stutz Bearcat wire-rim wheels—these are just some of the materials used to create this quirky homestead, which has 13 fireplaces, a cantilevered stairway, a chapel, and dozens of nooks and crannies.

The Mystery Castle, perched in the hills of South Phoenix, was built by Boyce Luther Gulley from a diverse mix of native and recycled materials. Photo:mediafury/flickr

But the mystery of this castle is not how it was built, but why. The story is that the builder, Boyce Luther Gulley, disappeared from his life in Seattle and fled to the Arizona desert, believing he was going to die soon of tuberculosis. He spent 15 years of his life building the house, and it was only after his death in 1945 that his family discovered his whereabouts and inherited the castle.

Visiting the Mystery Castle is a must-see for anyone who likes roadside attractions, unconventional architecture, or, of course, mysteries. The Castle, which is closed from June to September, is located at 800 E Mineral Road in South Phoenix.

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