PHX: Mystery Castle

Boyce Gully left his home and family in Washington State when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1929.  His doctor recommended he move to a drier climate. Boyce left his wife, Frances, and their five year old daughter, Mary Lou, and did not tell them where he was going or that he was ill. He believed he was likely going to die.

While waiting for whatever would come, Gully acquired land in the desert south of Phoenix by filing a mining claim. 

To gain title he had to live on the land and do some actual mining. He did just enough mining to qualify for the land but it was never a priority. Gully was eventually deeded his 40 acres. The above photo shows remnants of his mining equipment.

Boyce and daughter Mary Lou had loved building sand castles together on the Washington Coast. She had once asked him to build her a real castle. He set about building a castle that couldn’t be washed away.

Boyce’ contact with Frances, and MaryLou was minimal over the years. He never did tell them he was ill or that he was building a castle.

Boyce obtained free materials (bricks) and rocks whenever and however he could. 

People gave him their excess or random items. He was creative in what he used as construction materials. 

He used downed telephone poles and wood from abandoned sites and rail cars.  

He used whatever he could find or gather. 

Old wheels became windows. 

These glass blocks are used dishes.  

The castle cost very little in dollars.

Eventually, there were eighteen rooms and thirteen fireplaces.

There is a courtyard made of stone and rejected construction bricks.

Looking through the Phoenix Window revealed the once small town of Phoenix. (Phoenix is a bit bigger now and doesn’t fit.)

Stairs go from the courtyard to the open upper level.

Following Boyce’ death in 1945, daughter Mary Lou and wife Frances learned they had a castle outside of Phoenix.  

They traveled to Arizona to claim it. 

Boyce left a trap door under the alligator with letters, documents and two $500 bills.

The castle was featured in Life magazine in 1948 and people made the trek seven miles south of Phoenix to see it.  

Mary Lou started giving tours for 25 cents per person. That included coffee and a donut provided by Frances. 

The women lived in a castle without water and power until Frances died in 1970.    

Mary Lou was able to obtain water and power to the main rooms later in the 1970s.    

She offered chapel services for weddings. It is still possible to be married at the Mystery Castle.

This collection of shoes once belonged to brides who married at the castle chapel. Mary Lou wrote the following poem: If the bride, Leaves one shoe, Then forever will, The groom be true.

The castle gained status over time – although no one seemed to know what the Emmy sign was about. A brief internet search on my part also yielded no answers.

It isn’t clear that Bill Clinton visited the Phoenix Mystery Castle, but he corresponded with Mary Lou.

Mary Lou lived in the castle her father built for her until 2010 when she passed away. 

Currently, tours are offered seasonally on a limited schedule.  The guides spoke about finding snakes in the castle during the summer months. Between the snakes and limited services, summer tours just aren’t viable. The price is $10 – cash only. We did not get Frances’ coffee and donuts but still enjoyed the tour very much.

The castle and grounds are on seven of Gully’s original 40 acre mining claim. 

Some of the remaining acreage was donated to Maricopa County as it was developing South Mountain Regional Park.  The view of Phoenix from the Dobbins Lookout window doesn’t quite hold all of Phoenix now either.

Next up: More of Phoenix – Two Tours in One Day!

About Serene

Former full time RVers, transitioned to homeowners and travelers. We've still got a map to finish! Home is the Phoenix area desert and a small cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona.
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2 Responses to PHX: Mystery Castle

  1. It makes me sad that he left his wife and daughter and never let them know what was going on in his life.

  2. Teri McClelland says:

    Isn’t it nice to find places closer to home to explore? Glad you were able to see it during the “off snake season.”

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