What is the Mystery Castle?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The Mystery Castle is a landmark in Phoenix, Arizona, and a must see for tourists interested in eclectic architecture. It is an 8000 square foot home, built primarily from salvaged materials, by the eccentric Boyce Luther Gulley. When Gulley was given a diagnosis of tuberculosis in the early 20th century, he left his wife and daughter and made his way to Phoenix, where he gradually pieced together the Mystery Castle.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Today, the Mystery Castle is still inhabited by Mary Lou Gulley, Boyce’s daughter, who remembers how her father once promised to build her a castle. Unlike other castles in the air, this one became a true castle, though Mary Lou and her father were not fated to enjoy it together. Mary Lou and Boyce's wife were unaware of the castle until after Boyce's death. Though saddened, they loved his castle with its 18 rooms, and decided to reside there.

This strange story of love, abandonment and the fulfillment of promises are recalled by the Mystery Castle, which features many different bizarre architectural details. It’s considered a Phoenix Point of Pride and is open to visitors from October to mid-June. It is closed during the warmer summer months as the hot weather can make the home uncomfortably hot. Visitors who love the Mystery Castle recommend calling to check availability of tours, prices, and open days.

Mary Lou leads some of the tours, while guides lead others. Since she moved there as a teenager, Mary Lou is well acquainted with all the ins and outs of this interesting building. Each room has different features and surprises. For instance, Frank Lloyd Wright donated certain furniture items for some of the rooms. All rooms tend to dazzle with their unusual craftsmanship. You’ll find curios of all sorts, homemade bricks, and what would have been considered “junk” or scrap used in most creative fashion.

The Mystery Castle isn’t really much of a castle in the traditional sense — its outside architecture doesn’t suggest “castle” to most enthusiasts. The outside sight may at first discourage visitors, though it does feature one turret. Inside, there is so much scope for the imagination, and perhaps the only mystery regarding it is why Gulley abandoned wife and child and did not contact them during the last years of his life. Instead he devoted most of his time to building this castle he’d once imagined with his young daughter.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


There are oddball houses like this tucked all over the country. In fact, I would imagine that every state in the union has at least four or five of them with higher concentrations in California and maybe Vermont. I know that in Missouri where I live there are at least five that I can think of scattered across the state.

I guess that the home is a very personal thing and people want to realize their visions on this more than anything else. If I had the time and the money I might think of taking up some king of obsessive project like this. Then again, maybe not.


Wow, I have lived in Phoenix for almost two years now but I have never heard of or seen the mystery castle. It sounds amazing. Would it be something that kids would like? is it very expensive to get in?


I have visited the mystery castle before and it is amazing. It is such an amazing feat of personal expression. You can see all the work and care that went in to it and it clearly came from a singular mind.

I love this kind of stuff. Some people call it outsider art, others call it folk art, I just call it art. This man was an artists. Take one look at the home he built and you can see that it's true.

Post your comments
Forgot password?