I love a good story. Mystery Castle in Phoenix, Arizona, has a very mysterious, sweet, and eclectic history. My sister friend, Judy, and I enjoyed a girls’ day out to explore the peculiar home with the odd architecture and curious lot of belongings.
First, the story:
Mr. Gully was a family man devoted to his wife and daughter, Mary Lou. Father and daughter visited the beach in Seattle and built an elaborate sandcastle at the water’s edge. When the tide rolled in and destroyed their hard work, young Mary Lou cried. She asked her father to build her a strong castle where the water wouldn’t wash it away.
A year or so later, Mr. Gully was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In the early 1930s there was no cure for the disease and Mr. Gully walked away from his life, leaving behind family and friends and little Mary Lou. He traveled to Arizona with the intention his family would not have to witness his death. His family never saw or heard from him again.
When he arrived in Arizona, he started building a castle made with odds and ends he found in the desert. He worked on this castle for the next few years, as his health would allow, using his own creativity as a guide.
In 1945, Mary Lou received the unexpected news her father had passed away. In his will, she was given the castle he had built. She traveled to Arizona, fell in love with the home her father created, and took up residence. She lived there until her death in 2010.
Throughout the years Mary Lou lived in the castle, she found secret compartments behind bricks, under rocks, and in fireplaces where her father left her little notes, golden nuggets, and jewelry. There was a trap door in one of the rooms Mr. Gully specified in his will could not be opened until 1948. When Life Magazine heard about the stipulation, they asked to be present when Mary Lou opened the door. The compartment contained two 500 dollar bills, some gold nuggets, and a valentine she had given her father before he left.
Mr. Gully and his daughter both died in the home he built for her, leaving us all wondering about the sad wasted years and the wonderful sweet gift of love.
The castle has an interesting architecture with several wings and floors. It’s a place where a person could return on several occasions and notice something new each time. There are tiny details jumping out in all different directions, from unique artwork with a strange flair to downright beautiful artistic touches.
Some of the outside structures are below. The hodge-podge collections of things make it an eclectic whole. The stonework is beautiful–interspersed with an artistic tile here and there or little mosaic pieces used from broken china and pottery. It made me wonder what Mr. Gully’s thoughts were on the particular day he was working on a certain area.
There were several intricate inlaid floors throughout the castle. Most were plain stones and rocks, but Mr. Gully turned some into pieces of art:
Below are some of the interior rooms. The decor was unique and left as it was when the castle was Mary Lou’s home.
Here are some of the other interesting touches left by Mr. Gully and Mary Lou:
Mystery Castle was intriguing and we enjoyed our visit. It’s $10 per person, cash only. Visitors are escorted to the tour in progress, which is awkward in getting to hear the entire story as it unfolds. I would suggest requesting to wait until the tour starts at the beginning so the history gives background and meaning to some of the artwork, decor, and objects.
Judy and I had to snap a selfie to commemorate a fun day.
Have you visited Mystery Castle while in the Phoenix area? What were your thoughts? What do you think of the photos above?
Save travels until we meet again.
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What an interesting story! Sad but cool. I had never heard of this but here’s another thing to put on my list!
It was a cool place full of stuff to look at and wonder about. It’s worth the $10 for sure.
This is fascinating. The story and the house. But also sad, really sad, that they could not enjoy each other’s company in Mr. Gully’s final years.
That’s what I was thinking the entire time going through–all the wasted years of time together.
What a neat place! I could spend hours there. Great story too. Thanks Dawn.
I could, too! There was so much to see. When I was going through my photos, I noticed tiny little details I missed when actually taking them. There’s definitely a lot to see!
I have never been to Arizona. I really want to go there some day. I imagine the architecture and scenery is amazing. If I ever get that way, I’ll add the Mystery Castle to my must-see list. Looks like my kind of place. Great pics.
I didn’t want to visit because I thought it was mainly desert, but I’ve fallen in love. Such beautiful mountains, red rock, and even the desert has grown on me. It’s a gorgeous state.
Oh what FUN! I’ve never heard of this. And my youngest son lives just outside Phoenix, in Goodyear. I’ll have to visit here on my next trip out there!
You’ll have to visit and I’d love to hear what you think about it. There’s so many eclectic things to see and photograph. The story is enchanting, too!
I printed out their page with the tour days and times etc to remind me!
Interesting. Reading your accounts makes me feel I never was in Phoenix, yet we spent a few weeks there. Sure missed a lot.
I found out about this place quite by accident. I’m glad I did, though–it was a very unique place to visit.
Wow! What a fun place to visit! Thank you for posting all those photos and giving a history of the place.
It was very unique and there was a lot to take in. My kind of place. 🙂
You took in a lot!
This was a great article. I love places like this! We just toured the Beer Can House in Houston, and I got a list of places to check out, but this one I’ll have to add to the list for sure.
It was very unique, and I loved it. I’ve never heard of the Beer Can House, so you know I have to put that on my list. Looks like you are enjoying this lifestyle to the fullest–what a blast! Dawn