Boyce ran away from home. The problem was he was in his mid-forties and had a wife and child. He also had tuberculosis. During the rest of his life, he resided mostly in Phoenix, Arizona, and built a weird house that is now called Mystery Castle. Looking like a garage sale nightmare inside and a Tim Burton set outside, this bizarre 8,000 feet, 18-r00m dwelling can be visited from October to June from 11 am to 4 pm, Thursday through Sunday only. The question is, should you visit it?
Ruth & I had a hard time finding Mystery Castle. In fact, we passed the entrance and almost gave up before circling back and finding a small sign behind a golf course and a dirt road leading up to it. Located in the foothills south of Phoenix with downtown visible in the distance, its official address is 88 East Mineral Road.
Boyce Luther Gully lived another 15 years because he moved from wet Washington to dry Arizona. In those years he had little contact with his wife Frances and daughter Mary Lou remaining pretty much a non-person to them. After seeing what he built, he’s remains an eccentric enigma to me. Prosperous enough to arrive in Arizona in a Stutz Bearcat, Boyce scored 40 free acres of federal land by promising to mine gold & silver. The Bearcat was eventually incorporated into his rather forward-thinking but visually eerie kitchen. The kind of man who apparently thought every piece of junk was useful, Boyce’s bar under his patio was half of an old wagon and reportedly had plenty of use. He had as many as 17 cats and fancied himself an artist. Some of his eclectic finds now have value because, for example, he collected hand-woven Native American baskets.
Boyce left this, uh, castle to a daughter who had never seen it. She apparently visited and fell in love with it, moved in, added feminine touches, and began giving tours in 1948 about the time Life Magazine showed up to do a major story on her unusual inheritance. Mary Lou died in 2010 but tours continue.
Mary Lou’s bedroom is not seen on the $10 dollar per person, cash only tour because her cat is still alive. If you need to use the bathroom, forget about it. If you’re desperate enough, use the portable potty at the far end of the parking lot. So, is Mystery Castle worth visiting? if you watch Hoarders on TV in horrified fascination, like Antique Roadshow, and enjoy visiting eccentric homes like Scotty’s Castle while traveling, this is your kind of place. Since I do….5 Compass.