Charles Phoenix’s Slide of the Week: The Mystery Castle, Phoenix, AZ, 1958


Phoenix’s rustic royal residence is all aglow in the late afternoon sun. The legend of this handmade house begins in Seattle in 1929 when Boyce Luther Gulley promised his young daughter, Mary Lou, he would build her a castle. Then after being diagnosed with tuberculosis and told he only had only six months to live he deserted his wife and daughter without a trace. A desolate piece of land in the foothills just south of downtown Phoenix is where he settled and began work on what was to become one of America’s folk art masterpieces of the highest order.

Over the next sixteen years, until he died in 1945, he hand built an eighteen room castle with the rocks and rubble he was able to gather and bind together with cement mixed with goats milk. He used clinker bricks, ceramic tiles, native art, wagon wheels and other depression era cast offs as finishing touches.

All the while his wife and daughter thought he was dead. Finally, when Mr. Gulley died in 1945, his wife and 19 year-old daughter were called to claim the primitive palace he had willed to them. They loved it and moved right in. Three years later after Life Magazine featured a story on the unique home Mrs. Gulley and her daughter opened the doors to the curious public and began giving tours.

The tours continue to this day. Mary Lou, the daughter, the princess of the castle, still lives there. She’s eighty-three now. Last Sunday I had the privilege of meeting her after taking the tour.

She was unlike anyone I’ve ever met. Feisty and frank, she advised me, “In order to have a happy marriage you have to keep one eye closed.” And to always, “Live your dreams.” My Americana spirit was soaring. She is Americana Royalty of the highest order – a real life princess, Princess Mary Lou.

The Mystery Castle is easy to find. Take 7th Street all the way south of town until it dead ends and turn right. You can-t miss it. And don?t forget to tell the princess I said hello!

Here’s to The Mystery Castle, Princess Mary Lou and YOU!

Visit Charles’ site or join his Slide of the Week Mailing List.

Thursday, March 19, 2009 – 7:30pm
A live comedy slide show performance by Charles Phoenix celebrating how locals lived, shopped, worked, played and partied in the 1950s and ’60s – experience space age suburbia, car culture, roadside attractions, Pasadena, Downtown L.A., Hollywood, Marineland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland, and much more!
Tickets and info here