Over the course of the past 100 years, inhabitants of Arizona have left their marks on the surface of the Arizona landscape for better, worse or just plain weird. Here are some Arizona attractions worth visiting at least once:
The Mystery Castle on South Mountain
This Phoenix Point of Pride was built on the base of South Mountain between 1930 and 1945 by Boyce Luther Gulley. When the Mystery Castle architect and builder died from cancer and tuberculosis after leaving his wife and his daughter Mary Lou Gulley without a word in 1930, he willed the Arizona Mystery Castle to them, where they both lived until their passing in 1970 and 2010, respectively.
The castle has 18 rooms built with reclaimed materials from a local dump that used to be in the area.
Mystery Castle is open from early October to end of May on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Get there before 3:30 p.m. if you want to take the last tour. Call for more information: 602-268-1581.
Location: 800 East Mineral Road, Phoenix
The Camelback Copenhaver Castle
The Camelback Castle is a more recent addition to the Phoenix landscape perched high on the neck of Camelback Mountain. This architectural wonder of 7,800 sq. ft. was built by orthodontist Dr. Mort Copenhaver. Copenhaver purchased the property in 1967 and started blasting rock out of the mountainside to build this Moorish-style castle complete with a draw bridge, a dungeon and even secret passageways.
The previous owners Copenhaver and Jerry Mitchell (known as the creator of Rawhide) both filed for bankruptcy and now the current owners of the castle, Old Standard Life Insurance Co., have tried selling and auctioning the property with no success. Maybe it’s cursed?
The Camelback Castle is not currently open to the public, but you can always drive by and check out the outside.
Location: 5050 E. Red Rock Road, Phoenix
Lee’s rock garden is an incredible, detailed construction of whimsy created by one man, Louis Lee. Lee died in 2006, but his 50 years of work in the front yard of his Paradise Valley home lives on. The home is private property, but just drive by and you can see the narrow walkways, gravel arches and the hundreds of tiny, smiling Buddha’s embedded into the landscape.
Location: 4015 E. McDonald Drive, Phoenix
This 32-foot-tall, Native American symbol of fertility, towers over a small strip mall that includes a tourist information office and the newest addition, a Starbucks. It was originally built for the Krazy Kokopelli Trading Post, but more people must have stopped to take pictures with the metal deity than shop at the trading post, as the store is no longer there.
Location: The I-17 and Camp Verde Exit 287
The 25-Foot Tall Hobo Joe in Buckeye
Arizona’s biggest bum hangs out in Buckeye, in front of West Valley Processing. Hobo Joe was an icon for the Hobo Joe coffee shops that were scattered around Arizona before the company closed up in the late 1980s, but there never was a Hobo Joe restaurant in Buckeye. So how did Hobo Joe come to rest there? The restaurant became partners with a bank and pulled out a loan for $3 million. Then, one of the owners of Hobo Joe’s embezzled money from the restaurant (instead of paying back the loan), to build a swanky Phoenix home and a posh condo in Mesa for mafia members that were being investigated by murdered Arizona Republic reporter, Don Bolles.
With the chains closing up, this Hobo Joe was never paid to artist Marvin Ransdell. Ransdell hit hard times, so his friends the Gillum’s, owners of West Valley Processing, stored his things until Ransdell could get back on his feet, this included Hobo Joe. When Ransdell passed away, Ramon Gillum assembled Hobo Joe with a plaque in Ransdell’s memory.
Location: West Valley Processing, 1045 East Monroe Avenue in Buckeye.