Dotted across the deserts of California are remnants of mining history. Some areas, like the Pegleg Smith Memorial, represent the more otherworldly aspects of this time period. Other areas, like Scotty's Castle, and the Rock Spring Cabin represent the more practical aspects of this time period. During the late nineteenth century, and early twentieth century, physicians would regularly recommend patients head to various deserts in an effort to cure a variety of ailments. While there are no definitive statistics on the success rate of this placebo, it did ensure that the patients lived out the remainder of their days with warm weather and lots of sunshine.
After taking the tour, what struck me about the place was that it was a location that demonstrated the triumph of man’s will over just about anything. The castle’s creator, Boyce Luther Gulley was diagnosed with tuberculosis in the 1920s, which was basically a death sentence. Rather than give up, he headed down to Arizona with nothing. Using his knowledge of real property law, he acquired the land on which the castle on the cheap – it was near the Phoenix dump at the time. Then, using his architectural and engineering knowledge he proceeded to build the castle on his own with materials he either salvaged from various areas, or acquired cheaply as they had been discarded. The castle is truly an example of being able to construct something from nothing. Even more importantly, the castle is a classic example of the inscrutable nature of man – because Boyce Luther Gulley concealed all of this from his family until his death.
There are three great historic mansions in California that are full of ghosts. There’s the Winchester House, which is full of actual ghosts. Then there’s the Hearst Castle, which is full of the ghosts of history, old Hollywood, print news, and dare I say it, Rosebud. Last, but not least, there’s Scotty’s Castle, which is full of ghosts of old stories. Out of the three, Scotty’s Castle is the most remote, as it is in the far Northern corner of Death Valley National Park, miles and miles away from cities, towns, and civilization. Despite its remote location, Scotty’s Castle holds its own as one of the big three, and depending on your perspective, may even be the most interesting, beautiful, and compelling.