North Carolina’s not the first place you’d associate with castles but go a little bit to the North of Durham and that’s exactly what you’ll find. Look for the Red Mountain and poking out above the treeline is the outline of Mont Rouge Castle. Why is there a castle on the hillside of North Carolina? Well, there are plenty of strange and wonderful theories out there but none quite so peculiar as the truth.
Castle Mont Rouge was created by a sculptor, Robert Mihaly, who lives locally. It sits among a collection of perfectly ordinary houses and trailers. When he designed the castle, Robert was expecting to call it his own home. Sadly, before he could finish it – his wife died and the grief-stricken artist couldn’t bring himself to complete the project.
Architecturally, what remains is a bit of a mess. It’s a blend of European and Middle Eastern styles; so you have fantastic towers looming above cupolas and minarets. It might seem like it would be more in keeping with Bavaria or Russia but the design is uniquely American. Mihaly’s vision had it as a place of whimsy with his own design elements playing a key role so that it would function as a place of inspiration.
It’s not particularly big as castles go; after all, it was to be a design studio and residence for a couple and not the Mongol hordes. By the time he began work on Castle Mont Rouge – Mihaly had already worked as a sculptor on other major projects including work for Washington Cathedral and Duke University. So his excitement at being free to create his own vision would have been immense.
The exterior is complete but the interior was never finished because of the premature end to the project. Those who have ventured inside are very clear that it’s now littered with graffiti and rapidly decaying. Local authorities were once warning people to stay clear of venturing inside in fears of a serious accident taking place.
Those who have ignored the warnings and venture inside anyway say that Mont Rouge Castle has a haunted almost supernatural air to it. With ghastly gargoyles standing guard over rooms with wooden floors and ceilings. There is a patchwork air to the decor, where different styles meet and clash in different parts of the castle, that adds to the eerie nature of the place.
But sadly the floors are rotting and the castle has slowly begun to fill with debris blown in by the wind. There are fragments of glass from long ago smashed windows that litter the inside too. It might be best for would-be visitors to remain at a safe distance and admire this peculiar and bewitching work from afar.
In fact, it may be that this is your only option. After a 2014 Kickstarter project to restore the Mont Rouge Castle failed – there are rumours that the authorities have now roped off the site completely to prevent visitors coming to a grisly end within its walls.