Preparing for an apocalyptic event – or “prepping” – has been on the minds of thousands of people for generations. For some, it’s nothing more than putting away several weeks’ worth of water, food and fuel to survive a natural disaster. But for others who take it WAY more serious, it’s all about being prepared for a cataclysmic event that could change life as we know it.
Imagine yourself in this scenario: terrorists – either foreign or domestic (think Jericho) – have set off a nuclear device on US soil causing the world as we know to spiral into chaos. The resulting Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) blast wipes out everything without a shielded circuit board – no computers, no cellphones, and most unmodified cars all stop working.
Think EMPs aren’t a legitimate threat? EMPs can be triggered by numerous events including solar flares. Solar flares, like the one that just missed the earth a couple weeks ago and the one scientists predict will hit in September 2013, are a major concern. How would you eat, drink, and survive if an EMP strikes? Well if you’ve been prepping for years for just such an event, like Brent Sr., you travel high into the hills and take refuge in your fortified EMP-proof castle.
Brent, Sr., along with five of his ten children – Brent II, Ashley, Lindsey, Michael and Dawn-Marie – have taken to the red clay-stained hills of Carolina to build a reinforced castle complete with booby traps, murder holes, an underground bunker, a trebuchet and of course, a drawbridge spanning a fire moat. National Geographic Channel has created a show, called Doomsday Castle, that follows the family as they work (and occasionally fight) together to finish building their father’s dream. Instead of following the exploits of multiple families as in Doomsday Preppers, the spinoff focuses solely on Brent, Sr.
Brent, Sr. – For the most part Brent, Sr. is a quiet man – that is until you talk to him about prepping. Senior isn’t ashamed or embarrassed to talk about building an enormous castle to protect his family against what he perceives to be a real and viable threat. Even though he’s essentially been working on the castle alone for 14 years, he now spends as much time with his children at the castle as he can. He wants them to know as much about sustainable survival skills as he does, in case an EMP disaster were ever to occur.
Brent II – Brent II, or B2 as he sometimes likes to be called, is the exact opposite of his father. He’s loud. He’s brash. He often does things without thoroughly thinking them through – which can sometimes lead to dangerous situations (see the battering ram incident of episode one). B2 hasn’t always gotten along with the rest of his family and was estranged from everyone until he started helping with the castle. Still, he has a lot of ingenuity and creativity brewing in his brain – and he’s eager to prove his worth to his father.
Ashley – Ashley is oldest of the girls working on the castle right now but the castle hasn’t always been the most important thing in her life. She’s got a beautiful singing voice (she and her brother Michael wrote a song about the castle), has interests in fashion and one day hopes to become a model or singer/songwriter. Being involved in “girly” things doesn’t mean she isn’t willing to buckle down and do what’s necessary to survive. She’s smart and easily adapts to changing situations – she’s also a master at smoking meat in the homemade smoker (a smoker she built).
Lindsey – Like her father Brent, Sr., Lindsey’s goal in life is to be successful in business and she recognizes the importance of knowing basic survival skills. She can easily identify many plants in the wild that have healing properties. She has a strong personality and will make it her goal to prove you wrong if you tell her she can’t do something. I told her she couldn’t give me $100 but I’m still waiting for her to prove me wrong.
Michael – Michael and his twin sister Dawn-Marie are the youngest members of the castle but no one buys into their father’s vision more than Michael. Just talk to him for a few minutes and it’s easy to tell he fully believes the castle is the right thing for him and his family. Michael is still learning a lot of the survival skills he needs from his father but his background in construction and trees comes in handy on a daily basis. Like his sister Ashley, Michael is a gifted musician who can sing, play guitar and even do a little rap-eoke.
Dawn-Marie – Dawn-Marie (don’t leave out the hyphen when writing her name or she’ll correct you) is the self-proclaimed “tough girl” of the family. She’d rather be roughing it in the castle or woods than anywhere else. She’s kind of no-nonsense and gets straight to business when it comes to prepping – and in that way she’s more like her father Brent, Sr. than any of the other kids. She’s quite handy with a crossbow and maintains the family’s sustainable garden.
Whether you agree or disagree with prepping, there’s something absolutely fascinating about building a huge medieval-style castle on top of a mountain. The family has picked a very strategic location for their fortress – it’s only accessible by four-wheeled drive vehicles with one way in and one way out, and they have the high-ground vantage point from every angle of the mountain. With their series of booby traps (more on that in a bit) and a simple, but effective, alarm system, there’s really no way someone can approach the castle without them knowing about it first.
Brent Sr. has been working on the castle since 1999 (he was concerned about Y2K) and just finished putting the roof on a few months ago. It stands 34 feet tall with all the walls made of cinder block filled (not capped) with rebar and concrete. With over 6,000 square feet of living space – not including the 30,000 gallon fuel tank converted into storage space buried under the castle – there’s more than enough room for Brent Sr., his children, grandchildren and even a few friends to survive the roughest of times. For now, the family resides in two bedrooms, a dining area, a living space and one bathroom.
The castle has its own sustainable garden, which the family maintains with the help of survival garden expert Rick Austin. They use it to grow food as a means to replenish/supplement their food stocks of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) – of which they have several years supply. The mountains surrounding the castle are filled with plenty of deer, rabbits and rattlesnake (yes, you can eat rattlesnake) as well. Not only can the pelts of the animals be tanned for various uses, but the meat is a welcome relief from eating pasta out of a bag.
The family is all about finding new uses for old items, so they’ve built a smoker from an old oven (which actually works surprisingly well), a food dehydrator from an old wooden greenhouse and a chicken coop (for eggs and meat) from Dawn-Marie’s childhood dresser.
They can slow roast all that meat in one of two large roasting pits in the castle. They also have a functioning kitchen in the living quarters. Though the family doesn’t have much, if any, access to ice, they do have a plentiful supply of water on hand from various sources – rain collection and solar-powered wells. The water runs through several filtration systems and is stored in a 500 gallon tank underground – giving the family ample water for drinking, cooking and showering.
WEAPONS & PROTECTION
It would be silly to build a castle and not fortify it from intruder attacks. To that end, the castle has several advance warning systems set up throughout the winding drive leading to it and it multiple areas of the surrounding woods – sneaking up on the family isn’t going to be as easy as you might think. That’s just the first line of defense for them though. If somehow an attacker does manage to make their way up the mountain without tripping the warning system, then they’ll have to deal with the multitude of booby traps dotting the mountain side.
The traps range from disorienting to maiming to deadly and if they don’t kill the attacker, then they’ll definitely slow them down. Assuming the attacker is still foolish enough to advance on the castle, the family literally has the high ground with shooting positions atop the castle behind the classic crenelations running the perimeter of the roof.
Even if attackers make it to the castle, they’ll still have to cross the fire moat (still being built as of this writing) and breach the steel-reinforced drawbridge just to enter. If they somehow manage to do both, then the family can drop the heavy, steel portcullis and attack through the murder holes on either side. Murder holes are holes cut into the roof above the entrance where defenders can pour scalding water, hot oil, fire guns or drop explosives onto the attackers.
To go along with their barrage of bullets and booby traps the family also has a trebuchet at their disposal, built by Brent, Sr. and Dawn-Marie. Personally, I would have built a ballista (a giant siege weapon that fires either large bolts or a multitude of arrows) as a last line of siege defense but their trebuchet is impressive – flinging projectiles with great force and distance.
If all else fails and invaders do find a way to overtake the castle, the family has several ways to “bug out” or escape. They can either quickly rappel down the side of the 34 foot walls or zip line to safety some 100 yards away to an outpost they have built in the woods. From there they can all rendezvous at a predetermined location.
Honestly, I went to visit the castle with every bit of skepticism I could muster – I even considered wearing a tinfoil hat on the tour – but after spending a few hours talking with the family, they’ve changed my attitude about prepping. Now, I’m not going to start building a castle in some remote location of the United States but living in Florida – hurricane central – I realize that I’m woefully unprepared for when a natural disaster does affect me. There’s nothing crazy about setting aside some food, water, money and other necessary supplies in case everything around me starts falling apart.
My final thoughts about Doomsday Castle as a show: It’s a solid, if slightly cheesy, spinoff for NatGeo that follows an interesting and genuine family while they do something other people think is crazy – prepare for an unknown disaster. I know I’ll be watching each week to see what’s in store for them.
Doomsday Castle airs on the National Geographic Channel Tuesdays at 10/9 Central.
Follow me on Twitter @MoviePaul and tell me how you would survive the end of days?
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