Doomsday Castle?

I have long been an advocate of what I refer to as Medieval Survivalism. By that, I mean that if possible survival should be carried out as a member of a community defending a stronghold, rather than simply as a single family or small group trying to achieve the impossible task of remaining hidden somewhere off in the woods. Lying low is the option most talked about in Prepper circles, but from a logical standpoint I can’t see that being anything other than a short-term solution in a true grid-down societal collapse scenario. No matter how remote your little cabin in the woods happens to be, someone is eventually going to find it. And, especially in a world where a producing garden and off-grid infrastructure such as electricity might be worth more than gold, you will find yourself quickly left with no other choice but to either kill anyone who stumbles across your property or risk them coming back with friends to overrun your little paradise. Beyond that, the typical “staying out of sight” MO of most in the Survivalism subculture will only be feasible for those willing to live a true nomadic existence, living permanently out of a rucksack or bug-out bag and moving frequently. Don’t get me wrong, human beings lived that way for quite a long span of our history, but it’s not for me by any stretch of the imagination.

So, you can imagine how intrigued I was to see a show called “Doomsday Castle”on Netflix recently. Well, needless to say, I watched it and I have some opinions I would like to share. First off, the family featured in the show are “End Times”Preppers, an ex-military father and 5 of his 10 adult children. Basically, he has called them together to help him complete the castle that he started to build in the Carolina mountains back in 1999. The focus of his Prepping is in case of the future threat of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a solar flare or errant nuclear detonation and the resulting societal calamity that would ensue soon afterward. Anyway, the following are my observations:

1.) The mode they have chosen to attempt survival is not feasible for a single family, in my opinion, and I say that after having done extensive research on both medieval as well as modern warfare. In medieval times, the general rule of thumb is that you could defend a structure like the one this family is building as long as the attacking force did not outnumber the defenders by a ratio of more than 10 to 1. That being said, you can only look at it that way if there are enough defenders to man every tower and bastion, leaving nothing open for an attacking force to slip through. It doesn’t matter how tall or thick your walls are, they can simply be climbed over if not defended properly. The six adults featured in this program should, by medieval logic, be able to repel up to 60 attackers, but it’s more complicated than that. 

Six fighters is not enough to cover every section of the walls, and battle requires support personnel as well as defenders. Someone has to be available to carry and reload ammo, carry water to weary defenders, and to replace anyone who is injured or simply too tired to continue. You also need a floating reserve force that can be thrown against any section of the wall that seems to be faltering under heavy attack. It is, quite simply, too much for a single family to handle.

In order for a family or small group to make something like that work, it must be done on a much smaller scale, such as a tower house or bastle house.

 2.) Any part of your structure that you are going to have the nerve to refer to as a “fortified bunker” cannot have a windows that face outside your protective walls. It simply doesn’t work that way. Adding the roll-up metal door made things a bit more secure, but that as well as the windows themselves were a completely unnecessary construction expenditure that actually served to make the entire structure even less secure. Looking at the walls from the outside, it’s also obvious that large areas have been left for big picture windows to be installed. Such things were part of the construction of the original castles centuries ago, but only because they were typically surrounded by another protective curtain wall. You didn’t have to worry about an attacker getting close to the actual structure where the owners of the castle lived (which was referred to as the Castle Keep, by the way), until after the outer walls had already fallen, at which point it was all academic anyway and you would typically either surrender or settle in for a siege. 

These people are actually building a Castle Keep, not a castle. There should be no large windows facing the outside world. If they wanted that type of architecture, they should have built a structure with a central courtyard in the center and allowed windows opening on to that space. If I were attacking this place with even a halfway competent force under my command, it would fall in less than one hour. It isn’t a stronghold at all.

 3.) The drawbridge construction conducted in the first episode was also a joke. It was only barely ballistics-resistant and was built so shoddily that you could see it bending under its own weight as they tried to raise it. It needed a more substantial framing structure and a pulley system that featured 3 stout chains, not just 2.

Needless to say, I was disappointed by what I saw in this program. Perhaps if I had realized ahead of time that it is essentially a spinoff of “Doomsday Preppers,”I might not have gotten my hopes up. Despite all of this, however, I still believe the philosophy of Medieval Survivalism is a worthy one to explore. It just needs to be done correctly.