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Michael Bruns and his father, Brent Bruns, stand with one of the vehicles used at the castle. Vehicles manufactured prior to 1975 don't use computer chips, so if the electric grid were destroyed, they would still run, the two say. Photo by Megan Hoye.
Palm Coast Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013 5 years ago

Doomsday Castle: A Palm Coast family's struggle for survival

by: Megan Hoye Staff Writer


It’s not a matter of if doomsday strikes; it’s a matter of when. And the question is: Are you ready?

That is the premise behind “Doomsday Castle,” National Geographic’s latest series, which stars Palm Coast resident Brent Bruns and his children as they work to prepare themselves for the worst while building a fortified castle deep within the South Carolina wilderness.

They’re preppers, just one family in a movement of people who want to be prepared for the worst in case disaster strikes, be it natural or otherwise.

Bruns, a father of 10, first acquired his property in the buildup to the millennium, when he began to read about post-cataclysmic survival. He purchased land in the wilderness and built a bunker to prepare for the worst.

Then, nothing happened. But the signs of the times tell him disaster is imminent.

He decided to build a castle, a fire-proof and fortifiable safe-haven. That has been his project for the last 12 years.

When the family began to film “Doomsday Castle,” which premieres at 10 p.m. Aug. 13 on the National Geographic Channel, the castle was nothing but a bunker and walls. As Bruns taught his children survival skills, the family worked to complete its haven. The 10-episode series culminates with the installation of the castle’s roof.

The show is part reality, part survival how-to guide. Viewers will learn the same skills as the Bruns family does — from installing solar water pumps to building catapults to wilderness skills and booby trapping.

And along the way, the Bruns family gets to know each other, as well. Tensions mount as they struggle to survive (the castle is attacked three times throughout the series), and ultimately, the family must learn to work as a team.

“I went to the castle to teach my kids something, and in the end, I learned a lot,” Brent Bruns said. “I learned a lot more about the dynamics of my children and the way they think — something I took for granted before.”

This learning, of course, happened after a multitude of arguments over whose survival tactics were superior and other petty squabbles that arose in the close quarters of the bunker. Bruns’ children are much like himself: They’re stubborn, and they like to be in control.

So they worked through their differences — literally. When daughter Ashley could not stand to be around her sister, Dawn-Marie, any longer, she left the bunker. Her brother, Michael, followed her outside.

“You can’t live outside the castle without doing something,” he told her.

To work through Ashley’s frustration, they made the LPOP — the listening post/observation post — otherwise known as the treehouse. Michael’s goal was to create something that would eventually benefit the castle as a whole, but the project was too successful. The post was so livable that Ashley decided she would stay there.

In response, Brent Bruns blindfolded Ashley and Dawn-Marie and drove them about two miles away from the castle, but not before circling around a bit to confuse them. He gave one a compass and the other a map and told them not to return for 36 hours.

“I knew they would have to work together, and work things out, to get back. Did they? You’ll have to watch to see,” Bruns said, grinning as he leaned back in his chair.

Preppers, by nature, are usually discreet about what they do in anticipation of the worst, Bruns said, so he was at first a bit reluctant to film the show. But ultimately, he decided to do it, not only because his castle is fortified but also, because he hopes it will inspire other people to prepare.

Along with that idea, Bruns launched, a how-to guide for the apocalypse. It will prepare people across the country for any possible disaster, he said.

For as much as the Bruns family hopes the show will help others prepare, filming helped them as well, by illuminating certain problems they hadn’t prepared for and forcing them to solve those problems.

“We fail a lot, but in the end, we come together,” Michael Bruns said. “We come together not only as survivalists, but also as a family.”


The cast

Of Brent Bruns' 10 children, seven make appearances on the show. Five appear on each episode. The cast will host Twitter viewing parties when the show airs at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays, on National Geographic. Viewers are encouraged to Tweet questions to them.

Brent Bruns @DoomsdayBrentSr

Brent II Bruns @DoomsdayBrent2

Lindsey Bruns @DoomsdayLindsey

Ashley Bruns @DoomsdayAshley

Dawn-Marie Bruns @DoomsdayDMarie

Michael Bruns @DoomsdayMike

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