Peasant Dreams: ‘Medieval' Castle in the Ozarks Presents Grand Illusion

by George Waldon  on Monday, Mar. 4, 2013 12:00 am  

For Sale: Medieval-style fortress in early stages of construction on 50 acres in the far reaches of northern Boone County. The mostly wooded Ozark Mountain fiefdom located between the communities of Omaha and Lead Hill also is home to a visitors center. Amenities include a faux quarry, in keeping with the charade of building a monumental structure using modern technology while touting authentic 13th century methods. Established on French deceit, the endeavor preyed upon the trusting souls who toiled and toured its grounds. Serfs not included. Price: $400,000.

“That’s tough,” said Johnny Burleson, an early project manager on the Ozark Medieval Fortress. “But it’s accurate.”

The mock description of the property, which is indeed for sale, is based on an interview with Burleson and others familiar with the grandiose development.

Nearly all of the medieval construction on display when the project opened to the public on May 1, 2010, was made possible thanks to heavy equipment and modern tools, claims of historic technological authenticity to the contrary.

To the discerning eye, the tell-tale signs of modern incursions are evident despite the veneer of 13th century authenticity.

Air-gunned nails were used to assemble the tread-wheel crane, not handmade specimens created by fortress craftsmen. Door hinges were bought at Ace Hardware, not forged by the on-site blacksmith. Felled trees used in construction throughout the property were cut with chainsaws, not hewn by hand-powered 13th century-style blades.

The misrepresentation of the project’s historic authenticity reflected the true character of Michel Guyot, chief promoter of the Ozark Medieval Fortress.

Burleson worked on the short-lived tourist attraction during its non-public construction phase in 2009 and into January 2010. He dealt firsthand with Guyot and other members of the French inner circle pushing the project.

“They were royalty, and everyone else was peasants,” said Burleson, 51. “That’s the concept of how they dealt with people. It really could’ve been something good. But you just can’t surround it with all this.”

He believes the ill will and negative word-of-mouth created by Guyot and his minions doomed the Ozark Medieval Fortress as much as serious flaws in site selection and planning and authenticity issues.

The project was envisioned to bring a historic slice of 13th century France to the New World and draw a share of the tourism riches flowing around Branson, Mo., 30 miles away.

The anachronistic appeal of the fortress, however, only enticed sporadic visitors numbering in the hundreds instead of the expected thousands.



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