As I mentioned last week, Jenny bought tickets for us to Medieval Times down in Chicago on Saturday and Chuck, Connie, Les, Bryan, and Judy joined us in a rented mini-van as we merrily made our way to the ultimate birthday destination.
Bryan was also kind enough to get me a pair of swords and shields that lit up and rang like an 1940′s telephone when you pressed a button, and we had fun taunting slow drivers with our display of veracity and medievalness the entire time. Waving our swords at them in warning that next time they switched lanes without a blinker, we would have to dispense with our cruel and hilarious style of punishment that only plastic swords can dish out.
When we arrived at Medieval Times, the first stop after the overpriced beer dispensers was the ‘Torture Chamber’, which on it’s own was worth the hour and a half ride. For the low price of $2.00 each, we entered a series of hallways that had an impressive display of medieval torture devices on display along with descriptions and illustrations of how they were used. I had a fair idea of the kind of torture that happened back in those days and how common it was, but I was completely blown away by the amount of devices that Medivial times had on display, which was just a small glimpse of the kind of devices humans had used to torture, maime, and just be brutally disgusting to other humans with.
There was the two handed saw that greated us right away. It looks like a traditional loggers saw, and on it’s own you would probably say, “Yeah, when they used that for torture it really must have sucked.” and this is where the illustrations and descriptive text really drove home that all of these devices were much worse you can imagine. Next to the regular looking loggers saw was a picture of exactly how they used it. You were hung upside down with your legs stretched apart forming a wide ‘V’, and that is the point the torturers used as a starting point for what the accompaning text assured us was a very prolonged and very painful death in which you were slowly and bluntly sawed apart from your crotch to your head.
As bad as it sounds, that wasn’t the worst we saw. In fact, I concluded it was probably one of the better ways to go compared with the rest of the devices and techniques that were on display, including what we all agreed was the worst: The Judas Cradle.
In this incredibley manically conceived device, you are hoisted up via straps tied around your torso and then repeatedly bounced onto a blunt triangular block of wood/steel below. The picture that accompanies the description here is a great case of how the image really drives home the, err point.
As we collected ourselves from the torture chamber, the trumpets sounded and announced that the show was about to begin. It’s hard to remember in which order events took place exactly, due not to the amount of beer I’d drank, but from the state of pure euphoria that I was in, but before we went in to eat, I was told I was going to be knighted by the King of Medieval Times in honor of my birthday.
And Chuck’s monetary donation to the court that ensured my Birthday Knighting.
The King asked me where I was from, and proceeded to Knight me in front of everyone as “Lord Dan of Milwaukee”, which I have to admit does have a nice ring to it. Then in true medieval fashion, we had our picture taken together as I kneeled in front of him. I hope to have that scanned in later today. All in all, it was quite an honor to go in front of the King, and I actually felt a bit humbled by the experience, providing a good example of how wrapped up you can get in the whole experience.
We were seated in the front row of the arena, in the ‘black and white’ section, which meant that we’d be cheering for the Black and White knight during the course of the evening. Drinks and soup were brought out as the competition began, and it was clear that our knight was one of the most, if not the most, skilled in the bunch of knights. As dinner progressed through half chickens and ribs, he kept racking up the points, and the overall story unfolded bit by bit.
Two of the most impressive things for me about the entire evening was the level of expertise these people really had. I was expecting just some half assed acting about the whole thing, but was really surprised when they went on to display some really impressive horsemanship both in terms of riding, and how well the horses were trained. The low/quick stepping and rocking back on two legs to protect the knight were a few of the manuevers they showed off, but you could tell that they really put a lot of time into the training of the horses and the knightly manuevers.
The other thing I thought was pretty impresive was the falcon trainer. He put on a display of how they train the falcon and what it was used for back in medieval times, and it was pretty cool to watch the falcon fly around above the crowd, inches above your head. This really made me realize that the folks who work at medieval times were more than just actors, a number of them do things like falconry for a living.
As the competition progressed, our knight was really kicking some ass, but my throat was starting to take a beating from the near 90 minutes of yelling and cheering I’d been doing. When they got to hand to hand combat, which on the ride back spawned a heated debate about the merits of a ‘mace vs. sword’ showdown between the mace and sword camps in the car, our knight got the sign to ‘take a fall’, and that for this show at least, he wouldn’t win the heart of the princess. While we were disappointed that he didn’t win, we were proud of the effort he put forth for his Lords and Ladies seated at Table 2 in the Black and White section.
All in all, it was the best birthday I’ve ever had, and I would highly recommend a night at medieval times for anyone who’s even remotely interested. You don’t have to be a dungeons and dragons fan to have a really enjoyable time there, which, combined with how they totally emerge you in a fantasy world for the better part of two hours, is why the Medieval Times franchise is so successful.
Again, thanks to Les, Bryan, Judy, Chuck, Connie and most of all Jenny for sharing the good times!