Trials and Trebuchets
It was a brisk, cloudy spring Sunday when the armies assembled. Shortly after noon, the trebuchets took the field and began their siege preparations. On command, counterweights dropped, slings whipped through the air, and projectiles hurled down, to the sound of cheers and ovations.
But this wasn’t a medieval battlefield. It was a basketball court in Bushwick. The mighty catapults were actually miniature mockups and the payloads were not deadly stone missiles, but Lindt-brand chocolate truffles. This was the self-described Great Trebulation of 2022, the neighborhood’s first-ever community-wide catapult competition.
On Sunday, March 20, nine catapults and nearly fifty eager participants gathered at the basketball courts at the Bushwick Playground on Knickerbocker Avenue for an afternoon of revelry to celebrate what has become the internet’s siege weapon of choice: the trebuchet.
A trebuchet is a mechanical catapult device that utilizes a long throwing arm, counterweight, and sling to hurl objects at tremendous force, hundreds of feet towards a target. In medieval times, trebuchets were used during prolonged sieges to batter down the walls of fortresses. In the case of the local Great Trebulation, competitors constructed DIY-style 3-foot by 3-foot miniature trebuchets.
“This is the dumbest shit I’ve ever done in my life,” Reid Worroll, bartender and Trebulation organizer, murmured with an enormous grin as the trebuchets made their final preparations.
The trebuchet tribulation had kicked off with fanfare: John Stanesco, who plays in the Brooklyn post-punk band Dead Tooth, had played a short medieval-themed set, before silence descended on the enthusiastic crowd as Worroll took a megaphone in hand.
“Let the Trebulation commence!,” exclaimed Worroll.
The crowd cheered as each trebuchet fired its chocolate payload. Some misfired, while others managed to throw their truffles dozens of feet. Rounds of applause erupted as each chocolate landed and was marked by an orange cone.
Team names were as creative as they were unique: the Long Shots; Trials & Tribulations; Snake Snake; the Dry Heavers; Reduce/Reuse/Recycle; Pussy Goblins and Flamingo.
Some competitors even dressed in chainmail, kilts, capes, wigs, and other medieval-themed attire.
Jesse Mooney, a member of “the Dry Heavers,” dressed in a Scottish Kilt and Jacobite shirt, said he was impressed with the number of costumes and partcipants; “I was almost certain it was going to be just our team of nerds, because that’s usually how it is,” he said.
A different team, “the Whorelords of Bushwick,” even brought their own medieval-themed herald to entertain spectators. “Behold! I bring you the most tremendous of trebuchets, the most comely of catapults, the most wondrous of war machines,” read Julia Corsbie, from a long scroll while bedecked in a scarlet wig and cobalt cloak. “Feast your eyes on this handsome, efficacious, historically accurate trebuchet…immaculately crafted with exquisite wooden pine harvested from the far reaches of AG Hardware on the Avenue of Knickerbocker!”
The competition rated trebuchets through three categories: greatest distance thrown, most historically accurate, and best aesthetics. Three judges evaluated and assessed each trebuchet’s appearance and performance along those guidelines. The prize was a golden paper crown and tickets to a Medieval Times in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. All competitors also received a commemorative t-shirt.
“It was so much more fun than I ever could have anticipated…I am filled with so much joy knowing that so many people were willing to meet up, make friends, and engage in playful creativity with me and each other in lil’ old Brooklyn,” Worroll said in a post-event Instagram post. “I know it can be hard to find the time to do much of anything in a town like this, so it warmed my heart to see so many kind folks choose to give so much of their time and effort to a day of revelry, friendship, and trebuchets.”
Greatest Distance Thrown: The Dry Heavers, whose trebuchet threw their truffle nearly 150 feet – well clear of the length of the basketball court.
Most Historically Accurate: Trials & Tribulations, whose trebuchet featured detailed weathering that added to its authentic medieval design.
Best Aesthetics: Pussy Goblins, a group that sported an original, creative, and unique approach to their trebuchet.