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Medieval reenactor dies after 7-foot-long lance spears his abdomen

An image of a Medieval reenactor.
An image of a Medieval reenactor. (Shutterstock)
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A Virginia man, who was playing a Medieval knight during a reenactment performance, impaled and killed himself with his seven-foot-long lance.

Peter Barclay of Woodbridge, Va., a retired Army lieutenant colonel, died after he was impaled with his lance in a timed competition Saturday in Williamstown, Ky. Barclay was a longtime and active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, according to the group’s president John Fulton.

Fulton said the 52-year-old was competing in an equestrian game at the Kentucky event inside a large pavilion while spectators watched. In the game, riders had to pick up their lance from a hay bale and then ride, using it to pick up a paper plate.

Barclay, who performed under the name “Master Terafan Greydragon,” had the lance in hand, picked the paper plate off the ground and was finishing the course when the accident happened.

“Something happened with that spear,” Fulton said Wednesday, “and he lost control of it or it turned, hit the ground, and as his horse was moving, the tip of it went into him.” A lance weighs roughly two- to three-pounds and has a metal tip on the end.

Fulton said the lance’s tip went into Barclay’s abdomen.

“He got off the horse, took some steps and people noticed he was bleeding,” Fulton said. Barclay then collapsed and was air lifted from the event to a hospital but died en route, according to Fulton.

Fulton said his group is cooperating with investigators as they look into what went wrong. He said his group follows a “very strict set of rules” and safety measures for its “combat-related activities.”

Fulton said Barclay was wearing a doublet, which is a short, tight-fighting jacket. He said he was not wearing full body armor, which is not necessary for the activity, given that it was a timed event with no other riders directly in the ring at the time.

Barclay had been involved in Medieval events and reenactments for more than 30 years and taught others how to ride horses and do the activities, Fulton said. The group has more than 30,000 members, including groups in the U.K., Austria, Australia and Denmark.

Barclay was known for doing the event he participated in two or three times a month and was considered a leader in the group as its deputy for equestrian activities. Fulton said Barclay had recently retired, having served the last four years at the Pentagon.

“He was the consummate expert,” Fulton said. “He knew how to do it and how to do it safely.”

“It was just something that happened and we still don’t have a grasp of it.”

While there have been injuries before, Fulton said it is the first time the group has had anyone die. He said it was “shocking to have this happen to one of the best people in our organization.”

“It is a horrible set of circumstances that caused this.”