The Truth About America's Most Controversial Haunted House

When thinking of a "haunted house," you might be inclined to envision dark rooms, jump scares, creaky sounds, fake cobwebs, bowls of gummy worms supposed to be brains, or scenes of chairs with shackles next to a guy in a hockey mask standing silently. Safe, PG-rated horror tropes suitable for adults, mature children, and people without pre-existing heart conditions (you've presumably seen the waivers). Or, perhaps you've visited an escape room, where participants solve brain-bending puzzles using obscure clues before an employee in a Jack the Ripper costume (whatever that looks like) swings open the door, rubber cleaver in hand, like an IRL version of the board game Clue. 

But what if there was a haunted house so profoundly disturbing that it conducted actual, two-hour-long psychological evaluations to screen applicants? What if, upon successfully making it through, you earned $20,000? But, no one has been able to do it so far. And in fact, the term "haunted house" may be an utter misnomer because the house isn't haunted by anything but employees engaging in an actual, real-life, interactive torture experience. 

Such is the case with McKamey Manor. A YouTube film promoting their operation uses the word "experience" multiple times, cut with images of people in cages, being physically handled or restrained, forced to eat things, and smeared in what could either be scum or feces (it's hard to tell). To call McKamey Manor controversial is an understatement. To call it sadistic and sociopathic is too tame.

Hello, I want to play a game

Founded in San Diego by Russ McKamey, and currently resting an hour south of Nashville, McKamey Manor isn't exactly hiding what goes on inside. 

A quick click over to their homepage reveals video after video, up to 40 minutes long in some cases, of participants being taken through the "extreme haunt," or "survival horror" experience. People aren't just scared; they're physically abused and humiliated. One clip shows a woman forced to pick her shoes out of a dirty toilet bowl using her teeth as punishment for wanting to leave, and this is after distorted imagery implies that she's been waterboarded. As reported by Nashville Scene, another woman begged repeatedly to be let go, and wound up in the hospital with a neck brace, cuts, and bruises. Others reported having to eat cockroaches or being buried alive and having to breathe through only a straw. In fact, per News Channel 9, the actual waiver for McKamey Manor says that participants agree to being slapped, shaved, submerged, or having "unwanted dental work."

Saying "It's all a part of the experience," or "You get what you wanted" as justification to be violent, or in an attempt to teach some Jigsaw-like moral lesson from the Saw franchise, is obviously disingenuous. As one would expect, McKamey Manor has gotten plenty of media attention, and people are trying to expose what's happening there. In fact, there is currently a petition on to shut the place down.