McKamey Manor, a haunted house located in Summertown, Tennessee and Huntsville, Alabama, has been dubbed the “scariest haunted house” in the United States, and with good reason. How scary is it? So terrifying, apparently, that you have to sign a 40-page waiver to go inside. It’s received harsh criticism from those who say it’s an abusive torture chamber, which the owner denies.
To go inside the haunted house, you also have to present a doctor’s physical. And that’s not all. You have to pass a drug test, among other requirements. Each “tour” can last as long as 10 hours and is customized to terrify the participant. It’s open year round, with one show per week. A petition to shut down McKamey Manor has drawn more than 80,000 signatures. “It’s a torture chamber under disguise,” the petition website claims.
The experience is controversial. Nashville Scene once described it as one of “the nation’s most notorious extreme haunted houses” and “torture on demand.” The Tennessee version is located an hour from Nashville. The stories that have emerged are not your typical haunted house, that’s for sure.
A trailer for McKamey Manor shows people in various scenes of distress – being submerged in water, with a drill being inserted in their mouth, and so forth – and the tagline, “Guests have been told numerous times before the event, ‘You really don’t want to do this!'” There are so many outlandish stories circulating about what happens at McKamey Manor that there’s actually a Facebook page called “The Truth about The Truth About McKamey Manor.” There have been campaigns to shut the manor down. There’s even a Facebook page called “End Torture at McKamey Manor.” However, that page wrote, “I wish I could change the name of the page now. I think the page shouldn’t outright say MM is torturing people, while I may think that, shouldn’t boast it as fact.”
“Not a haunt at all, SAW meets HOSTEL. Torture and sadistic treatment of humans that is sick. FKN JOKE,” wrote a critic on Facebook. However, another person wrote, “They know what they’re getting into. They’ve seen the videos, heard the stories and are interviewed and warned by Russ (McKamey, the owner), ‘You really don’t want to do this!’ Then the haters cry foul. SMH.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. In Addition to Signing the Waiver, You Need Medical Insurance & to Pass a Background Check; Stories Say People Eat Bugs & Are Submerged in Tanks of Eels, Among Other Disturbing Things
First, what happens in the Haunted House (if it can really be called that)? It depends who you listen to. But Nashville Scene describes a 2013 promo video, which you can watch above, as showing “blood-covered horror-seekers eating cockroaches, vomiting and begging to be released from macabre contraptions that seem straight off the set of Saw.”
The site reports that owner Russ McKamey has an agreement with police where he gives them a head’s up when he’s about to do a show. According to the site, other challenges can include being submerged in “a 200-yard muddy trench that’s home to a few caimans,” or in “a giant tank full of moray eels” that will “wrap around your face.”
If that’s not bad enough, Nashville Scene reports, you might have to take “mind-altering drugs,” eat bugs, or deal with weapons like whips and tasers. Some people are definitely not fans. A HorrorBuzz opinion piece raised serious concern about McKamey Manor.
“With McKamey at the forefront…we’re cast as a bunch of sadistic weirdos who love to torture people. That’s not the type of representation we want, or need, especially right now,” the columnist wrote, about the horror community.
Huffington Post adds other horrors to the list, saying the experience can include participants getting “waterboarded, covered in tarantulas or locked in a coffin.”
According to WGN-TV, no one has ever completed the tour, and admission is a bag of dog food. You get $20,000 if you can complete it, the television station reports.
The McKamey Manor website calls it the “One and Only ORIGINAL” and “Extreme Haunted Attraction.” It also dubs itself a “Surivial (sic) Horror Challenge.” Here’s the list of rules to partake in the attraction, according to its website:
1. 21 and above, or 18-20 with parents approval.
2. Completed “Sports Physical” and Doctors letter stating you are physically and mentally cleared.
3. Pass a background check provided by MM.
4. Be screened via FB face time or phone.
5. Proof of medical insurance.
6. Sign a detailed 40 page waiver.
7. Pass a portable drug test on the day of the show.
2. McKamey Manor Is an ‘Audience Participation Event’ Described as Rough, Intense & Truly Frightening; Some People Claimed They Were Whipped & Blindfolded in a Freezer with Water Inside
According to the San Diego Union Tribune, Russ McKamey, the owner, has spoken out against people who claim they were victimized by the experience, saying he has footage of it all, and adding, “I tell people they’ll get cuts and bruises. It’s aggressive. But these people weren’t injured like they say they were.”
Some people who underwent the experience have a different view, including those who went there when it was at a different location. One woman, Amy Milligan, told the newspaper that she was “pushed to the ground, pulled around by her hair and slapped while being picked up and driven in a van to McKamey’s home.” Then, she was shown “lying in a freezer in a few inches of dark-colored water, blindfolded, while actors pour water over her head.” She told the newspaper even worse scenes were edited out, and she feared she was going to die.
“We do not water-board, we do not even kind of water board,” McKamey told the newspaper. “It’s psychological what we’re doing. They’re safe all the time.”
However, a Colorado woman, Laura Hertz Brotherton, told Nashville Scene: “I was waterboarded, I was Tased, I was whipped. I still have scars of everything they did to me. I was repeatedly hit in my face, over and over and over again. Like, open-handed, as hard as a man could hit a woman in her face.”
The McKamey Manor website warns that the Haunted House is “not your standard (boo) haunted house. This is an audience participation event in which (YOU) will live your own Horror Movie. This is a rough, intense and truly frightening experience. You must be in GREAT HEALTH to participate. Last year’s haunt was absolutely nothing compared to the new MCKAMEY MANOR.”
The Haunted House designs each “tour” on the participant’s personal fears.
“New for 2018, MCKAMEY MANOR Presents ‘DESOLATION,’ including Holly’s Playhouse,” says the most recent information on the website, as of October 2019. “The next evolution in intertactive (sic) ‘SURVIVAL HORROR’ theartre (sic). Understand that each tour will be different based upon your personal fears, and can last up to 10 HOURS. Each guest will be mentally and physically challenged until you reach your personal breaking point.”
3. Participants Are Advised That the Experience Is ‘Aggressive’ & They Shouldn’t Wear Expensive Clothing
The list of requirements is, in fact, sort of terrifying.
“Do not wear expensive clothing,” the website advises.
“Do not bring anything that cannot get wet. This can be an aggressive experience, and our actors will come in contact with you. You CANNOT in any way return the contact. If anyone becomes rowdy (pushing, shoving, running), they will immediately be removed – no questions asked. Anyone that has been drinking alcohol, or taking drugs will not be allowed into the haunt and will be asked to leave the property.”
The site continues, “At check-in you will be required to show I.D. The waiver process for ‘DESOLATION’ will last 3-4 hours. ONE performance only per week (year round). Specific requirements must be met in order to ever take the tour.”
The site mocks the typical Haunted House as not really being that scary (we all know that already, right?)
”At the new MCKAMEY MANOR you will experience thrills that you HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE. You will be tested to your very core. If things become too much, you can always quit…if we let you…” the site promises.
The page for contact information and reservations can be found here.
A person who posted on Facebook claimed that people are warned they can be fish hooked, suffer tooth extraction, be left with dislocated joints, be subjected to medieval torture devices, be bruised by paintballs, and face water torture.
4. McKamey Manor Was Featured in a Netflix Show & Has Live Feeds
McKamey Manor was featured in Netflix’s show, Dark Tourist, episode 8. It was also featured on Netflix’s Haunters: Art of the Scare.
McKamey, who owns McKamey Manor, posted a video showing people how they can watch live feeds. “The Manor actually live feeds all the shows, which are like all the time, one a week at least, on Facebook,” he said.
To watch the live feeds, you have to join the McKamey Manor closed group on Facebook. You can find that here. “I’m not looking for any knuckleheads,” he said.
“We’re booked way in advance,” he said, adding that people back out all the time so openings are often occurring. He said that McKamey Manor is a “psychological, mental game.” You can see more on his YouTube page.
5. People Have Filled Social Media With Unverified, Terrifying Claims About the Haunted House, But McKamey Denies It’s a ‘Torture House’
McKamey, who came to Tennessee from San Diego, denied to WGN various claims about the manor, including that it’s a “torture house.” He told the television station that his favorite horror movies are psychological thrillers by Hitchcock and revealed most people are afraid of water. People supposedly have to wear onesies to participate.
“I’m a very straight laced conservative guy, but here I run this crazy haunted house that people think is this torture factory, fetish factory. All of these things that it’s not, but people believe that based upon the films that I have made,” he told the television station.
People have filled a Facebook page in the Haunted House’s name with… horror stories. “They make you eat things, stick their fingers down your throat, make you bleed and make the animals bite you.. it’s a f*cking torcher (sic) chamber. A haunted house is for fun not to actually hurt people. My friends cousin went three (sic) and he had to stay the night in the ER and get stitches,” claimed one woman.
“My friends cousins girlfriends brother was there once and they turned the lights off and made him get on his knees and they put something in his mouth and when the lights came on it was the foot of a dead dog,” a man claimed.
“These comments are hilarious. These people knew what they where getting themselves into. There is information everywhere about the happening at Mckamey Manor. Personally, i cannot wait till august, i will hopefully get the chance to enter,” wrote another.
There are also Reddit threads with reviews about the experience. One man wrote on Reddit, “Personally I would never do it, but I do know a guy that did it. He’s got PTSD due to the experience and it kind of messed up going to haunts for him.” Here’s another Reddit thread on the Manor.