Torture House

Should an extreme and potentially traumatic haunted house be allowed to remain open?

Sofia Brickner, Staff Writer

McKamey Manor, “America’s Most Haunted House Experience,” is quickly gaining attention as more people are becoming aware of the actual occurrences at this “manor.” The Tennessee facility is often referred to as “a torture chamber under disguise.” At first glance, a quick Google search of the manor leads to recent news articles emphasizing it as an “extreme haunt,” and claiming that there is no more terrifying encounter for horror fans to pursue.

However, a deeper look into the requirements reveals that all participants must sign a 40-page waiver, complete a sports physical,  submit a doctor’s letter, pass a drug test, and complete a phone interview. The waiver lists the grotesque and brutal things that contestants could experience: suffering from cuts and bruises, pulling out of teeth, losing your hair or eyebrows, being forced underwater, waterboarding, and many other tortures.

Russ McKamey, owner of the attraction, films each tour for his own protection and uploads it to YouTube, proudly showing all the contestants who have failed to make it through the manor. Videos show visibly distraught past contestants warning others not to make the mistakes they did.

Contestants must be at least 18-20 and have the strange entry fee — a bag of dog food for McKamey’s greyhound rescue organization. McKamey offers a grand prize of $20,000 to any contestant who can finish the tour, but none have been able to withstand the barbaric punishments of the manor, and many question if the prize money even exists.

The experience is extremely physically and mentally excruciating, and its status as a legal haunted house is now being questioned. 

Recent YouTube clips have exposed the truth behind the manor; it has been revealed that the so-called “manor” takes place in Russ’s backyard behind the trailer he lives in. According to a participant, Russ makes visitors exercise and do nearly impossible tasks after making them stay up the previous night.

In response to the questionable legal methods of scaring contestants and recent videos exposing what really goes on there, a petition has been created. It currently has over 100,000 signatures and a final goal of 150,000 to shut down McKamey Manor once and for all. The petition states, “Some people have had to seek professional psychiatric help and medical care for extensive injuries.”

McKamey has commented on the petition.

“There’s no torture,” he told The Washington Post. “There’s nothing like that, but under hypnosis, if you make someone believe there’s something really scary going on, that’s just in their own mind and not reality. If you’re good enough and you’re able to get inside somebody’s noggin like the way I can, I can make folks believe whatever I want them to believe. I’m like the most straight-laced guy you could think of, but here I run this crazy haunted house. And people twist it around in their minds. It really is a magic act, what I do. It’s a lot of smoke and mirrors.”   

The sick and twisted mind games Russ has inflicted upon contestants are cruel, and the inhumane ways of the manor should be put to an end. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured on site.  Beyond the potential for physical injury, though, psychological trauma from such an experience could trigger short-term panic attacks or even inflict long-lasting post-traumatic stress disorder.

While McKamey has protected himself legally with waivers and film footage and has dodged getting sued multiple times, the question remains: Is it ethical to subject a person to this kind of fear and stress? And, in light of the potential for long-term emotional harm, is it okay even if that person signs a waiver and is initially enthusiastic about participating in the Manor?