For the past several years, haunted houses and big-budget attractions like Universal’s Haunted Horror Nights have become increasingly more popular for spooky season.
As soon as Oct. 1 rolls around, countless Americans across the country are narrowing down the most exhilarating haunts.
While some of these attractions are harmless spooky frights meant for children, some work to push the boundaries of terror and sanity.
One such haunted attraction has made headlines over the years as one of the most infamous haunted house attractions in the country – so much so that Hulu recently dropped a documentary on the attraction, if you want to call it that.
McKamey Manor describes itself as "an extreme haunted experience" where guests are promised the most terrifying and mentally exhausting 10+ hours of their lives.
There have been petitions published calling it "a torture chamber under disguise." One petition published in 2019 received nearly 200,000 signatures.
"Mckamey manor. Advertised as "an extreme haunt" when in fact it is NOT a haunted house. It’s a torture chamber under disguise. Reportedly, they do screenings to find the weakest, most easily manipulated people to do the 'haunt.' It’s reported that if russ doesnt think you're easily manipulated, you arent allowed to go," the petition read.
In an interview with FOX TV Stations in 2020, McKamey says he calls his haunt a "survival horror boot camp experience."
"It's where we personalize each and every show around an individuals own personal fears and phobias, so it's very personalized, every show is different."
Russ McKamey owns and operates multiple locations of the extreme haunted house in Summertown, Tennessee, and Huntsville, Alabama, where he requires visitors to fulfill a long list of requirements, including a 40-page waiver and the completion of a physical exam. The price of admission: a bag of dog food.
Visitors must also follow strict guidelines which include no cussing, drinking, smoking, running, eating, or touching the actors or props. While a safe word allegedly promises a prompt exit from the intense experience, the petition called "Shut down McKamey Manor" claims otherwise.
The 2019 petition alleges that McKamey specifically targets people he deems "most easily manipulated."
"Previously no safe word was allowed, he changed that but there’s been reports that the torture continues even when people repeat their safe word for several minutes," the petition reads.
One man was allegedly "tortured" so badly, it wasn’t until the workers thought they had "killed" him that they finally decided to stop.
Some visitors of McKamey Manor have taken to Reddit to express their fear and frustration, warning future patrons against going through with the experience, calling it "torture porn."
One Reddit user wrote that the reason McKamey doesn’t accept any money is because "he only desires the footage of what he puts his ‘customers’ through. His payment is having footage of people crying, throwing up, having mental breakdowns and begging for him to let them go."
The user added that McKamey has admitted to exclusively employing people with "touchy pasts" including some with felonies for violent behavior, claiming that the employees gain some form of gratification out of harming people.
Another user leaked a portion of the alleged waiver that apparently says that visitors risk "death, stroke, traumatic brain injury," and dozens of other injuries on the tour.
So far, McKamey says no one has completed the tour, even though he promises to pay $20,000 to anyone who can sit through roughly 10 hours of this real-life nightmare.
The haunted attraction’s original location in San Diego, California closed down and eventually moved to one of its locations in Tennessee where the new attraction didn’t appear to be a favorite of local law enforcement or residents.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that in 2017, Lawrence County sheriff’s deputies in Tennessee responded to a screaming woman being dragged by two men from a car into the newly established McKamey Manor.
The deputies quickly learned that the abduction was staged, but incidents like these have made the local community uncomfortable, and authorities have been working to shut down the operation ever since.
While the website for the tour claims that only people who pass an extensive medical background test are permitted, "10 minutes of getting duct tape wrapped around your head, forced to eat things, be waterboarded & forced underwater," is something writers of the petition allege cross a line.