Every year during the halloween season, thrill-seekers and horror enthusiasts flock in masses to haunted house attractions across the United States. Most haunted houses use similar tactics to scare their audiences, but there is generally a no contact rule in order to protect both the actors and the participants. Although this doesn’t exactly make being chased by a chainsaw-wielding maniac, or being screamed at, any less scary, there is a hard line between the fantasy of being in danger and actual, threatening physical contact. And, while most who go through these attractions have some good scares and great stories to tell later, McKamey Manor stands out among the rest. Situated in Southern California, McKamey Manor is an eight hour tour (most similar attractions clock in at around two hours or so) described by the official website as an “intense, rough, and a very scary experience” that also has the key, notable characteristic of being a strict, no-quit tour.
There are reports of a waiting list for 27,000 people who want to enter the McKamey Manor experience, all of whom are in excellent physical health and want to test their limits. However, one of the first things one does after starting tour is sign a waiver that used to explicitly say that there is no safe word, so unless you are pulled by the staff, it would not stop.
In any other instance, the safe word clause seems like organisers simply trying to hype up their event, but in the case of McKamey Manor it has very real consequences. With no safe word, participants were slapped, stomped on, had their hair cut, suffered water-boarding, were bound and gagged, and many more hugely abusive behaviors, without any way to escape. (In the spirit of integrity, I have to mention that recently a safe word has reportedly been added to the waiver, but unsurprisingly, even when people do use it, it is ignored).
The abusers inside the Manor are untrained sadists, with one of them even bragging to a Guardian reporter that, “I am here to make sure no one makes it out. I get carried away. I don’t really have a line.” This is very dangerous and can even be deadly because pressing on, after someone screams for you to stop can induce panic attacks, anxiety attacks heart attacks, or even a loss of consciousness in order for the body to protect itself.
Also, reports of actors that left the ‘haunt’ last year claim that, in the fake drowning portion, the owner’s only advice was “try not to drown them.” There is also no real EMT on site in case something goes horribly wrong, even after someone suffered a heart attack there several years ago.
The owner, Russ McKamey, is a 23 year Navy Veteran, who claims that McKamey Manor is a “survival horror boot camp, where people feel they’re living their own horror movie.” Disturbingly, he told The Guardian that he delivers the “product of fear” by imposing physical and psychological stress until the victims break. He also claims that McKamey Manor is a live theatrical performance and that it “isn’t real because, if people were hurt, they would be shut down. This seems fair, since McKamey claims to record the entire thing to keep the abusers in check and protect the victims from harm.
However, when complaints arise and footage is presented, the parts pertaining to the events in question have a tendency to conveniently disappear. For example, Amy Milligan gave an excellent review after it was finished, only because she wanted to make sure she would receive a tape of her entire experience.
When she reviewed it, she found that the worst part, where she had a near death experience, was cut from the footage she received. The video reportedly doesn’t show when the abusers repeatedly pushed her head underwater and she begged for it to stop. She said that she told the actors she couldn’t breathe, but they just laughed and continued the torture. McKamey himself has also admitted that he gives reporters and bloggers “sissy tours” that are more toned down from the regular tours.
McKamey and his Manor have found a way around the legalities more traditional haunted attractions have to be subjected to. For one, McKamey makes sure that his attraction is not for profit and that he collects food for an animal shelter. So, since he is a non-profit, he doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of the Better Business Bureau or any federal or state regulation that normally manages this sort of thing. However, this does not excuse local and state authorities who do not have to ignore this, but it is how the loophole works.
The second reason why McKamey gets away with it has a lot to do with the bullshit waiver that victims have to sign at the very beginning of the tour. Right off the bat, victims have already been abused before the liability waiver is even introduced, and as the rules are ‘explained’ to them, they are being slapped and grabbed. But, because they sign a waiver, McKamey, along with those from an outside perspective, have a nasty penchant for victim blaming. A dedicated Facebook Page called The Truth about McKamey Manor has several very rude, victim blaming comments about people who claim abuse. Some posts remark the following (I left the spelling errors in for accuracy):
All you people crack me up. What a waste. And pathetic!!! People sign up for it! End of story! If they didn’t want this treatment then don’t go. It’s pretty simple. You can’t pay someone for this treatment then after u get it say “I’m offended how dare they do that to me
It seperates the boys from men, the weak from strong, mindful from the mindless. Just like social darwanism. If you can’t survive you can’t survive. The way these ‘whiners’ think is completely different from these people that they call ‘physco’. Everyday in society when you go out about your day you stare murders and ‘physco’ in the face everyday. You also stare REAL VICTIMS in the face too. People that have really been tortured. If their minds couldn’t distinguish the difference between really being kidnapped and tortured REALLY tortured! And signing a waiver knew completelyyyyy what they signed up for
If you would like to visit the Facebook Page itself, to give the Manor even more unwanted attention, feel free.
Using this logic, the ridiculous argument that rape victims deserves what was coming to them because of what they were wearing should be a legitimate defense for those accused. Of course, this statement is completely untrue, so why is there a difference when a waiver is signed, but illegal acts still take place? Did Amy Milligan ask to be drowned several times to the point of almost passing out? Is this acceptable because she signed a waiver? You simply cannot justify these actions without following the rules and having medical assistance on standby, like everyone else has to.
Hopefully, more stories about the McKamey Manor will surface to light a fire under someone’s ass to get things changed, so the thing is at least regulated. For now, I highly recommend that you stay the hell away from this place. If you are a true lover of pain looking for a great experience, find a trained professional Dom or Dominatrix. They listen to safe words and you won’t end up with PTSD or having a heart attack because you want some dark thrills.
*Updated September 1, 2023