Extreme haunted houses have been gaining in popularity over the last decade. Each year they get more and more extreme, including simulated water-boarding, actual violence caused by hands-on kidnappings and beatings, sexual assaults, pornographic situations, and more. The haunted industry insiders are growing tired of the repercussions of these “haunts” that to them are not part of the traditional haunted house genre.
Russ McKamey is famous for terrorizing people at his two extreme experiences, one of which is in his primary residence, called McKamey Manor. McKamey now finds himself the target of a petition with over sixty thousand signatures to shut his haunt down. Strangely, he doesn’t make any money on his project, but appears to just use it to film people being terrorized. He was featured in a Netflix documentary called Haunters, where he laughs gleefully telling the story about how he lied to a neighbor to get her into his haunt several times and then wouldn’t let her out when she begged and pleaded. He said he did it for the footage of her terror. His wife reports that he sits in his room all day watching the videos of people screaming while they are shut into coffins, taped, bound and gagged, almost drowned, and subjected to other horrors. McKamey admits that people have been hurt in his house with reports of panic attacks, cuts, bruises, psychological damage, and at least one heart attack.
The petition to shut down his haunt states:
Advertised as “an extreme haunt” when in fact it is NOT a haunted house. It’s a torture chamber under disguise. They do screenings to find the weakest, most easily manipulated people to do the ‘haunt.’ If Russ doesn’t think you’re easily manipulated, you aren’t allowed to go. He uses loopholes to get out of being arrested. 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. One man was tortured so badly he passed out multiple times, workers only stopped because they thought they had killed him.
Nashville Scene followed a participant who went through McKamey Manor and highlighted the absurdity of the kinds of things they must agree to in the sometimes more than 20-page waivers.
if anyone actually voluntarily signs up to attend this haunted house know i think ur insane. this is part of the waiver for Mckamey Manor’s haunted house that ppl have to sign before going in pic.twitter.com/KkQd4vEP1e
— bri (@briwindi) October 26, 2019
In the hours it takes to make it through the waiver, he agrees to exposure to extreme temperatures (No. 73), having plastic wrap tightly held over his face (No. 74), and having his hands and feet zip-tied (No. 75). The only thing VanOver won’t stand for — everyone gets to pick two “freebies” — is tooth-pulling and needles. McKamey hesitates to let VanOver call no needles, dramatically hemming and hawing about how it’ll mess up the show, but McKamey finally agrees, reassuring VanOver that he can just drug him orally if need be.
The same publication interviewed another one of McKamey Manor’s victims, Lauren Brotherton, who said she was forced to give a positive interview after being threatened with a $50,000 lawsuit by McKamey.
I was waterboarded, I was Tased, I was whipped,” she says. “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…” Brotherton says she was blindfolded with duct tape and submerged under water by her ankles for so long that her body started involuntarily thrashing. They made her dig a shallow hole in a patch of dirt with her bare hands, then they made her lie in it while they covered her face with dirt, giving her only a straw to breathe through…Brotherton says she repeated the safe phrase for several minutes before they finally stopped hurting her. They sprayed her down with a pressure washer, duct tape still over her eyes, and drove her back to the drop-off location.
Brotherton said she wasn’t allowed to leave until she was recorded saying good things about her experience.
“Before Russ turned the camera on he said to me, if I do not say good things about McKamey Manor and I start telling what actually happened, he’s going to sue me for $50,000,” says Brotherton. “I signed a waiver saying this could happen. So Russ forced me into saying all these great things, like, ‘Oh my God, my tour was so amazing, it was exhilarating,’ blah, blah, blah.”
Brotherton then took herself to the hospital to be treated for multiple injuries. When she spoke to police about it, they told her she had agreed to be injured and there was nothing she could legally do. That is dubious, however, because waivers do not exonerate people from crimes. Had Brotherton hired a good lawyer, she probably could have made mincemeat out of that waiver.
A source, who did not want to be named due to concerns of backlash, spoke to PJ Media about the situation with Shock Theater in New York, another “extreme haunts” experience. “Our businesses are suffering,” he said of the traditional jump-scare haunts. “Not because people love extreme horror more, but because they are so damaged by it, they think ours is going to be like that so they don’t come.”
The source says that every year he hears more and more strange things about what goes on at Shock Theater and that Shock Theater has teamed up with McKamey in the past, connecting extreme horror experiences across the nation.
PJ Media wrote about Shock Theater last year, when they were caught posting signs that said, “Death Camps for Trump Supporters Now!” all over town. They claimed it was a rogue employee and had nothing to do with their show.
Our source says differently. “I believe that this current show is going to have the participants playing Trump supporters who are taken into simulated torture camps,” he said. “The people who run it are very reclusive and mysterious. No one knows who they really are. Some of us believe that they are anarchists practicing for the war they think is coming.”
Extreme haunted houses usually have participants sign extensive waivers, but many of them have people consenting to illegal things like taking hallucinogenic drugs. An inside source at Shock Theater contacted PJ Media with photos and videos of their new show’s rehearsal. He said, “They also dabble in giving people drops of things on their tongues. They wouldn’t explain why they do it, they just say it is a fluid that comes from a sea slug and will relax people and put them in a state of bliss to be submissive.” Research on sea slug extracts that have this effect came up empty, but illegal drugs like ecstasy or LSD can have that effect.
PJ Media reached out to Shock Theater with questions about the drops. This is the response we received.
The source with access to Shock Theater’s show this year sent PJ Media photos of participants after going through it. One man was obviously scratched, bruised, and bleeding. The source also provided a video that we cannot show here due to the too-graphic content that involved a simulated violent abortion with sex acts.
Shock Theater’s previous performances have centered around satanic rituals, Illuminati, mind control, and psychological abuse. They were even sued by a man who felt they had made him partake in an actual satanic ritual where he felt he lost his soul.
Blackout, originally in New York City, is an “extreme” experience that focuses on sexual depravity, often being described as “naked people doing awful things” to visitors. The Observer reported,
The key words that would jump out at most people would be “bound,” “physical contact,” and “exposure to water.” Though there is a safe word that can be called out at any time, we found it remarkably hard to do when you are handcuffed, head tilted backwards, and the sensation of water filling up our lungs. We were instructed to “Scream louder, bitch!” but it was all we could do to breathe through the cheesecloth hood over our heads. By the time that rapey-Abu Ghraib portion of the Blackout was over, it felt pointless to scream out our safe word. What was done had already been done. What, were we going to press charges? We signed up for this:
This seems to be the major reason these places get away with actual torture—their victims agreed to it. The traditional haunted house community doesn’t want anything to do with it. “These people are sick and depraved. There is a soft war going on in this country. It’s the same thing as the takeover by the left of every institution,” said PJ Media’s source. “We cannot let them take over this classic American genre. People don’t go to haunted houses to get hurt. They go to have fun, get scared, and come out happy. Let’s make haunted houses great again and get rid of the degenerates.”
It’s a wonder that towns with aversions to liability would allow these types of places to operate without worrying about major lawsuits. Shock Theater isn’t just an October event but a year-long business. The chances of someone being physically hurt or killed during these extreme events seem like something town officials should care about, especially if they don’t want to be paying damages for years on end when the inevitable happens.
Megan Fox is the author of “Believe Evidence; The Death of Due Process from Salome to #MeToo.” Follow on Twitter @MeganFoxWriter