The experience economy is in full bloom, and people are obsessed with interactive, immersive experiences. But one haunted house, so scary that the haunt community even refuses to claim it, may be crossing the line into bonafide torture.
The McKamey Manor, started in San Diego, now has locations in Tennessee and Alabama. While the only entry fee is a bag of dog food, which goes to the owner’s dogs or his favorite dog charity, I think that your sanity and physical wellness is a much bigger sacrifice than the usual $30–40 for a haunted house.
The experience, dubbed a “living nightmare,” is intense to say the least. The torture possibilities are laid out in the 40 page waiver that participants sign (after they pass a physical and mental evaluation and drug test, of course): getting your teeth pulled, consuming animal feces, getting fingernails pulled out, coming into contact with venomous animals, getting your head shaved, just to name a few.
People are terrified, confused, but intrigued. Just take a look at the results that come up if you search McKamey Manor on Google:
The traumatic nature of the experience is clear from the moment the tour starts, when participants are involved in a simulated abduction, though the severity of the aggression varies.
A tour can last anywhere from four to ten hours, and if you make it all the way through, you get $20,000. No one has made it through.
Before, safe words were not allowed, but they “are” now — whether they are actually listening to the safe words is up for question. Several former participants recall the torture going on for hours after they begged for an end. And since every journey is recorded and posted online, the whole world has access to seeing your humiliation and desperation. But don’t worry, they give you cookies and a blanket when you conclude your journey.
While no one has died (yet), incidents of serious mental and physical damage have been reported. Victims, however, are unable to nail McKamey Manor with a lawsuit because it is perfectly legal — everyone signs that huge waiver that says exactly what they can do to you.
My questions are: who would ever go to this and who would ever work here?
To me, the $20,000 just doesn’t seem worth possibly being buried alive, getting my teeth pulled, or having limbs broken. Maybe it’s some sadistic need or adrenaline addiction that draws people in. There is currently a 24,000-person waitlist. That’s a lot of adrenaline junkies, psychopaths, and/or people really desperate for money.
The actors here have also stirred up a lot of controversies. People often note the creepy laughter that makes the employees seem like they are getting genuine enjoyment out of torturing their victims. I’m not surprised though, who else would sign up to be a part of an hours-long torture house?
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Hannah Michelle Lambert is the Social Media + Events Coordinator at Worthix, as well as the host of the monthly CX News Recap segment. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.