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Spartan Scoop

Spartan Scoop

Inform · Connect · Entertain

Spartan Scoop


A view of the inside of America’s scariest haunted house.
Jadis Veal
A drawing of Russ McKamey smiling at the audience, with a girl in the back holding a sign that says “HELP!”.

Haunted houses are one of the many spotlights of the Halloween season. Every year, several people put together new and old ones, spreading the fantastic horrors that they have created. Haunted houses form an environment that can give you a sense of fear without actually putting you into danger. Some people even go to them for fun, not needing anything other than the thrill of excitement.

What if a haunted house actually made you feel like you were in danger, though?

One of the most well-known haunted houses in the United States is the McKamey Manor. Unlike most haunted houses, this one is unique in that it creates a special environment for every new person who enters. Located an hour north of Nashville, Tennessee, in Summertown, the McKamey Manor sits and awaits its next victims.

Russ McKamey, the creator of the manor, originally based his horrifying experience in California, before it moved to Tennessee in 2017. The haunted house also has its own series currently being released, called Monster Inside: America’s Most Extreme Haunted House. It is also featured in other series, documenting its horror and popularity.

What is so special about this place? Firstly, the experience is limited to those 21 or older (or aged 18-20 with parental permission). And that is only the beginning. Going onto their website provides a lot of information about who they are and what they do. You must pass a sports physical and get approval from a doctor, as well as a background check performed by McKamey Manor. Along with it, you must prove you have medical insurance, and have to sign their long 40-page waiver.

After all of that (and then some), if you continue on, you do so at your own risk. The McKamey Manor has faced scrutiny for their waiver, and the things it details.

The haunted house only selects a few people who apply. It chooses those who are less faint of heart, who they believe may be more fit to survive the horrific journey they take you through. Each person’s experience is tuned to benefit them the most. Or, in more fitting terms, to scare them the most.

Each person who actually enters gets an experience that revolves around their personal fears. Also, because of the waiver, you agree to allowing them to physically hurt you. One excerpt from the waiver says “Participant fully understands and agrees that they may be fish hooked, which may inadvertently cause rippage to the mouth area”. On top of physical horror, the McKamey Manor also focuses on psychological horror. Another excerpt from the waiver says “… there is no quitting unless serious physical or psychological injury is present.”

100% fear. We’re good at it. We’re the best at it.

— Russ McKamey

Does the McKamey Manor actually have the right to do that? In accordance with the law, as long as both parties agree to the contract, then it can be enforceable. The only way this can really be tested in court is if one of the present parties has been found to be unable to make meaningful decisions or choices.

McKamey Manor boasts a $20,000 reward to whoever completes the haunt. So far, no one has actually managed to go through their full (up to) 10-hour experience. There really is no “safe word”, like some other haunted houses have, though they will stop once it becomes apparent the person (or people) inside are no longer fit to make it any longer.

Of course, however, with something this big, there comes controversy. Critics have called the haunt a “torture chamber,” much less a haunted house. Several people have come out about their experiences, and a lot of them are pretty negative.

In an interview with The Guardian about the haunt, Russ McKamey has said, “Every year it’s got more crazy, more aggressive. We wouldn’t be infamous if we weren’t able to deliver the product.” When asked further what that was, he replied, “100% fear. We’re good at it. We’re the best at it.”

People have come out about their experiences in the manor. People who enter are pushed past their limits. McKamey calls those who disagree or argue with his haunt, haters. “They know the truth that I have footage of everything,” he has said. “I tell people they’ll get cuts and bruises. It’s aggressive. But these people weren’t injured like they say they were.”

One survivor of the McKamey Manor is Amy Milligan. She is a critic of the haunt, and has been featured in the San Diego Union Tribune for her stance. “If I hear about McKamey Manor, I freak out. I’m so stressed. It gets so stressful. … You give so much trust to them and they just break it by waterboarding you and slapping you.”

Throughout her experience, Milligan felt she had put herself in actual danger. “… because I was scared, like, ‘I don’t know where I am; I don’t understand this. I thought this was going to be a haunted house.’”

After the experience, Milligan had left a positive review to get the footage back as evidence. However, “… the video was edited to hide the worst”, she said. In response to her speaking out, McKamey said, “It’s psychological what we’re doing. They’re safe all the time.” The owner of the haunt has denied several times to putting those who enter in actual danger.

When a poll was taken that asked “Is McKamey Manor too extreme?” a total of 7,956 people voted. 70% (or 5,530) of the people voted yes, while 30% (or 2,426) people voted no. There are groups on Facebook that speak out about the haunted house in a negative fashion. Many people, however, defend the haunt and its owner.

Is it really worth going through the McKamey Manor, despite everything you face when you go inside? If you want the haunting of a lifetime that might traumatize you for life, then sure. The $20,000 prize at the end has never been claimed, and Russ McKamey waits for the first person to claim it after their full several-hour experience. If you believe you are ready to step up to the plate, then you can apply through their website. However, you may have a hard time getting in… as of 2019, the haunted house has boasted a waitlist of over 27,000 people. You may be waiting awhile.

About the Contributors
Finley Wiseman
Finley Wiseman, Reporter
The only thing keeping me going this year is my paycheck.
Jadis Veal
Jadis Veal, Illustrator
"Where's everyone going? Bingo?"- Leon Kennedy