Horror Comes to Life at McKamey Manor

McKamey Manor provides the next level of horror, giving the contestant a realistic horror experience (Photo courtesy of Russ McKamey).

Russ McKamey

McKamey Manor provides the next level of horror, giving the contestant a realistic horror experience (Photo courtesy of Russ McKamey).

The fall is a time for scary movies and haunted houses, but there is one haunted house that triumphs over all of the rest: McKamey Manor. McKamey Manor is owned by Russ McKamey, who created his first haunt in San Diego. He has since relocated to Tennessee and Alabama. His haunt is one of the most extreme in the country, offering an unique experience, the chance to live through a real life horror movie!

“It’s just like putting on a big play, a theatrical event, and it’s really entertaining to be able to design and create something as special as a manor, just like a filmmaker or anybody else who puts a play on or a show, you got to think it up. You got write it, you got to direct it, you’ve got to build it, and all that stuff. After they do the contract, I say, ‘Okay, so what new things do you for sure not want to have happen?’ And then they go, ‘Well I want this and that.’ So they write that down on their contract and that means that those two items will be off limits. So they actually design their own show,” said Russ McKamey.

The house has many draws to it. One of the draws is the experience itself. Many people come to the haunt wanting to push themselves, wanting to see how strong they are. People are also looking for a new thrill and horrific experience. Many people want to take the next step from a typical haunted house or thriller movie. Another draw to the house, is the $20,000 cash prize. The prize is handed to the guest when they walk through the doors, but as they progress through the house they lose money when they fail or quit an assignment. To walk out of the haunt with the money, the guest would have to finish the experience, a task which no-one has ever completed. But according to McKamey, if an applicant is coming to the haunt with dreams of winning money, they have the wrong goal.

“But the big thing that I tell them all the time is, ‘Look, if you’re coming here to win money, then I don’t want you here because you’re not going to win.’ And they’re not, the manor will beat them anytime and every time,” said McKamey.

In fact, McKamey sees the Manor as more of a game show than a haunted house. The applicant has a chance to win money, but the applicant can earn more money just as quickly as they can lose money.

“It’s game show. We offer them $20,000 to start the show. So when you first walk in, I give you $20,000, and you try to hang onto that until the end of the show. So as you go through it, as you fail certain things, then I take away $500 a fail on every time. There is no cussing at the manor so if you cuss it’ll cost you $500. So you learn real fast, not to say anything that is inappropriate and you get to walk out with whatever you can get at the end of the show, but you have to be able to complete the show to get anything. And nobody has ever done that!” said McKamey.

To keep contestants safe, there is a rigorous application process. First, the applicant must watch seven films emailed to them by McKamey. After watching the films, McKamey quizzes the applicant on the films. The films make the applicant aware of what they will face in the manor. If they fail this, they will not be permitted into the Manor. Next, they must have their doctor clear them medically and undergo a drug test. If the applicant passes the quiz and the drug test, they must sign a waiver. This is no standard waiver, but instead a forty page waiver that the applicant must read thoroughly. The applicant reviews the waiver with McKamey to make sure that they understand completely what is expected. After that, they must do a couple “Fun in the Sun” activities. After passing all of the requirements, they can finally enter the Manor.

“If anybody puts their actual reality logic cap on, then they would understand that if it is truly like what they think it is…well, I’d be locked away. It’d be illegal because torture and all that stuff. If you do [put on you logic cap] then you understand that there must be something more human, because if [illegal activity] was really going on then I’d be in jail with lawsuits against me. Since that hasn’t happened, you know that’s not reality,” said McKamey.

While McKamey Manor is entirely legal, many people think it should be closed anyway, or at the very least seen as something entirely wrong. McKamey has worked hard to keep the experience as safe as possible, but the idea of the experience scares many people. However, McKamey thinks that many of the people who think it should be illegal are misinformed.

“I think that the whole idea of torturing people and making them suffer is very wrong. However, I think it should be legal because the people signed a waiver, so they weren’t forced to do it. Plus, they’re doing it to determine their mental strength, and if that’s how they want to do it [then] go right ahead,” said sophomore Carly Alexander.

There are many who believe that the extensive background checks, the waiver, and the other many requirements are sufficient to help ensure the safety of the guests at McKamey Manor.

“I think it should be legal because they are paying for it and it is their choice. The applicant is also undergoing a process to make sure [they are] aware of what they are doing,” said sophomore Nolan Poynter.

While the overall idea of the haunt may seem intimidating, all of the efforts go towards a good cause. The only entrance fees are a bag of dog food, which will be donated to charity, and a sixty dollar fee to help cover some of the costs of the tour. After the exchange of these items, the guest is receiving an unforgettable experience.

As McKamey tells all of the guests numerous times before the process,