Taking a tour through McKamey Manor sounds like living through a legitimate nightmare. A far cry from the carnival-style haunted houses that pop up every year around Halloween, McKamey is a torturous endurance test where participants volunteer to be bound and blindfolded while undergoing a series of guided psychological and physical challenges designed to make them experience as much naked fear as possible.
As NBC News’ Minyvonne Burke reports, these tours have attracted enough controversy that a petition has been started to demand McKamey be shut down. Frankie Towery, the petition’s creator, calls the attraction “a torture chamber under disguise” that causes some participants to require “professional psychological help and medical care for extensive injuries” afterward.
McKamey Manor and its owner, Russ McKamey, have been under scrutiny for years now due to accusations similar to the ones outlined in the petition. An excellent Nashville Scene article on the attraction, published last year, describes how McKamey’s “haunted houses,” which include “courses and contraptions designed to push people to their breaking points,” have led to run-ins with police, cross-country relocations, and fury from prior participants who describe an experience that went far beyond the limits of the scenarios discussed (and outlined in screenings and waivers) beforehand.
McKamey Manor’s website and YouTube channel are filled with participant interviews and footage showing some of what’s been designed over the years. Gross, extremely wet-looking people are seen covered in fake blood and mud, screaming as they’re submerged in water, buried in the ground, bound up in weird devices, and prodded with drills and pliers. It’s legitimately terrifying stuff that’s only made more unsettling by the apparent pleasure Russ McKamey takes in trying to break people down through his tours. Whether it crosses the line into something that willing participants should even be allowed to sign up for—if, as McKamey insists, everything offered is actually safe and consensual—is a difficult question to definitively answer. Of course, that’s part of the appeal for some adventure-seekers.
For those interested in learning more about McKamey Manor, we recommend the documentary Haunters: The Art Of The Scare and the episode of Netflix’s Dark Tourist series that features the tour. If your stomach’s not thoroughly curdled afterward, feast your eyes on Nashville Scene’s in-depth profile.
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