Despite the fact that it’s been around – and generating headlines – for several years, “haunted house attraction” McKamey Manor is doing the rounds on social media again, raising the inevitable question: has there ever been a “winner”?
WARNING: Content of a disturbing nature ahead
One of the earliest newspaper articles on the “extreme haunted house” appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 2012. Brady MacDonald had “never experienced anything” like it. Another popped up the day before Halloween 2015, in The Guardian.
A few years later, Frankie Towery launched a petition on Change Org to encourage political representatives in Tennessee and Alabama to shut down the respective locations.
Has there ever been a ‘winner’ of McKamey Manor?
If lasting to the end of the horror experience is what constitutes “winning” then no, there has never been a “winner” of McKamey Manor.
The house always wins.
Those who take part in the challenge sign a 23-page waiver. Contestants are requested to read and sign the waiver before agreeing to take part and giving their full consent. Other necessities reportedly include an application process, a doctor’s note for the experience and having medical insurance.
Participants have a safe word if they want to leave the experience, according to further reports.
Various reports claim participants are strapped into a straitjacket, blasted with cold water and “compelled to eat your own vomit”. The challenges typically last a few hours.
Again, people sign up to take part and a huge waiver. There are also several warnings on their website.
The entire duration of the session is anywhere between eight and 10 hours, depending on the “tour.” By contrast, the longest anyone has ever lasted is about six hours, according to a recent TikTok video. The longest a contestant lasted has not been officially confirmed by the McKamey Manor.
What do critics make of it?
There is a petition on Change Org that aims to shut down McKamey Manor. It launched three years ago, and has picked up 181,000 or so signatures during that time.
The petition description claims that despite the way promotional materials describe it, the manor is “NOT a haunted house.”
Those who choose to endure it – or part of it – tend to agree. But that doesn’t stop people from going to the Manor, or indeed returning a second time.
However, there is apparently a waiting list with thousands of people willing to take part.
How long has McKamey Manor been running, and in how many locations?
Amateur haunted house enthusiast Russ McKamey first started hosting “haunts” in his back yard in the late 1990s. That was when he lived in San Diego.
As his horror experiences grew, and he started to make a name for himself in the field, people began to apply to take part in them.
There are now locations in Tennessee and Alabama. You have to be 21 or over to undertake the extreme challenge independently. There is reportedly no conventional entrance fee – but this hasn’t been officially confirmed either. It does indeed operate as a nonprofit, according to The Guardian.
Participants do, however, have to sign a 23-page waiver that contains the following paragraph: “Participant was warned numerous times about the intensity of MM by the Owners and other members of the crew and that YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO DO THIS.”
In 2019, Russ launched Desolation, a new McKamey Manor experience. Would-be participants must watch a nearly two-hour video showcasing every contestant who has ever attempted McKamey’s Tennessee tours before they can get a place on it.
What do you get if you ‘win’ a McKamey Manor tour?
In a video on the official YouTube channel, Russ says there is a $20,000 prize for anyone who suffers through the entire experience.
“If you insist on playing for money then I will start you off with $20,000,” he says. “Then every time you fail, you’ll lose a card, then you’ll lose $500, etcetera. But trust me, you are not going to last ten hours once the clock starts.
“You have no idea of the kind of crazy, epic stunts within a horror survival world that you’re going to be doing. It’s going to knock your socks off. … It’s not possible.
“I’m telling you right now,” he says, “on paper, you are not going to win any money.”
The Focus approached McKamey Manor for comment on the petition and negative press against the experience.
Owner Russ said: “McKamey Manor is pure torture, with a possibility of death for those who partake. Remember, you really don’t want to do this!”