It’s that time of year again when we watch horror movies and visit haunted houses to get in the Halloween spirit. However, one haunted house takes the “live your own horror movie” trope a bit too seriously. On October 12th, 2023, Hulu debuted Monster Inside: America’s Most Extreme Haunted House to expose the truth behind McKamey Manor.
If you’ve never heard of the infamous attraction, McKamey Manor is an extreme haunt designed by Russ McKamey to physically and psychologically torture participants, often for hours. This isn’t your average “boo-style” haunted house. Although some of the more intense haunted houses allow actors to touch you but not physically harm you, the manor takes it up a notch. Previous contestants claim they have been kidnapped, waterboarded, forced to eat disgusting things, and often left bruised and injured. One guest, Laura Hertz Brotherton, repeatedly used the safeword to no avail for several minutes and wound up hospitalized with extensive injuries. The entry fee is a bag of dog food, and McKamey claims anyone who can make it through will win $20,000. McKamey Manor has been around for years and has never awarded this prize to anyone.
The Monster Inside opener shows a traumatized participant urging viewers, “Do not come here,” before sharing the stories of three McKamey Manor guests of their time at the attraction. You can also see shocking footage of the haunt throughout the documentary. However, you can find plenty of videos of the haunts on his YouTube or website, as he films “movies” of everyone who tours. Although Russ McKamey claims he’s simply a Halloween fanatic who enjoys making horror “movies,” many believe he’s a predator who gets off on making people terrified and uncomfortable.
We’re known for no quitting and no safe word. I make it simple because I’m a simple guy, and I can’t have too many rules, or I’ll get confused.Russ McKamey
In the documentary, Russ states, “We’re known for no quitting and no safe word. I make it simple because I’m a simple guy, and I can’t have too many rules, or I’ll get confused. So, either you actually complete the tour, which is not going to happen, or you mentally or physically are at such a breaking point that it’s now not safe for you to continue, and I need to take you out.” This statement seems aligned with the truth, as several guests claim they begged to leave and instead were met with laughter. In fact, people are beginning to wonder if there’s prize money at all. The longest haunt at the manor lasted 6 hours, but with no set time in place, does it ever really end?
McKamey Manor Then and Now
Russ McKamey first opened McKamey Manor on his property in San Diego in the early 2000s before relocating to Tennessee in 2017. Initially, the haunted house was a well-built and standard haunted attraction. However, McKamey allegedly seemed obsessed, causing him to take the fear factor to the next level with the immersive challenges the manor is known for today.
Despite the controversy and backlash, McKamey claims the manor is still thriving. However, several people have come forward stating they were contacted immediately about starting a tour, which doesn’t seem likely if there’s actually an extensive waitlist. Whether it’s true or not, Russ Mckamey has managed to gain a cult-like following online. Some of those who have spoken out against McKamey claim his “cult” threatened and doxed them, causing them to leave the internet altogether.
A YouTuber, Ben Schneider, also known as Reckless Ben, signed up to go through the manor to expose the reality behind the attraction. After his experience, he isn’t sure there’s a manor anymore; instead, now it’s more of a boot camp meant to exhaust and embarrass you.
Those who want to participate can still sign up and experience it for themselves. On the sign-up page, the requirements state you must be 21 and older or 18-20 with a parent’s approval, complete a sports physical, pass a background check, pass a phone or Facebook screening, show proof of medical insurance, sign the infamous 40-page waiver, and pass a drug test the day of your tour.
Keep in mind, with all the safeguards in place, it’s difficult to sue McKamey Manor if something were to go awry since participants essentially legally consent to their torture. While the admission fee is still a bag of dog food for McKamey’s pets, you could still walk away spending a couple thousand. According to The Washington Post, you must pay $500 each time you curse or fail an activity. Given the experience’s history and extent of torment, you’ll likely walk away spending more than a $20 bag of dog chow.