Nestled within San Diego’s suburbia is a real-life horror house where people are pushed to their emotional and physical breaking point through hours of torture. The catch? There’s a 27,000 person waiting list to go through this “once in a lifetime experience.”
Don’t you want to be tied, beaten, forced to eat your own vomit, have your head held under freezing water then covered in mud, fake blood, and cockroaches? At the McKamey Manor, these are only a handful of the possible “horrors” that could occur during an eight hour experience (if you make it that far). And yes, the legality of the whole operation stirs up immense controversy. The requirements to enter the nonprofit extreme haunted house are strenuous, including being over the age of 21, being medically cleared by a doctor, passing an extensive background check, signing a detailed 40 page waver, and passing a day-off drug test before the experience begins. While the horror house ordeal can last up to 8 hours, the most one person (a woman known as “Sarah P.”) has been able to endure is 6 hours.
The McKamey Manor has gained a cult following online, with its videos showing snippets of participants being tortured (and begging for mercy) getting thousands of views. There are also several “testimonials” by former guests that only add to the lore of the house. While some individuals swear that the experience was the perfect way to get the rush of a lifetime, many others turn to the media to expose the house for pushing guests too far (possibly to the edge of death). One thing is certain from these reports however – guests don’t leave the house unharmed. Cuts, bruises, and shaved heads are common “trophies” for the people to remember the ordeal by. The large amount of controversy surrounding the legality of the manor has led to the recent shut down of the original San Diego location. Not to worry though, two new locations have opened in both Alabama and Tennessee (both with extensive wait lists for entry).
The soaring popularity of this horror house seems like a phenomenon. However, with the rise in popularity of “torture porn,” maybe the cult like following of the manor isn’t entirely a surprise. The concept of torture porn was conceptualized by film critics who called out the horror movie industry for cranking out films without real plots and just containing meaningless and extreme gore and violence. Unsurprisingly, the “films” released by McKamey Manor closely mirror the disturbing scenes in modern horror films (and are arguably more accessible due to their short length and availability on Youtube and the Manor’s website).
Why are there so many people thirsting for hours of fear and pain? Is it due to the mundanity of life or the need to fulfill some sick fantasy? In a world that seems to be increasingly desensitizing the population to violence and disturbing themes, maybe a torture porn addiction is a logical next step for many people. All I know is if extreme horror houses like the McKamey Manor are the new “grown up” version of trick-or-treating, I’ll be staying home on Halloween from here on out.