Editor’s Note: Today’s article features extremely gruesome scenes of people going through quite possibly the most intense haunt anyone has ever seen. If you are squeamish, not a fan of blood or seeing people in fear, pain or simulated torture – click on this article about Legoland instead. This article is 100% not safe for work and it may not be safe for some at all. You have been warned!
Meet Russ McKamey. Russ is retired from the Navy, enjoys long walks on the beach, greyhound dogs and is a hardcore terror junkie.
Russ is the owner and founder of McKamey Manor in San Diego, California and this, based on all the research on haunts I have done, is the most intense psychological experience anyone can go through anywhere in the world.
When I first wrote to McKamey, I made it clear I had zero interest in going through his haunt. I had seen several YouTube videos of people being locked in cages, eating disgusting things (no idea what it was) and literally soaked in what appeared to be blood.
I told him point blank that I had no desire in getting any kind of “comp” or media thing at all and I merely wanted an interview to which McKamey responded, “We can definitely do the interview and P.S. I wouldn’t want to do this haunt either.”
It wasn’t always this intense. He’s been at this for 14 years and according to McKamey, audiences have demanded that it become more intense over the years. It’s also gotten more personable. A few years ago, people would start lining up outside of the house at 7 a.m. because they only brought through a handful of people per day.
Now, it’s even less. McKamey and his team only bring through two individuals per day on Fridays and Saturdays only. That’s right, only four people per week get to do this.
He calls McKamey Manor the “golden ticket” for haunt fans because so few people get to actually experience this. Why so few? Because the current version of the haunt is (I seriously hope you’re sitting down for this) a seven-hour experience.
Clearly, participants need a ton of endurance to get through this. Essentially, you “apply” to do this haunt (he calls the most current version The Gauntlet) and he weeds through hopeful e-mails and applications to determine who he thinks can handle this kind of extreme haunt.
You clearly need to be in good physical condition. Naturally you have to be 18-years-or-older. McKamey told me that he doesn’t think anyone who isn’t in their 20’s or 30’s could make it through. Needless to say, you must also agree to signing a lengthy waiver in order to go through all this. After weeding people out through this criteria, hopefuls get a phone call from McKamey where he asks why they want to do the haunt.
“Basically, I do my best to talk them out of it,” he explained. “Tell them how intense this is going to be and how we have had Marines go through and cry like babies. If they still want to do it after all that, I prioritize them based on how I think they will do combined with their passion to go through with it.”
I didn’t get a lot of detail on what actually goes on for seven hours of this haunt, but I did get a few things that he won’t do. For starters, there are no sexual undertones or nudity of any kind. Extreme haunts like Freakling Brothers and Blackout have been subjected to, shall we say, sexual psychological trauma for years now. McKamey also doesn’t believe in using curse words or even using religious undertones like the House of Shock in New Orleans.
Instead, participants go through a story-driven environment in what he calls “Indiana Jones on steroids.” Every room has a series of choices and each decision you make has its own unique set of consequences.
This is also not just some dinky set up, as he has invested nearly half a million dollars in equipment and effects to make The Gauntlet as realistic as possible.
Oh yeah, you know how in other extreme haunts there is a safe word if it becomes too much and you want to be let out? No such thing here. Because of his pre-screening process, he does his best to make sure that people who go through this are survivors, not quitters. Once you start, there is no backing out until it’s over.
So where in San Diego is this? Can you watch it all happening? I have no idea and frankly, neither do the participants. They are told to meet at some undisclosed location in the city and they are then “kidnapped” in a van where they are taken to this top secret location where the madness all happens, then dropped back off seven hours or so later. “It’ll all be like a dream,” McKamey said.
However, McKamey does video tape the entire experience from beginning to end. He keeps them all for his records and thus, is there every step of the way. If he feels like things are getting too intense, he can tell the actors to back off a bit. Likewise, if he thinks the participants can handle more, he can also amp things up a bit too.
How much would you pay for an extreme experience like this? $100? Maybe as much as $500? Good news, it’s technically free. There is no charge to go through and he refuses to accept any money. Instead, he accepts bags or cans of dog food for his favorite charity of rehabilitating greyhounds that have been abused. He has a soft spot in his heart for these dogs and the food helps with some of those expenses because often times these dogs need a lot of veterinary care as well.
This is why he calls his experience the “golden ticket.” No other extreme haunt event charges nothing and takes seven hours. There is no way to get multiple people through in an hour, much less four a week, thus no financial gain. No other haunt in the country will touch what he’s doing because you can’t make a dime off of it.
So what do you think? Have haunts like this gone too far? Is there a place for entertainment like this? Would you try it or know anyone who would? Let me know in the comments section.