‘If we were torturing, I’d be in jail’: Owner of America’s scariest haunted house addresses criticism

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SUMMERTOWN, Tenn. (WFLA) — If you consider Summertown Tennessee’s McKamey Manor a ‘torture house,’ you’re part of the “Low Information Crowd,” according to the haunted house owner Russ McKamey.

Russ owns and operates the most terrifying haunted house experience in America — one you’re not allowed to attend until you sign a 40-page waiver, create a safe word, get a doctor’s note, and more.

It’s more of a haunted experience than a haunted house, because there’s no maze and there are no actors. Instead, it’s just you and Russ — or as he describes it, “it’s your mind against my mind.”

Russ says his newest tour, “Descent,” is a complete mental game between him and the participant, but also says it’s his easiest show yet. Not that that’s saying much.

“It was called ‘Abyss,’ which was a three hour experience. Then we bumped it up to ‘Descent,’ which is a six hour show,” he said. “Both of those are things that you will complete. There’s no reason why you cannot finish ‘Abyss’ or ‘Descent.’ They’re just fun. It’s not like the harder versions that I’ve done in the past.”

In the past, no one had ever completed a tour at McKamey Manor, Russ said. News that he has created a show contestants should last all the way through is a light at the end of an otherwise bleak 2020.

One reason why Russ may be giving contestants a little more slack this time around is because there’s no more prize at the end. Russ advertised his older, more difficult 10-hour tour with a $20,000 prize for anyone who completed it. No one ever could.

Russ said he took the prize money away because “knuckleheads” were getting into it for the wrong reasons.

“You can imagine, if you’re offering $20,000, which is what I was doing, then you’re gonna get people coming through for the wrong reasons,” he said. “People coming through, not because they want to experience the Manor and just have a good time, they’re going there because ‘This is my last ditch effort, this is a way for me to get out of debt.’

“The Manor is always going to win. No one’s ever going to win that money. Nobody. Because the show was 10 hours, and 10 hours of doing this craziness, there’s no way.”

Despite Russ’s claims that his shows are all “smoke and mirrors,” and that the Manor is “just something fun to do,” another online petition has circulated calling for McKamey Manor to be shut down.

This year’s petition has over 165,000 online signatures. The petition claims the haunted house is a torture chamber in disguise and Russ uses loopholes to avoid getting arrested.

“Russ repeatedly says “it’s all smoke & mirrors”, then why are people leaving with fractured bones, mental trauma, & covered in bruises accompanied by facial swelling?” the petition states.

“I don’t care if you sign a waiver or not, you’re not allowed to torture people,” Russ told WFLA.com. “That’s illegal. So with all the eyes watching us and all the people trying to shut us down, including the state of Tennessee, and every law enforcement branch you can think of… if we were torturing somebody, I’d be in jail right now, or the thing would be shut down. So clearly that’s not really happening.”

Russ says he gets approximately 150-200 requests to tour the Manor every day from his website.

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