Imagine your worst nightmares, the scariest movies you’ve ever seen, and the most horrifying haunted houses you’ve been to. Put them all together, and you’re still not going to come close to the experience at McKamey Manor in San Diego, California. The place is so gut-wrenchingly terrifying that it can make the toughest of people cry out for their mommies.
The official McKamey Manor website describes the place as the ‘world’s only true interactive 4 to 7 hour extreme haunt experience’. “Be warned, this is not your standard haunted house,” the site reads. “This is an audience participation event in which (YOU) will live your own horror movie. This is a rough, intense and truly frightening experience.” And the entire experience is filmed, giving you a chance to star in your very own horror movie.
Photo: McKamey Manor
So what exactly does this ‘rough’ experience entail? Well, it’s hard to say because they change up the theme every year. The basic legend remains the same – they say that the McKamey Manor was once an asylum where the warden would clone patients for organ harvesting. One of the patients, Miss Mary Parker, managed to escape and hacked the warden to death with an axe. She now runs the asylum and is always searching for fresh victims.
I turned to last year’s promo video for a glimpse of what might be coming this year. Honestly, just watching the clip was a disturbing experience in itself. The participants were tied up, gagged, their heads were forced into cages with snakes, and they were force-fed horrid stuff like rotten eggs. They screamed begged to be let out, but the horror just wouldn’t stop. McKamey promises to give its visitors the scare of a lifetime so unless they are about to lose their minds or exhibit serious medical symptoms they are not let off the hook.
Photo: McKamey Manor
McKamey Manor is the brainchild of Russ McKamey and his girlfriend Carol Schultz. The couple are passionate about drawing out deep, terrifying, emotional responses from people and making ‘mini movies’ out of them. In fact, they love doing it so much that they spent over half-a-million dollars on making McKamey the scariest haunted manor in America. But they don’t charge their guests a dime! That’s right, entry into McKamey Manor is entirely free of cost, it’s all done simply ‘for the love of the haunt’.
“You want to see true fear? You put live spiders crawling on somebody’s face, and the tears are just flowing down their eyes in silence,” Russ said, with relish. “It’s like you’re watching a silent movie. It really is like watching somebody live their own horror movie right there, six inches in front of their face.” Who would want to put themselves through such an experience, you ask? Well, plenty! There’s supposedly a list of 17,000 people just waiting for a chance to get in.
Photo: McKamey Manor
The manor only admits two guests per tour; they are given a very special, personalized haunt experience. Guests are advised not to wear expensive clothing, owing to the aggressive nature of the experience. The ‘creatures’ and actors inside the manor can touch the guests at any point of time, but guests ‘cannot in any way return the contact’. “If anyone becomes rowdy (pushing, shoving, running), they will immediately be removed – no questions asked,” the website says.
“We do not allow foul language, pushing, vulgar behavior, weapons of any kind, smoking, drugs, alcohol, etc.” Entry is only allowed for people above 21 years of age. Guests must also be in excellent physical health to participate, read the warning page, and sign a waiver form before entering. The website assures that guests would never come under any real physical harm.
Even so, not a single person has ever made it through to the end of the experience. Russ said that he has always had to stop the show – even for a marine and an adrenaline junkie – because of one reason or another. For some, the reasons were medical, for others, it was because their minds simply gave out. Russ admitted that the illusion of facing a horrifying death was just too real to tolerate.
Surprisingly, the very people who begged to be let out gave amazing reviews about their experience, once they had a chance to recover. “Russ knew we really wanted a scare and he delivered, and then some,” wrote one guest. “Our tour took over an hour and a half, when normally tours are about 45 minutes. So I felt honored.”
“This place is great compared to other haunts in San Diego,” said another. “The Haunted Trail and Haunted Hotel is like rainbows and unicorns compared to this place.”
“By the end you won’t know which way is up, which is the fun of being scared, right?” one guest pointed out.
McKamey Manor is open all year round on Fridays and Saturdays. You need to make a reservation on their website if you want to attend. Do you have it in you to make it through the world’s most horrifying experience?