SUMMERTOWN, Tenn. (WIAT) — It’s been five years since an infamous San Diego horror attraction moved to the Tennessee-Alabama state line. Many wonder if the business, which allegedly performs extreme activities such as waterboarding and teeth extraction, is still in operation.
Russ McKamey, owner and creator of McKamey Manor, describes the haunt experience as “a survival horror boot camp.” The main attraction is located on a private property in Summertown, Tennessee.
In McKamey’s words, it’s a cross between Fear Factor, American Ninja Warrior and “every haunted house you could think of.” Participants can endure up to 10 hours of what McKamey describes as “psychological games.” However, not every experience is the same for the manor’s guests.
“[McKamey Manor] is an individualized tour that goes through and is based upon an individual’s phobias and fears. So every show is different and it’s very psychological,” McKamey said. “It’s something that’s going to test you physically and test you mentally to the utmost.”
McKamey said that a secondary site exists for the manor experience located near Huntsville. However, it’s only used when a participant completes a significant amount of time at the Summertown site.
“Not very many people have gone to the Huntsville location,” McKamey said. “In fact, in reality, zero. They all break here at site number one so no one’s gotten past the easy stuff yet.”
McKamey Manor operated in San Diego for years until moving to Summertown in 2017. McKamey said the move to the Southeast was highly requested by his fanbase, which includes a 27,000-member Facebook group.
The Manor gained its reputation for being too unsafe when two participants came forward describing their traumatic experiences at the San Diego location as “too extreme.”
In 2015, Amy Milligan told the San Diego Union-Tribune that McKamey cut the most brutal moments of the tour out of her featured video on the Manor’s YouTube channel. She said the actors in the haunt pushed her head underwater repeatedly while she begged them to stop the show.
Laura Hertz Brotherton also came forward with her own negative experience at the Manor in 2016, claiming McKamey purposely made her tour more torturous due to him finding out about her having an affair. In the aftermath, she drove herself to the hospital for treatment due to her injuries.
“I was waterboarded, I was tased, I was whipped,” Brotherton told the Nashville Scene. “I was repeatedly hit in my face […] as hard as a man could hit a woman.”
McKamey defends aspects of the San Diego location’s tours due to the participants agreeing to a “no safeword” policy, meaning the actors could continue the haunt even when guests didn’t want to.
McKamey also claimed participants are not only warned multiple times about the Manor’s operations but are also vetted through various means.
“You have to go through a long screening process through our [Facebook] admins. You have to have a sports physical that’s current. You have to have background checks done, mental evaluations done,” McKamey said. “This is a game. This [experience] is solely for entertainment so we don’t ever want to hurt somebody physically or mentally.”
He said that no matter what waiver guests signed, whether in San Diego or Summertown, McKamey understands when they are at their absolute limit and it’s time to cease operations.
“If there was really a hospital or police involved, there would be lawsuits and I would be in jail,” McKamey said. “I wouldn’t be doing this because torture is not legal. I don’t care what you sign, you’re not allowed to torture somebody.”
McKamey declined to release a copy of the waiver warning people what they could expect at McKamy Manor due to it being “a part of the show.”
McKamey also states that participants may believe they are in dangerous situations, but are actually under the influence of his hypnosis and mind control techniques which he utilizes greatly in Tennessee.
“I can put somebody in a kiddy pool filled with water and tell you there’s a great white shark in there with you, and you’re going to believe there’s a great white shark there,” McKamey said. “I have that kind of control over somebody’s mind during this tour […] and can make you believe things are happening that in reality are not.”
While many see the McKamey Manor as the ultimate haunted house challenge, another factor is on the table for those who attempt to withstand the experience.
McKamey offers a $20,000 prize to anyone who can withstand the full 10-hour experience, and he’s said no one has ever come close for a number of reasons.
“I convince them that if [the money] is the reason they’re coming here, that they really don’t want to do the show because they’re not going to win and if they’re here solely for that factor, they’re going to be really disappointed,” McKamey said. “Because the Manor always wins.”
CBS 42 reached out to Lawrence County commissioner Scott Franks for comment on the McKamey Manor’s status in Summertown. He said local law enforcement has no evidence or reason to prosecute McKamey and he’s been “quiet” for the last two to three years.