top of page

Haunted Attractions: Hell House LLC & McKamey Manor



Ghouls have attended many haunted attractions and love a good scare. Hell House LLC is a found-footage horror franchise that plays with our love of Halloween-time activities. Gabe discusses the absurdity of the films and some of their more exciting horror points. But some "attractions" can't be called that at all and instead, seem more like torture chambers. Kat discusses the real-life "extreme haunt" known as McKamey Manor. What is this place that forces you to sign a 40-page waiver, sign a background check, and leaves you with lots of trauma?

 

Media from this week's episode:

Hell House LLC (2015)

Five years after an unexplained malfunction causes the death of 15 tour-goers and staff on the opening night of a Halloween haunted house tour, a documentary crew travels back to the scene of the tragedy to find out what really happened.

Director Stephen Cognetti

 

Hell House LLC series: Questionable Cults, Hellmouths, and Spooky Clowns by Gabe Castro


RED: Quotes, someone else's words.


Plot:

The film follows a youtube couple who are known for exploring abandoned, creepy, and “haunted” places. We first see them exploring an abandoned asylum. We learn fairly quickly what kind of Youtuber Ben is. He jumps out at partner, Tina and immediately establishes himself as the true villain of this film. Ben and Tina decide they are going to explore this sunken town in France, Tina’s home country. It’s clear Tina is in this strictly for her …love??? for Ben (though the lack of chemistry between them is palpable). The film is a mix of found footage, drones, and regular cinematography which I think added to the film. Tina has been training for this dive but is clearly uncomfortable with the challenge. She times herself holding her breath in a tub and reluctantly explains to Ben she’s reached “about 3 minutes,” which informs us just how much time she is going to be left with under the water at the end. Ben makes jokes constantly about her wanting to get out of it. He confirms our suspicions that he is a villain by invading her privacy and filming her while she is peeing (yes, seriously).


Eventually, they get to the town (the part that’s above water). Ben wanders around and pretends to be a real vlogger, explaining the town is practically abandoned even now and is dying. Only to have it revealed, quite quickly, that the town is bustling. It’s just that everyone was already down in the water, enjoying their summer. The sunken city they sought, the supposed abandoned, creepy place that no one has ventured into is actually a popular tourist and summer spot. Ben is deflated while Tina is silently elated. Only, Ben gets to talking to a local, Pierre, and learns there’s still yet something to explore, an abandoned singular house tucked far in the woods and down the water a ways. The adventure is back on! (It’s for the views!)


They arrive at the destination after a hike from the main road (big red flag, but white people be white peoplin). You could not catch me lugging my oxygen through the woods to then go do more physical activity underwater. Couldn’t be me. Ben lets Tina know they have one hour of air which is entirely too little time to do an explore. Throughout the entire underwater adventure, I was constantly yelling to Kat, “How long has it been?” It had to have taken like 20 minutes just to get to the house and inside it. Then they explore it for like ever. They never account for their return trip or like any thoughts about actual diving concerns.


We start our journey underwater and get fun glimpses of cars and other usually above-water things now underwater (and therefore cooler). Ben continues to be the worst. Laughing at Tina when she gets caught on something and becomes panicked. Later, he blares heavy metal music that scares the fish and me (again, he is the villain). When they arrive at the property, the front gates are adorned with religious warnings and paraphernalia. Tina remarks, “I forgot how religious they were back then.” and they both completely ignore or rather shut off their deep-thinking parts of their brain, moving inside without a wonder as to why it appears the townsfolk were trying to keep something evil in. They reach the house and it's oddly sealed up. Why would you need to seal up a house that is being drowned? They spend not a single thought on this query before working to find a way in. One jumpscare-by-fish later, they find the one way in and are excited to make their way through the house. Again, never stopping to think about the fact that there is ONE WAY IN and therefore ONE WAY OUT. If this ONE WAY OUT were to become inaccessible? We don’t worry about that, honey. Eventually, while exploring the house they encounter some unsettling, spooky, and haunted things. The children’s room is eerie and not in the usual way that a child’s bedroom completely submerged underwater and frozen in time would be. But rather, this particular child had some odd hobbies such as stabbing photos through the antlers of a dead deer? They also have video equipment amidst the dolls and girlish delights. Ben thinks he sees a silhouette of a girl on the bed but shrugs it off when nothing is there. Maybe it was the fish?


I forgot to mention they have an underwater compatible drone that follows them around named Tom (like a peeping Tom). This camera was a fun tactic for them to send into a room first to scope it out and make sure it was safe. In the kitchen, Tom glitches. When the couple explore the room, they find a giant Jesus statue hanging on the wall. But it’s not a wall but actually a hidden door. Again, without asking, “Why would people want to hide this secret door with literally Jesus?” they take Jesus from his perch and head on in. In there they find more rolls of footage and a couple hanging above a pentagram. (Hey, who dropped these red flags here?)


A creaky door opens and Ben finds body parts in jars. This is all the last straw for Tina who asks that they leave. Big surprise though, their ONE WAY OUT is now a brick wall because of… satanic witchcraft? Things spiral out here as they continue to make more bad decisions and Tina becomes increasingly appropriately panicked.


Truly Frightening:


I was excited to watch this film and genuinely enjoyed it. Even with its silliness and how angry I was at Ben through the entire piece. Kat is afraid of the ocean, we don’t know what’s down there. But I get claustrophobic. So films in space or certain underwater films like Underwater or The Deep House really frighten me. We don’t belong underwater and you are at the mercy of the equipment. You are always one malfunction, one cave-in, one false step, or one creature away from death.


Things that scared me about this film.

  • One hour is not enough oxygen to be exploring a whole house and you don’t even know where it is exactly. You need to map out how long it takes for everything!

  • No one knows where you are. Pierre, who turns out is a villain (Ben is THE villain but Pierre is bad too), brought you here. It is far from your original intended location. You are in the middle of the woods and now underwater. You have disappeared.

  • They went into the house when there were no exits other than one precarious window that could at any time become obstructed, barring your only escape.

  • They never discuss the issue of swimming too fast to the surface. At least 47 Meters Down explains that. These two never took a diving certification class. No use of sign language or such, used by divers.

  • Tom is an evil robot and I don’t know why he was evil but he was. He was all glowing red, “I can’t let you do that, Tina.”

  • The unanswered question of why everything was in good shape despite being submerged underwater before the protagonists were born.


Things that didn’t scare me.

  • The ghosts were spooky at first. Seeing them preserved was interesting. And I absolutely understand the challenges of filming people without suits underwater and trying to be scary. But to be honest, I could’ve done without them completely. The real horror was being underwater, period.

  • Any of the satanic cult??? plot. It was messy. The family was sacrificing farm kids to ?Satan? for ?reasons? There were scratch marks on the inside of the barricade that was put in there right before they flooded the house. Why? One child was dead, one had escaped (Pierre) and the parents were chained up in the basement. I think they were trying to say this was from the kids they abducted but it makes no sense it would be at the front door. Also, what do Pierre and these ghosts get from this? Do they get to live again? Or is it that killing is fun?


Things that scared me that I am ashamed to admit:

  • That damned fish. Popping in and out and always looking creepy. No thanks.


The Making of:

But here, we wanted the audience to have this visceral feeling of being in this element and that it can be as scary, as dreamlike. - the directors


I think the film's most interesting part and why I enjoyed it so much was the actual filmmaking aspect. I found myself wondering how any of it was possible and what the challenges may have been with having a film shot almost entirely underwater. Thanks to a helpful interview on Bloody Disgusting, ‘The Deep House’: Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury On the Challenges of Filming a Haunted House Movie Underwater by Meagan Navarro, I found answers!


Here are some of the challenges and experiences as explained by the directors.


“The whole process of shooting underwater came step by step, all the security around it and shooting 8 to 10 hours a day underwater. It’s very exhausting. And how to deal with the fact that it’s almost three times slower underwater than a regular shoot. As soon as you want to move something in the set, you have to call through the microphone, ‘Okay, we need to move the pots on the chimney, please.’ You have a diver going down to the chimney and taking the pot and say, ‘Okay, here. No, no, no. On the left. More, more, more, more. Stop! No, too much. Back, back, back.’ It was quite frustrating in the beginning because we are the kind of directors that are on set with all the crew. We are touching everything, and we are changing stuff ourselves. We are talking to the actors, and we are playing for the actors. And here we were on the surface; everyone else was underwater. We are sitting in front of our monitors, with our microphones, and giving our orders to everyone. In the beginning, it was quite frustrating, but it was the way to do it.”


This is a haunted house film and so there are ghosts! However, the ghosts we see are regular people, underwater without dive suits. They ended up a bit funny on screen but I think using them instead of CGI or practical effects was a positive. The two leads of the film get dive suits and most likely, much training on safety. The ghosts are out there, free. When asked about how they approached their ghosts, Bustillo answered candidly, “The ghosts were a real problem at the beginning. We didn’t know how to do the ghosts. We thought maybe we could use special effects, but no. It’s too expensive. It will not work underwater. One day, we spoke with some crew members, and one suggested that maybe we could use a free diver. We started to look after free divers who could possibly play a ghost in a horror movie. We found a couple of older free divers to play the parents, but the more complicated challenge was to find the young girl. It’s very difficult to find a girl around 11 or 12 years old who could dive for real, without oxygen at six meters down. We were very lucky there, too, because we found [Carolina Massey] in Monaco. She was only 11 years old during the shooting, but she was a free diver since maybe three or four years ago; free diving is her passion. She’s trained by the world champion of freediving in Monaco, Pierre Frolla.


“Then we were able to do all the stuff with ghosts for real on the set and without CGI or special effects. All you can see on the screen was shot for real. We give her some oxygen and then action; they go underwater, they act, then up. It was very stressful for us, of course, because it’s a little bit dangerous, but it was incredible to watch on the screen. Wow, it works for real and without effects and post-production CGI. We are not dealing with a green screen. It was a real joy for all the crew to watch. It’s really, really creepy.”


In an article on Variety, 'The Deep House' Directors Chat About Making the Blumhouse-Acquired Underwater Horror Film by Elsa Keslassy, the challenges are further explored.


The helmers explain that directing the actors under the water presented another level of difficulty because they couldn’t be fully wired and “there’s no wifi down there,” points out Bustillo. “We had an engineer who took months to create a system where we had antennas placed in the water which were connected to one another. This unique system required us to work with unusual crew members and allowed us to see the dailies on the monitors above water,” says Maury.


The pair explained that the house was built on large grids and progressively plunged into a nine-meter deep water tank that was 20 meters wide. Near the water tank was a warehouse where the decors were being fabricated.


“We couldn’t leave the whole house in the water for days at a time because the decors would have been ruined, so we would immerse only parts of the house underwater, and were shooting scenes floor by floor; we could only immerse one meter per hour, which represented six meters,” says Bustillo.


“The whole process was crazy, and we owe it to Jacques Ballard, who is a master of underwater filming. Ballard notably created Beyonce’s aquatic music video ‘Runnin,'” says Maury.


In order to create the muddy look of the water and give it some density, the directors said some food items, such as mashed Brussels sprouts, were thrown in it. Bustillo says he wanted the picture to be “beautiful as well as nightmarish.”


As a found-footage-y film, I enjoyed this exploration of a sunken home. I was stressed and worried about what they would find in each room. The drone, Tom, was a great tool to explore for them and it reminded me of how I sometimes play a horror video game. Trying to use the mechanics to peek around corners before I go inside. Before any supernatural/plot points were introduced, I was having a good, spooky time. Ultimately, I still really enjoyed the film and recommend it if you are looking for a fun, thoughtless time.


Other Media about Sunken Cities:


I am not going to go into details about these but do think if we ever decide to cover sunken cities again, we could watch horror films about the horrors of those cities. Kat is going to explain those horrors in their section. Many communities and groups of people were completely wiped out in sunken cities. Two pieces of media came to mind where I thought if we wanted to focus less on Haunted House but Underwater now and instead on Horrors of Sunken Cities, I would’ve covered. There is a terrible episode of American Horror Stories titled, Lake. It is about a mysterious drowning that uncovers secrets at the bottom of the lake. The big reveal is that the ancestors of the boy who drowned were responsible for the town being flooded. They profited off of it, despite the deaths of the residents then and the visitors now. However, the victims and villains of this episode were both incredibly white and I feel like it completely skipped over the realities of these sunken cities. The victims were almost always BIPOC folx. Which is why Kat was helpful enough to show me an episode of Atlanta.


In the first episode of Season 3, Three Slaps, we open with two men fishing, one white and one black. The Black fisherman explains that he always feels uncomfortable and frightened of the lake. He expresses his fear and recounts a harrowing story from his youth here. “This place always gave me the heebie-jeebies, man, I almost drowned in [the water] when I was, like, 8,” he explains, noting that he “felt like [he] was being pulled.” The white fisherman responds that he believes him and that it might just be true. He divulges that “It’s a whole town underneath us. This whole lake used to be a town. Houses, farms, roads, there’s a whole raceway down there. State government built a dam, flooded the place. Anyone who didn’t leave drowned,” and furthermore, he explains, “Town was Black, dude … a self-governing Black town.” Distressed, the Black man responds “So, there are Black people under us right now?”

“A lot of souls down there. That’s what pulled you under,” he says.


As the white man muses on about the sunken city, the lake’s haunted past, and the blinding effects of whiteness, his voice begins to muffle and his eyes disappear. “We’re cursed too,” the white man says as an array of dark-skinned arms ascends from the water, dragging the Black man into its depths. ‘Atlanta’ Season 3 Episode 1 Recap: Three Slaps


I am thankful that Bustillo and Maury stuck to their, albeit sloppy, Satanic plot device. The film is set in their home country of France and so their lakes aren’t ripe with the racism and violent history we have here in places like Lake Lanier. Perhaps, a young filmmaker could learn from this film. How they too could tell a truly haunting story of a sunken city, but also explore the true horrors under the water, that of the American way.


 

McKamey Manor: 40-page Waivers and Torture Chambers by Kat Kushin


RED: Quotes, someone else's words.


McKamey Manor is an extreme horror attraction (and that’s the nice way of putting it) that has had some pretty disturbing things happening at it. The location started in San Diego, CA - and has recently moved to Tennessee. It’s run by Russ McKamey, a man who seems to have a lot of psychological issues, as stated by many previous attendees, ex partners, and those critical of the attraction.


This attraction is not a traditional haunted attraction for many reasons, both in that it doesn’t suggest anything haunted, and also in the fact that the fears manipulated are mostly based in violence and human behavior. The experience is based more on a hostel or SAW like scare, than on a supernatural or paranormal scare experience that is more common in a haunted attraction. The fears manipulated at McKamey Manor are more about how terrifying people can be, and how cruel they can be to each other. The experience at McKamey Manor is often described as torture porn, where actors put participants through physical and mental harm throughout their stay. To participate there are many hoops to jump through, and it is an unpaid experience. The participants used to join by donating dog food and completing the following:

1. 21 and above, or 18-20 with parents approval.

2. Completed "Sports Physical" and Doctors letter stating you are physically and mentally cleared.

3. Pass a background check provided by MM.

4. Be screened via FB face time or phone.

5. Proof of medical insurance.

6. Sign a detailed 40 page waiver.

7. Pass a portable drug test on the day of the show.


Their site goes on to indicate that people should:

“Be warned, MCKAMEY MANOR, is not your standard (boo) haunted house. This is an audience participation event in which (YOU) will live your own Horror Movie. This is a rough, intense and truly frightening experience. You must be in GREAT HEALTH to participate . Last year's haunt was absolutely nothing compared to the new MCKAMEY MANOR.

New for 2020, MCKAMEY MANOR Presents "DESCENT." The next evolution in interactive "SURVIVAL HORROR" theartre. Understand that each tour will be different based upon your personal fears, and can last up to 6 HOURS. Each guest will be mentally and physically challenged until you reach your personal breaking point.

Do not wear expensive clothing. Do not bring anything that cannot get wet. This can be an aggressive experience, and our actors will come in contact with you. You CANNOT in any way return the contact. If anyone becomes rowdy (pushing, shoving, running), they will immediately be removed - no questions asked. Anyone that has been drinking alcohol, or taking drugs will not be allowed into the haunt and will be asked to leave the property.

At check-in you will be required to show I.D. The waiver process for "DESCENT" will last 2 hours. ONE performance only per week (year round). Specific requirements must be met in order to ever take the tour.

Think about the average 10-20 minute haunt, or a theme park at Halloween and what you've experienced. Was it really Interactive and Scary? At the new MCKAMEY MANOR you will experience thrills that you HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE. You will be tested to your very core. If things become too much, you can always quit...if we let you..”


Q: Where is the location and what time are you open?

A: NOW OPEN in Summertown Tennessee and Huntsville Alabama. CALL (858) 335-9670 or email for reservations.

Q: What type of attraction do you have?

A: 6 (plus) Hour "EXTREME" attraction in which you (MUST MEET REQUIREMENTS). Reservations Required due to the Intense nature of the experience. Not your typical "Boo" Haunted House. You've been warned!

Q: How many people per group?

A: DESCENT is recommended as a SOLO experience, but we can run TWO for the 6 Hour (plus) personalized "Interactive Experience."

Q: Is there an age limit for McKamey Manor?

A: Yes, 18-20 years of age with parents approval, or 21 and over for the DESCENT tour.

Q: How long does it take to go through?

A: Depends on how well the guest does.

Q: Do you use Strobe lights?

A: No.

Q: Is McKamey Manor handicap accessible?

A: Yes.

Q: Is there security?

A: You are being filmed every moment you at at MM, and Every group is filmed during their tour as well.

Q: Will the actors touch us, or can we touch the actors?

A: YES, the actors will come into contact with you, but you CANNOT touch the actors or props.

Q: I want to do a story on your haunted house, or have a question...who do I talk to?

A: Call 858-335-9670 or email Russ at musicalexcitementwithruss@yahoo.com.

Q: Can we be thrown out of the haunt for any reason?

A: Yes. We do not allow foul language, pushing, vulgar behavior, weapons of any kind, smoking, drugs, alcohol, etc. We have a list of rules that must be adhered to (and a WAIVER FORM), must be completed for your own safety and the safety of the other guests. Violation of these rules means you will be asked to leave.

Q: Can we be injured at your haunt?

A: You must be in EXCELLENT HEALTH to participate in the EXTREME tour. You will incur VERY physically and mentally demanding environments. Make sure to follow the rules. YOU MUST READ the WARNING page and sign the WAIVER FORM before you enter the haunt. DO NOT ATTEND if you have medical conditions that might cause you an injury... DO NOT enter our haunt if you are prone to seizures or if you have ANY kind of respiratory conditions, especially asthma, or heart conditions. Do not enter if you have broken bones, casts or are pregnant.

Q: What can't we bring with us to MCKAMEY MANOR?

A: No pets. No weapons. No alcoholic beverages. No drugs. No cigarettes. No cameras. It is also recommended to leave your valuables at home, like cell phones, purses, loose jewelry and more. We do not stop production to search for lost items. We are not liable for lost or missing items.

Q: How do I make a reservation and how long in advance is recommended and what is the admission fee?

A: A voluntary donation is recommended, but is not mandatory to take the tour. Your donation will help fund your particular event. Fill out the "Contact Form" asap to get started.

Comments


bottom of page