These extreme haunted houses are not for the faint of heart. For some, it's a way of life. You will not wind through mazes and encounter actors in masks who jump out and say "boo" before letting you on your way. No, these monsters will grab you, tie you up, pull a hood over your head, and throw you in a trunk. And that's only the beginning of the gonzo experience offered by extreme horror attractions. If you can call them attractions. Repulsions might be a better word for it.
Some of these morbid experiences are rooted in psychological terror. They pose intensely personal questions while chipping away at your identity. Others ask you to crawl through tight spaces in the dark, all by yourself, with no clue as to what might be waiting around the corner. One of them is an eight-hour tour so controversial, even other haunted house creators want it shut down. These are the intense Halloween attractions to hit if you want to experience the kind of real terror that sticks with you long after the show is over.
Russ McKamey runs what is unequivocally considered the most extreme haunt around: The McKamey Manor. Previously located in San Diego, there are now two locations listed on the website: Summertown, Tennessee, and Huntsville, Alabama. Supposedly, thousands are on the waitlist. What makes it so extreme? The haunt lasts up to 10 hours, and guests go in solo or two at a time. You may be bound, slapped, manhandled, covered in blood, made to vomit, or forced to eat cockroaches.
McKamey Manor is free; Russ requests you bring a donation of dog food for a local animal shelter. One woman claimed going through the experience traumatized her. So, obviously, the place is quite controversial, even among other haunters, who claim its torments give them a bad name.
Blackout Haunted House, considered by many the first extreme haunt, launched in New York in 2006 and has expanded to Los Angeles and San Francisco; it offers horror experiences online or via text. Participants have been waterboarded, touched, forced to walk barefoot over waste, and suffocated with plastic.
These experiences are simulated, but many visitors report an extremely unpleasant experience (which, obviously, is the point). The documentary The Blackout Experiments details the haunt and those who've gone through it.
The Victim Experience (no longer in operation) was the extreme version of the Freakling Brothers Gates of Hell haunt in Las Vegas. As the name suggests, you are vulnerable to unknown tormentors who want nothing more than to make you say the safe word: “Purgatory.” However, guests who have made it out claim to have felt a sense of accomplishment, and the creators of the haunt assure you they’re rooting for you to make it through the simulated danger.
Some guests have reported being bound, gagged, hit, dunked in ice water, and stunned.
Heretic House is a mysterious LA haunt that takes place year-round in various locations. The narrative revolves around the Heretic and those who worship him, but standalone shows deviate from the core tale to explore themes such as claustrophobia, sleep paralysis, or the intrinsic horror of being alone in a cabin in the woods.
Guests are bound, grabbed, roughly moved about, covered in fake blood, lightly clawed, suffocated, nailed into coffins, and may have their clothes shredded, among other horrors. Is anyone else relieved to know the clawing you get before being stripped and nailed into a coffin is "light"?