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Not A Haunted House: This Haunted Experience Terrorizes For Hours

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Not A Haunted House: This Haunted Experience Terrorizes For Hours

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Not A Haunted House: This Haunted Experience Terrorizes For Hours

Not A Haunted House: This Haunted Experience Terrorizes For Hours

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Beth Accomando goes to McKamey Manor ... and gets a bit more than she bargained for.

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McKamey Manor in San Diego is rated among the scariest places in the country every year around Halloween. The interactive experience lasts for hours, and some critics call it abusive.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

You know those haunted houses at amusement parks (laughter)? Try something truly scary, like an extreme haunt. These are fear-inducing experiences that can last up to eight hours and get so intense, there are a few critics who say they are abusive. Beth Accomando of member station KPBS in San Diego went to an extreme haunt that's called McKamey Manor. She lived to file this report.

BETH ACCOMANDO, BYLINE: My instructions were to proceed to where the road ends, wait at a white barrier overlooking a canyon at a prearranged time and to face forward until my handler approached me from behind.

RUSS MCKAMEY: What do we have here? Keep facing forward do not turn around.

ACCOMANDO: Russ McKamey is not usually so polite. Most people are thrown into a trunk or the back of the van.

MCKAMEY: It would be a lot rougher than what is happening right now. So we either give them a destination to meet at, like we did you, or we actually go to them and kidnap them some time during that day.

ACCOMANDO: But since all I wanted was an interview, he allowed me to sit in the front seat.

MCKAMEY: Now, there's some rules that you need to abide by.

ACCOMANDO: OK.

MCKAMEY: And you need to sign a couple of waivers for me.

ACCOMANDO: OK.

MCKAMEY: So we'll swap you out. And you're going to first put on these goggles.

ACCOMANDO: I am doing my first interview blindfolded.

After a short drive, we arrive at the destination.

MCKAMEY: Package has arrived.

ACCOMANDO: But instead of being let into the haunt for an interview, my head is bound with duct tape and covered with a hood.

What about the audio gear?

During the course of the next four hours, I would be locked in a coffin.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Screaming) Do you understand how long you're going to be here?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Yes, forever.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Screaming) Forever.

ACCOMANDO: Force-fed unidentifiable food.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Open wide, open wide.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Don't you throw up. Don't you throw up on us.

ACCOMANDO: And confronted by a buzz saw.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE SCREAMING)

ACCOMANDO: This does not bode well for me. No. And that was the sissy tour.

JOHN SCHNITZER: It's not haunted houses anymore. They're horror experiences - interactive, visceral theatre.

ACCOMANDO: John Schnitzer is making a documentary called "Haunters: The Movie."

SCHNITZER: I've talked people who go to McKamey Manor, and some of them are thrill-seekers, some of them have office jobs, some of them are ex-military. They've been to Afghanistan and nothing, not even a roller coaster, can get their adrenaline going. The extreme haunt kind of blurs the line between entertainment and survival. Its like, can I survive this? What am I made of?

ACCOMANDO: McKamey Manor describes itself as the world's only true, interactive, 4- to 7-hour extreme haunt experience. McKamey asks people to record their reactions right after the exit. Nick Baldwin went the week before I did and posted this on his Facebook page.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NICK BALDWIN: I just got out of McKamey Manor, and I was in no joke. I knew it was going to be rough, and I don't know why I still went - but not that rough.

ACCOMANDO: Despite warnings from survivors, there are 17,000 people on the waiting list. So McKamey Manor doesn't operate only on Halloween. It's a year-round haunt. And it's not alone in offering an extreme experience. Blackout in New York gained fame or infamy for faux waterboarding and forcing people to strip naked, says filmmaker John Schnitzer.

SCHNITZER: Years from now, are we going to look back at 2014 and go, wow, that was the Wild West of haunting, where all you had to do to get people to sign a waiver, and you to get away with anything.

ACCOMANDO: Extreme haunts have their detractors. Critics call them abusive and the people who run them sadistic. McKamey had to shut down one location because of community concern. But McKamey, like the creators of Blackout, comes from a theater background and is first and foremost a showman.

MCKAMEY: I love scaring folks. Once you scare somebody, the first time - your first boo - that's addicting. Now ramp it up about a 1,000 percent and put people in genuine panic mode, you know, sounds mean, but, you know they're OK. In reality, you know they're OK, but in their mind they're not OK. And to see that come together something that you created is very satisfying for sure.

ACCOMANDO: McKamey Manor is like going through horror boot camp. Many of the actors are Marines, and McKamey spent 23 years in the Navy. They do everything they can to break you down mentally and physically, but once you emerge, you're part of an elite group.

MCKAMEY: The people who come here really feel like they're family. They just feel like it's kind of a badge of honor to go through McKamey Manor.

ACCOMANDO: And the cost for this experience - just a few cans of dog food donated to Operation Greyhound. Unlike for-profit professional haunts, McKamey manner is run strictly for - fun? For NPR News, I'm Beth Accomando.

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