This Halloween you’re in for a scare if you dare set foot into arguably the most haunted attraction the world has ever seen—McKamey Manor, which offers its “winner” $20,000 if they survive over ten hours of grueling, mental torture.
The Tennessee attraction is so horrifying, that its crazed founder, Russ McKamey requires individuals to watch a two-hour film of previous tourists who thought they could outsmart the house, on their hands and knees crying, on top of signing a 40-page legal waiver, along with a handful of other requirements including, but not limited to background checks, mental health screenings, passing a sports physical, doctors notes, proof of medical insurance, and of course passing a drug test. Easy right?
Is McKamey Manor A Legal Torture Chamber?
But now, a petition, called “Shut Down McKamey Manor” is spreading calling the attraction anything but a “haunted attraction,” and everything that resembles a “torture chamber under disguise.” It goes on to call the attraction an attempt to specifically target those who are “most easily manipulated.”
According to the petition, there have been reports of sexual assault at the manor, along with claims that McKamey hires workers with violent histories, including sex offenders—in addition to reportedly using needles to inject people with drugs, forcing them to ingest pills and/or questionable items to force hallucinations.
The petition has already reached over 40,000 signatures in efforts to shut the attraction down.
McKamey owns and operates multiple locations of the haunted house in Summertown, Tennessee, and Huntsville, Alabama.
Assumption of the Risk or An Unenforceable Contract?
But what’s most interesting is the legal analysis crawling out from under McKamey Manor.
First and foremost, a person cannot legally agree to do something that is already deemed illegal. On its face, a contract that contains illegal provisions (in part or in whole) cannot survive challenges of enforceability if it requires a party to do something illegal.
Arguably, a plaintiff, if they are suing, could argue that the 40-page waiver that McKamey requires every participant to read and sign is an unenforceable contract. Why?
One, it arguably and very likely does, violates public policy. ‘Public policy’ brings together the common sense and common conscience of our society as a whole that applies to matters of public health, safety, and welfare.
However, McKamey could counter with an assumption of the risk defense…right?
Under the law, an individual expressly assumes the risk of an activity, where either orally or in writing, he or she explicitly accepts the risk contained in the agreement, preventing them from bringing any legal action that could arise out of the agreement.
McKamey clearly makes it extremely clear in his 40-page legal waiver, in addition to a two-hour film of what’s going to happen—so is that enough that an individual can read that and know going in, exactly what is going to happen versus what cannot happen?
Who knows…but to me, this could bring up public policy questions.
While assumption of the risk could be a viable defense, what happens when the contract violates public policy? Under the law, an assumption of the risk defense will not stand, nor can a person shield themselves from liability if the contract itself violates public policy. This is where a contract attempts to or does restrict an area(s) of public necessity or accessibility.
Furthermore, a contract that is designed to cause intentional harm (arguably “mental” harm) to an individual will not protect a person from liability either.
Again, with McKamey’s contract, there is strong support that the terms and conditions of this agreement as well as the attraction are specifically designed to cause intentional physical and mental harm to those who participate—along with the individual’s inability to fully appreciate and understand the severity of the agreement itself, despite their signature.
From our perspective, this seems to be nothing more than a real-life torture chamber, where McKamey is asking individuals to voluntarily sign away any legal rights they have of protecting themselves in the event something goes wrong—something you would see in horror films such as “Would You Rather,” “Saw,” and other works designed to mess with your head. There’s no way in hell someone walks away from something of this magnitude as if nothing ever happened to them.
What do you think? Do you think this qualifies as an “attraction” where the participant legally assumes the risk, or is it a “torture chamber,” where the participant is signing an unenforceable contract because individuals can’t agree to something that is illegal?