“…there was something powerful about fear. It unlocked something in your brain that you didn’t know existed, and nine times out of ten you found yourself grateful to the person responsible for its undoing.”
The Last Haunt by Max Booth III is a chilling novella about an extreme haunted house known as McKinley Manor. Located in the small town of Pork Basket, Texas, visitors to McKinley Manor are willingly subjected to physical and psychological torture by its sadistic owner, Gus McKinley, and his band of pillowcase-wearing minions.
The blood-curdling screams emanating from McKinley Manor obviously raise concerns among the neighbors, who are quick to call the cops:
“I found a woman, chains wrapped around her wrists, hanging her from the ceiling. I found a man with a pillowcase over his head, eye holes crudely cut in the middle of the fabric. He was standing behind her, holding a mini chainsaw in one hand and a melting popsicle in the other.”
The novella is based on the real-life McKamey Manor, known as America’s most extreme haunted house. Proprietor Russ McKamey livestreams footage of his visitors being waterboarded, drugged, forced to drink vomit, or worse, to his closed Facebook group. McKamey accepts dog food as payment from his visitors, promising a substantial cash prize for anyone who can finish the full experience. (No one ever has.)
The setup for The Last Haunt is essentially identical to the real-life McKamey Manor but with the names changed to Gus McKinley and McKinley Manor. Although Gus also requires dog food as payment, he doesn’t own any dogs (due to allergies) and donates the dog food to a local animal shelter.
Given the close parallels between The Last Haunt and the actual McKamey Manor, I was ready to write this off as a well-written but predictable horror. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Max Booth III takes the true horrors of McKamey Manor and escalates them to terrifying new levels in The Last Haunt.
The Last Haunt is told as an oral history with accounts from witnesses, family members, neighbors, and associates after the so-called McKinley Manor massacre that occurred one tragic Halloween. Piecing together information from these various perspectives, the reader slowly stitches together what may or may not be the full story of that fateful night.
I devoured this novella in a single sitting, becoming increasingly engrossed and repulsed as the events of the story unfolded. The oral history format adopted by Max Booth III gripped me throughout the book, as he masterfully guides the reader from the believable to the unimaginable.
The Last Haunt is highly recommended for haunted house enthusiasts and anyone looking for a good scare. I look forward to reading more from Max Booth III in the future.