Catharsis Horror – An Interview with Andrew Sweaney

Editor Note: This experience has not yet been vetted. While we appreciate the claims of Catharsis Horror, we are cautious and cannot recommend them until they have proven themselves to be safe and to have abandoned the practices of McKamey Manor. 



Meet Catharsis Horror: rebuilt, refined, and a totally new experience to scare and abduct you. Haunting sits down with Catharsis co-owner, Andrew Sweaney, to learn about this new extreme haunt and what its fans and guests can expect.


Catharsis Horror: Customized Fear

Sweaney explains, “Catharsis Horror is an immersive experience and an extreme haunt. There will be torture elements; there may be some escape room elements; but mostly, it will be theater-based. Every scene will blur the lines of reality and are based on real-life situations.” The team at Catharsis is looking to provide a completely tailored immersive experience for its guests, providing a unique aspect – home participation from fans which is something we really haven’t seen before.  Sweaney adds, “We have also made it more participant friendly for those that would like a lighter experience.”


The team consists of Ryan Lawrence, Nick Baldwin, Steve Pure, Steve Fox, Lindsey Boley, and Sweaney himself. “The team was formed from the ex actors of Mckamey Manor. Many of the original actors have been invited back.”  Everyone has experience working in extreme haunts–but the level of contact is based on a questionnaire delivered at signup:  you can choose minimal contact, mid range or a completely brutal show. This experience gives you the option to set your own level of intensity. “How extreme the show will be is based on the questionnaire. For those that want a hardcore, extreme experience, we will provide it. For those want want a lighter show, we will provide it. We will completely respect the answers on the questionnaire and not do anything participants let us know not to do.” The questionnaire will inform the team your level of comfort with nudity, electric shocks, and waterboarding. “We are going to make sure you are paired with someone you don’t know but is on your same comfort level. We wouldn’t want someone who’s looking for a light contact show paired with someone who wants a show that is as hard as we can go.” However, this only works if guests are completely honest with them on what they can and would like to experience with Catharsis.


Once participants go through, they are welcome to come back–and the experience will change and be re-tailored to the participant. Sweaney explains, “We will allow repeat guests if they so choose to. As a business, we want it to be first-come-first-serve, and not be based on favoritism. If there is a full line, I’m going to make sure everyone is given the opportunity to go through once; and then people can come back to go through again.”



Catharsis Extreme haunt



Human Trafficking and Safety

The first theme of Catharsis Horror will be human trafficking. Fans following the group were recently mailed stickers saying “Help Me”, with imagery of a woman in cuffs. Catharsis making a commentary on this problem. “ Out here in San Diego, it’s something we have seen and it’s a problem. We want to bring awareness through this theme,” explains Sweaney. “We will be donating a portion of profits from the ticket sales to charities in Southern California.”


“The experience will start in a bar, where you’ll be abducted and taken. Each scene has been planned out to last around 15 minutes.” Sweaney discusses that strong improv is needed from the actors as participants will literally be taken off the streets. “We don’t really want this to feel like a haunt; we want this to be a total immersive experience.”


Catharsis is embracing their Mckamey Manor background, but also innovating and metamorphosing into their own, new experience. In doing so, they have made safety a main priority, including the addition of a safe-word. “There is definitely a safeword,” he assures. “Proper training has been ongoing and the show does have insurance. Our insurance requires that we have a hard stop safeword in place. We are required to ensure that any guest can leave at any time if they need to.” Sweaney further explains that the background of the actors are in military and some are certified as a medical professional to further emphasize safety. “We all have our own first aid kits on site as well.”



Catharsis Horror - Interview with Andrew Sweaney


At Home Participation

Catharsis is looking to start around Sept 16th with a price point of $100 for an hour to hour and a half show. “I want to take five groups of two through two days a month. We will be year round.” Sweaney also discusses a desire to change their theme–with their current theme changing in February of 2018.


But this will be so much more than the show itself. “There will actually be a couple ways to participate,” Andrew says. “We plan on having a webcam running during the show. By buying into different membership tiers, members will be able to watch the shows live, and at certain points, even interact by telling us what they want the participants to do. Top tier participants will be sent a memento from a tour each month. It could be a piece of a participant’s shredded clothing, a lock of hair, or almost anything. We will also have t-shirts and apparel that tier members can buy.” He also teases that a VIP package may be available in the future.



Catharsis Horror - Interview with Andrew Sweaney



Final words

I asked Andrew what he wanted guests to feel as they leave. “I want them to leave wanting to come back to the next show and wanting more; I want them to wonder what we are going to next; I want them to feel that the show was personal because it comes from true passion; and I want them to personally get through some of their own demons because some people do have demons. Hopefully, guests will learn about themselves because this will bring out a lot of emotions that they aren’t expecting.” I then ask Sweaney what a successful show is to him, and he responds, “When people are scared and you can see it in their eyes. That’s successful.”


The team is excited to get started. They wish the guests good luck and are overwhelmed with their positive response. To see more, check out the Catharsis website as well as the Catharsis Horror facebook page.

About The Author

Pamela Van Hill

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