Dark Tourist season 1, episode 8 finale recap: ‘Back in the USA’


In the Netflix series Dark Tourist season finale, David Farrier gets back to America for insights into the Manson murders, survivalists and the scariest horror house in the world.

Nearly everyone on earth has heard of Los Angeles, California. It’s known as a major entertainment center of the world, and rightly so. However, as Dark Tourist‘s David Farrier notes, it’s also a dark tourism “mecca.”

There are indeed some freaky stories about Hollywood, with one of the most classic ones being the Manson Family murders (AKA the Tate-Labianca Murders) of 1969.

Among those killed by Manson’s so-called “Family”: actress Sharon Tate and her unborn child, the coffee heiress Abigail Folger, aspiring screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski, business owners Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, teenager Steven Parent, hairstylist Jay Sebring, and the lesser-known victim, Donald Shea — a Hollywood stuntman and actor.

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Of course, Charles Manson always denied responsibility for the murders, famously saying: “If I started murdering people, there’d be none of you left.” David attempts to immerse himself in this mythology, attending a Helter Skelter tour — though the Family originally misspelled it as “Healter Skelter” when they famously wrote those words in blood on a wall.

On the tour, a lady tells David that, before those murders, she never locked her door but has done so ever since. Interestingly, while making the episode, Charles Manson dies at the age of 83.

Getting deeper into the story, David meets Stoner Van Houten, a popular YouTuber who seems to admire Manson. In fact, the name “Van Houten” certainly stems from Manson follower Leslie Van Houten. That aside, Stoner takes David Farrier to the famous Manson hideout of Spahn Ranch.

Things start off a little weird and stay that way. For example, Stoner says he would thank Manson if he ever saw him, and that, if he played any role in the murders, it was hardly any worse than a drug deal gone bad. It’s interesting to see them in the famous Spahn Ranch cave, though Stoner doesn’t seem to understand why Manson’s considered a villain.

Meet Michael Channels, Charles Manson’s sole heir

Similar to Stoner, we get to meet Michael Channels — Charles Manson’s heir. How did the two meet? Through prison letters. Channels said he relates to Manson in some ways. They both grew up poor, had some negative experiences with strict religion in their families, and Channels obviously impressed Manson in some way (probably due to his loyalty).

A number of his statements sound like denial. He says that Manson didn’t do anything to regret, that he wasn’t really even the leader, and that he didn’t make them kill for him. Technically, then, anyone who hires an assassin can get away with it. Or, of course, if you put landmines on someone’s property, it’s technically not anyone’s direct fault, etc.

Anyway, it’s hard for Farrier to get a word in, as Channels is pretty defensive. He insists that he’s not a Manson follower and that he’s writing a book to “set the record straight” on Manson. Things do calm down a little, and Channels ends up seeming more like a “fanboy” than anything else. As David notes, Manson always attracted fans, outsiders and misfits.

Noah, the first “Doomsday Prepper”

David then travels to the Noah’s Ark replica in Williamstown, Kentucky. There he examines the replica and talks briefly with Dr. Georgia Purdom, a Molecular Geneticist and creationist. David notes how there are actually dinosaurs on the ark and asks why they’re not mentioned in the Bible. Purdom maintains that they are, as the Bible repeatedly references dragons. Also of note: Dr. Purdom maintains that, next time, there will be fire rather than a giant flood. If true, someone had better construct a giant, flame-retardant Ark, right?

A “Doomsday Prepper” family in Williamstown, Virginia

Heading to Virginia, David Farrier hangs out with Jay and Holly, who were inspired by 9/11 to be prepared for doomsday (the more generic term for such people is “survivalists”). How ready are they? They seem reasonably prepared, and show David how they’ve been stockpiling food and weapons.

At one point they role-play defending loved ones from looters and other miscreants.  Oddly enough, Jay and Holly seem fairly down to earth. Jay even says it’s awesome if he never has to use his gear.

Still, the idea that you stand a chance against any and all threats just by hoarding stuff? It’s a theory that has a few holes. It may not be the worst idea, but it’s probably sensible to work on building connections with others in case of a genuine crisis — not that the options are mutually exclusive, but time spent on one takes away from establishing the other.

Anyway, it’s a fine Dark Tourist moment and shows that you can still have fun while preparing for the end times.

McKamey Manor, nonprofit extreme haunted house

Dark Tourist ends on an extreme note, heading to the infamous McKamey Manor in Summertown, Tennessee. There David meets Russ McKamey, whose ongoing project relies on danger being attractive. However, it’s a premise that he pushes to extreme limits, and he wants to keep doing it.

According to Dark Tourist, McKamey was in the military for 23 years, so has skills in breaking people. Interestingly, Russ’s only charge for admission is a bag of dog food to help feed his canines.

Who attends his literal torture sessions? Adrenaline junkies, people who want to appear tough, maybe a few hapless souls here and there. Then there’s Nick Newman, a 53-year-old thrill seeker from Memphis.

We get to see the physical and mental evaluations that are required, and David himself signs up to participate, despite — or maybe because of — McKamey’s prediction that David wouldn’t last more than 20 seconds.

To prepare for the feat, David wears a childish dog “onesie” outfit, and nick wears a shark one. They also sign a waiver intending to remove most liability. They provide each other with safe words and even adult diapers.

How do they do? David makes it past 20 seconds but still opts out early. Nick is dunked into ice cold water, forced to hold his breath for 30 seconds. He doesn’t last very long, either. In fact, Nick tells people, “Don’t come here.” Another couple, Caleb and Zoe from Missouri, are there the next day.

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They last for hours rather than minutes but eventually give in. McKamey insists he’s an entertainer and not a psychopath or fetishist, which leads to the question: How far would you go to be entertained?

That’s it for this Dark Tourist episode and season! What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!