Netflix viewers have been left sickened after tuning into new documentary, Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare, which tells the harrowing true story of a ‘wilderness therapy camp’ and the man who founded it.
Former military special forces officer Steve Cartisano established the Challenger Foundation in the Utah desert in the 1980s and charged parents $16,000 to supposedly tame their wayward teens by allegedly tying them to trees, taking away their rations and forcing them to carry bags of manure.
The 90-minute film delves into what really went on during the camp’s 63-day program, which saw one teenager die during a 500-mile desert ‘hike’ in excruciating heat.
Some viewers warned others not to watch, describing it as ‘insane’ and ‘absolutely crazy’ as they questioned how the ‘pure evil’ camp was allowed.
Former military special forces officer Steve Cartisano is the main subject in new Netflix documentary Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare
Cartisano founded a ‘wilderness therapy camp’ and promised to straighten out wayward teens
The 90-minute documentary landed on Netflix on December 27 and has been described as ‘insane’ and ‘sickening’
‘Highly recommend to everyone to NEVER watch “Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare.” This is disgusting on too many levels,’ wrote one viewer on Twitter.
Another person commented: ‘Oh my word!!! What a sickening documentary.’
A third said: ‘This Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare docu on Netflix is insane.’
Another described it as ‘absolutely crazy’ and questioned ‘how did this take place,’ while a fifth added: ‘Finished it now. What the actual f*ck. Pure evil.’
Someone else posted: ‘The documentary #HellCamp on Netflix is wild. Never knew about these “camps” but no way in hell my parents would pay thousands of dollars to send me off to be abused and tortured. This sh*t is SAD.’
Throughout the documentary, viewers heard first hand experiences from men and women who were sent away by their parents to attend the military-style camp.
Cartisano, who believed in intimidating defiant kids into submission through outdoor survival, features in the film via throwback footage and can be heard declaring: ‘These kids need this, we are saving so many more lives.’
The strict rules were said to involve ‘strip searches and military haircuts’ as Cartisano ‘adopted a drill-sergeant style of speech which required “Yes sir!” answers,’ according to High Country News.
There were also heavy punishments for kids who did not properly follow instructions, which included having rations removed and being forced to carrying heavy loads of cow manure in backpacks all day.
Parents paid $16,000 to send their teenagers on the 63-day program in the Utah desert
Viewers voiced their shock at the ‘sickening’ documentary
Footage of Cartisano with some of the teenagers at the camp features in the documentary
Lance ‘Horsehair’ Jaggar worked as a field director in the Challenger camp and features in the documentary
Parents appeared to lap it up with high-profile and affluent people enrolling their children, including two teenagers from the Winthrop Rockefeller family.
Dozens of families paid the hefty enrollment fee, with the program reportedly grossing $3.2 million in its first year.
Cartisano’s wife Deborah Lee Carr features heavily in the documentary and comments on the wealth they experienced thanks to the success of the program.
‘I just know that we had an adequate income and so there was a lot of money coming in… I think,’ she says, before defending her late husband: ‘But there was also a lot of money going out. It was very expensive to run these programs.’
The couple’s daughter, Catie, also speaks up and defends her father, who she describes as ‘brilliant’ and ‘the smartest person I’ve ever met.’
The mother and daughter duo also touched on the death of 16-year-old Kristen Chase from Florida, who was enrolled in the camp in 1990 and died just three days into the program after collapsing in the desert.
‘Steve was devastated by that,’ Deborah claimed. ‘I’m sure there was a part of him that saw it as his fault because it was his program and he was the one bringing children into the program, but he also knew that it was beyond his control.
‘He did not spend that much time in southern Utah, really, at that point you know so I think he realized that there was nothing he could have done, really, that could have changed the outcome.’
Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare features several first person interviews with survivors of the Challenger Camp, including Nadine (pictured)
Cartisano’s wife Deborah Lee Carr features in the documentary and comments on the ‘adequate income’ they had thanks to the camp
Cartisano’s daughter Catie gets upset while speaking about her ‘brilliant’ father in the film
Cartisano and the program were charged with negligent homicide and multiple misdemeanor counts of child abuse as a result of Chase’s death and allegations that other teens were starved and physically abused.
The accusations included that kids were being ‘tied to trees’ as well as being ‘physically dragged’ across the ground.
During the trial, Kane County Sheriff Max Jackson testified that Cartisano, then 38, had been ‘flippant’ when told about Chase’s death, according to Tampa Bay Times.
He also said that the Challenger Foundation did not have adequate procedures in place to deal with medical emergencies, adding that it took nearly two hours from the time the girl fell ill before professional medical help arrived.
The camp filed for bankruptcy and shut down in the aftermath, and Cartisano was ultimately acquitted of any criminal charges but was sued civilly.
He was subsequently banned from operating any child treatment program in Utah but later set up offshoots in Hawaii, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Netflix viewers were disgusted with his actions and also left unimpressed with the comments made by Cartisano’s wife and daughter.
‘The entire Cartisano family is just so awful! The wife and daughter do nothing but make excuses and hero worship that monster Steve Cartisano! Such disgusting people,’ one person fumed.
Kristen Chase from Florida collapsed and died aged 16 just three days after enrolling in the program
Cartisano and the program were charged with negligent homicide and multiple misdemeanor counts of child abuse, but he was acquitted of any criminal charges
Deborah confirmed that Cartisano died ‘three years ago’ from a heart attack after battling colon cancer for several years
‘Steve’s wife is clearly a f*cking idiot,’ another person claimed, while a third said: ‘So Steve Cartisano’s wife and daughter think he was a great guy? Holy sh*t. Please get help.’
Someone else commented: ‘Steve Cartisano still having his daughter (Catie Cartisano) and wife brainwashed is beyond meeee. ALL THIS sick sh*t HAPPENED BC YOUR HUSBAND AND FATHER YOU SICKOS.’
Another person wrote: ‘I can’t believe his wife and daughter are trying to make us feel sympathetic for Steve Cartisano. He kidnapped and maltreated children…’
Cartisano died ‘three years ago’ from a heart attack after battling colon cancer for several years, according to his wife.
Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare is available to stream on Netflix now