TV

Controversial game show The Chamber saw players tortured and ‘nearly killed’

2002 was a rather strange year for game shows, as it saw both The Chair and The Chamber rise to fame.

But The Chamber, which only ever aired for one season in the US and never made it big anywhere else, was one to beat them all.

The show was so controversial that it saw contestants nearly killed while strapped into a torture chamber, tasked with answering trivia questions while subjected to extreme heat and extreme cold.

One by one, players were strapped into a chair and would enter the chamber itself, which could reach up to 170 degrees Fahrenheit – that’s 76.66 degrees Celsius – and drop to -20 degrees Fahrenheit, minus 29 in Celsius.

If it sounds like something from the Dark Web, it’s not – six episodes of the show aired on Fox in January 2002, with presenter Rick Schwartz at the helm.

It gets even worse when you add in wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour, simulated earthquakes increasing in intensity vibrating the chamber, electrodes contracting the players’ muscles as they sat in the chair, and oxygen levels dropping as they made it through the rounds.

If the player reached the final round, oxygen could be as low as just 70%.

The chair would also rotate, eventually spinning in full circles upside down, while jets of flame or freezing water were squirted at the players – causing ice to form on their body. Foul scents were also released into the chamber to make things even more horrible.

Future episodes of the series – which was, understandably, quickly dropped by the network – would have included electric shocks, water torture and releasing “500 flies” into the chamber.

The aim of the game was to remain in the chamber as long as possible while answering questions correctly.

Players were also given a ‘Danger Zone’, which calculated a stress quotient based on blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. If they exceeded it, they were given the option to either continue in the chamber or quit.

Medical staff were on hand, thankfully, and were able to stop the game if a player was “rendered unconscious from the stress” or felt that the player could no longer continue.

Contestants could also tap out themselves by yelling ‘Stop the Chamber!’ – though this must have been rather difficult while struggling to breathe and being spun upside down in sweltering heat.

The maximum winnings were calculated at $126,000 (£102,000), though nobody ever came close to winning that figure.

Things were so bad in the chamber that one contestant, Scott Brown, was diagnosed with hypothermia after passing through seven intense levels and answering 20 questions correctly – but only won $20,000 (£16,000).

He was hospitalised with the condition after his stint on the programme.

It got slightly better, though, as he later decided to sue Fox and the show’s producers. They settled out of court, with Brown awarded an additional $100,000 (£81,000) in compensation.

The show’s concept was so sinister that though US sportscaster Matt Vasgersian was originally lined up to host, he reportedly “walked off” during a rehearsal after being too “disgusted” by the concept.

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