Sing or be tortured? Creator of popular YouTube kids channel ‘Fantastic Adventures’ accused of starving, pepper spraying, giving ice baths to adopted children who were forced to perform

One of the boys said he spent ‘most of his life’ in a bare closet with limited access to food, water, or the bathroom

The creator of the YouTube channel “Fantastic Adventures” has been accused of abusing her seven adopted children, using physical force to make them perform in shows on the channel, starving them and forcing them to take ice baths.

The Washington Post reports that Machelle Hackney was arrested in Arizona following an investigation into abuse allegations. Hackney is the adoptive mother to seven children between the ages of 6 and 15, but it was her biological daughter who reportedly contacted police about the alleged abuse. Two of Hackney’s sons are accused of witnessing the abuse and failing to report it.

According to the report, the children had been pulled out of school several years ago to focus on performing in the videos, which regularly get hundreds of millions of views. The channel itself reportedly has nearly 800,000 followers. Authorities reportedly suspect Hackney of abusing her children in connection to the YouTube channel and videos, stating in probably cause documents that “Fantastic Adventures” “was the reason for her mistreatment of her adopted children. She meted out punishment [off-screen], they said, when the young actors failed to remember their lines or otherwise didn’t perform as directed.”

In the Maricopa home, the children were allegedly denied food, pepper-sprayed, forced to take ice baths, hit with belts and brushes, and sometimes forced to stand with their arms outstretched for an entire day and night. One of the boys reportedly bled from his penis when Hackney allegedly pinched his genitals.

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From the Washington Post report:

When [the children] were interviewed by police, they appeared malnourished, underweight and with pale complexions and dark rings under their eyes. One of the children, when offered the chance to drink, guzzled three 16-ounce bottles of water in 20 minutes. Another child, provided a bag of chips, was reticent to eat, fearful that her mother would smell the food on her breath. A third said she had not been allowed to eat in two days.

According to NBC News, Hackney, who goes by her maiden name of Hobson, is facing numerous charges, including sexual molestation and unlawful imprisonment charges. According to a police report obtained by the news outlet, one of the children told authorities that “he was in the green screen room most of his life,” referring to a “room” in the home that the Washington Post described as a closet that was designed to look like a green room and functioned as a kind of “staging area.”

NBC News reports that the children said in police documents that they were often forced to stay in the closet for days without food, water, or access to a bathroom.

The children were reportedly removed from Hackney’s care but it is not known at this time where they are living. The Washington Post reports that Hackney denied the abuse charges and insisted that she only spanked her children.

YouTube has reportedly demonetized the videos on the YouTube channel, but they are still available for viewing.


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[Feature image: YouTube Screenshot, Machelle Hackney/Maricopa Police]