Netflix 'Hell Camp' Doc Prompts Folks to Tell Their Stories of Troubled-Teen Camps: "It Was Torture"

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Jan. 4 2024, Published 6:08 p.m. ET

In Paris Hilton's autobiography, appropriately titled Paris: The Memoir, the heiress turned multihyphenate powerhouse shocked the world when she revealed her experienced at a troubled teen camp. Since its release, Paris has become a tireless advocate for the end of the troubled teen industry, which has been the source of trauma for so many kids in America. She hopes to rid the world of what she called in a conversation with Salon a "torture place."

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The Netflix documentary Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare is also shining a light on the troubled teen industry. While it focuses on Steve Cartisano, the Air Force veteran who created the Challenger Foundation in Utah, it also includes adult survivors who are able to revisit their traumatic experiences at his camps through the lens of time. This has also prompted people to come forward on social media, like Savanna Boda who took to TikTok in order to share her own story at a troubled teen camp.

'Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare'
Source: Netflix

Scene from Netflix's 'Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare'

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Netflix's 'Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare' is a true story that one influencer is familiar with.

Savanna, who goes by @thedallasaesthetician on TikTok, is very familiar with the stories being told in Hell Camp: Teen Nightmare. She was one of those supposedly troubled kids whose parents had her abducted in the middle of the night. "That happened to me when I was 15," says Savanna in a harrowing video. "I was kidnapped by two large men ... put on a plane, and sent to Utah to go to a wilderness therapy program for three and a half months."

Because Savanna's parents didn't tell her what was going on, she was under the impression that she was being trafficked and/or some sort of crime was being committed. And in a sense, there was. The conditions at the camp were brutal. First and foremost, Savanna arrived in January which means it was incredibly cold. According to Weatherspark, the average temperature is about 35 degrees at that time. The entire time she was there, Savanna never went inside.

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They went without toilets and had to dig holes in order to go to the bathroom. Their used toilet paper was kept in sealed plastic bags that they carried around in their backpacks. Every other week they were permitted one shower, if one can even call it that. The "campers" were forced to stand behind a tarp while pouring boiling water over themselves. Incidentally the water was boiled using a fire they built themselves. Campers were punished if they couldn't start a fire.

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The only thing they had available in terms of a towel was a minuscule washcloth that they could either stand on, or use to dry off. If they didn't stand on this small scrap of material, the "campers" were left with muddy feet they would then squeeze back into their socks and shoes. By the way, this hint of a washcloth "never got washed and never got clean," said Savanna. New clothes were delivered by a laundry service once a week but in the meantime, they would end up with burnt holes in their garments from the fire.

At night they slept in sleeping bags, sans tents for any sort of shelter. Their shoes were taken from them while sleeping so that walking to a bathroom hole meant stepping on cactuses in the night. "My dad spent hours pulling thorns and cactus particles out of my feet when I got home," Savanna shared. "It was absolute torture," she said.

The age range of the girls at the camp was anywhere between 12 and 15 years old. Now picture these young kids hiking seven to 10 miles a day, often in snow up to their knees. This resulted in constant "feet checks" in an effort to make sure no one got frostbite and lost a toe or worse. While they could write letters to their parents, all communication was checked by the camp. There is no way they could ever explain the abuse going on. "It was pretty much the worst thing I've ever experienced," she said.

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