Child Stars on Popular YouTube Show Abused and Starved by Mother

Child Stars on Popular YouTube Show Abused and Starved by Mother March 20, 2019


Maricopa County Sheriff

An Arizona mother is accused of abusing her seven adopted children that starred on a popular YouTube channel. Machelle Hackney and her two adult sons were arrested last week in connection to the abuse. The YouTube Channel “Fantastic Adventures” has almost 800,000 subscribers and features videos of the children.

According to the Maricopa Police Department, they first learned of the abuse on March 13. Hackney’s 19-year-old biological daughter reported the abuse to the police. She told police that her mother pepper sprayed and locked her adopted siblings in a closet.

When police arrived at the home, they found a boy inside of an unlocked closet. The was wearing only a diaper and appeared malnourished. Shortly after locating the boy, the police found six other children. Court documents say that the children all looked malnourished and underweight.

When officers spoke with the children, they said they were hungry and thirsty. Officers gave the children snacks and water to drink. One of the children drank three bottles of water in less than 20 minutes. Another child refused to eat a bag of chips because they feared that their mother would smell the food on their breath.

On the same day, that police found the malnourished children, the Department of Child Services removed the kids from home. While in custody of DCS, the children began sharing the appalling details of their mother’s abuse.

The children told police that they had not been to school in years. Several said that they spent most of their time working on videos or in rooms with green screens. One of the girls told police that her mother kept her locked in a closet for days without access to food, water, or use of the restroom.

Through police interviews, the children revealed that their mother used pepper spray, ice baths, spanking, and forced their heads underwater as methods of abuse. The kids said that she became the most violent when they refused to participate in the videos or if they forgot their lines.

Not only did she use physical violence, but she also sexually abused two of the children. One of the boys told the officers that his mother often pinched the tip of his penis until he bled. A daughter said that her mother sprayed pepper spray on her vagina in a fit of rage. The girl said that she was in pain for days following the incident.

After obtaining search warrants for the home, police found cans of pepper spray and the locked closet inside Hackney’s master bedroom. The closet door had a deadbolt and contained no windows.

When police finished the interviews and searched the property, they arrested Machelle Hackney and her two adult sons Logan and Ryan. The men admitted that they knew about the abuse and even snuck food to their siblings when they were locked in rooms. Despite their knowledge of the abuse, neither reported the crimes to police.

Police charged Hackney with two counts of molestation of a child, seven counts of child abuse, five counts of unlawful imprisonment and five counts of child neglect.

All of the children are now in the custody of the county and recovering from the trauma inflicted on them by their adoptive mother.

Multiple media outlets interviewed Hackney’s neighbors. They told reporters that they rarely saw the children outside. Most neighbors knew about the YouTube channel but had no idea what Hackney did to the children to make the videos.

“Fantastic Adventures” has nearly 800,000 subscribers. In fact, my son has watched the channel for years. Finding out about the abuse this morning made my stomach sink to the floor.

On the channel, the children go on adventures. In one of the last uploaded videos, one of the children, Elijah, goes on a mission to steal his oldest sister’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. The video has almost 4 million views. Knowing the details of the abuse now, the fact that he was forced to work with food while starving is extremely unnerving.

The channel has over 250,000,000 total views. With some YouTube accounts earning as much as $10 per 1,000 views, Machelle Hackney made a lot of money on these videos.

To make that money, she took her kids out of school, starved, beat, and sexually abused them. YouTube said that they had demonetized the channel.

However, the channel is still online and has dozens of videos. The children in the videos are all extremely thin and have dark circles under their eyes. Their most popular video has 36 million views.

YouTube said they would deactivate the account only if the three adults plead guilty or convicted of the charges. With so much evidence against Hackney, there is no excuse for the channel to be online.

Thankfully for these children, their oldest sister stood up for them and reported the abuse. Apparently, she was the only one in the family with any conscience.


*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.

She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Tawreos

    Depending on how long this had been going they may want to look at the daughter that blew the whistle. Did she call when she found out about it or did she let it go on for awhile.

  • CS

    She’s 19, so unless she lived with her dad, she was presumably living in the house until recently, and starving kids getting locked in the closet for days isn’t something you can easily miss. At the least, if she had any kind of contact with her mother and adoptive siblings, she probably suspected.

    Oh the other hand, if the mother abused her biological children as well, you can kind of understand if they were afraid to go against her. That her daughter called the cops speaks well of her, even if we can wish she had done so sooner, but the sons might not be so much complicit as broken down by their mother. The full article says they were charged with failure to report the abuse, not for abusing the kids themselves, and they did try to covertly help by sneaking the kids food. It would not surprise me if a woman who would outright starve and torture her adopted children would be abusive in other ways to her biological children.

  • Lucy

    The channel’s down now. I just checked the link.

  • Akira625

    What kind of person pepper sprays a little girl’s genitals like that? Someone who doesn’t deserve to be called a human being, that’s what. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that a YouTube parent was caught abusing their children. This is even more heinous than DaddyOFive, I suspect (and hope) that once this goes to trial, she will not find any sympathy from the jury, and receive a lengthy prison sentence for this.

  • Refinnej

    Yet another child abuse incident that could have been noticed sooner and stopped had we had a system in place to check out “home-schooled” children. When these kids are not around other people who can notice signs of abuse, they have no one to speak for them. They have no one to save them. I don’t care that most home school families do not abuse their kids. We do things for the sake of everyone and saving children sure as hell matters a lot more than inconveniencing me for some of my time.

  • Danae Summers

    According to another comment, the channel is down, but honestly youtube should at least have a way to suspend a channel for a certain amount of time in cases like this. I’ve been on other sites where accounts have been suspended for allegedly breaking terms of service, and they could just as easily put a message up saying “we’ve received complaints, we are preventing access to the channel while we investigate. If it comes back up, know that the claims were found to be untrue” or something.