From the outside, “Fantastic Adventures” seemed like a harmless YouTube channel.
The channel, which boasted more than 800,000 subscribers, featured children acting in fun skits meant to entertain a younger audience, according to Inside Edition.
They often appeared to be having a blast, stealing cookies or solving puzzles during “escape games.” But behind the scenes, their mother was allegedly subjecting the children to heinous abuse.
Their adoptive mother, Machelle Hackney, 47, has been arrested amid accusations that she starved and beat her children, Washington Post reports.
Police reports state that the mother severely punished her children if they couldn’t “recall their lines” or “perform as directed.”
The children were allegedly sprayed with pepper spray on their face and genitals and sometimes locked in the mother’s closet for several days at a time.
Hackney also allegedly forced them to take ice baths and sometimes pushed their heads into the water, the Post reports.
Hackney’s 19-year-old daughter, who was featured in some videos, reported the alleged abuse to police on March 13, leading to the arrest.
The mom’s two biological sons, Logan and Ryan Hackney, were also arrested for failing to report the abuse of their adoptive siblings.
The seven children were malnourished when they were taken into police custody. One child drank three bottles of water within 20 minutes due to thirst.
YouTube has now taken down “Fantastic Adventures” off the streaming platform. They said in a statement:
“We work closely with leading child safety organizations and others in our industry to protect young people. When we’re made aware of serious allegations of this nature, we investigate and take action.”
According to AZFamily, the kids had been pulled out of school “years” ago to focus on acting in their mom’s YouTube videos.
At this time, it’s unclear who will retain custody of the seven children.