An idea for a good haunted house sometimes falls right in your lap. In the case of Bud Stross, co-owner of Dent Schoolhouse in Cincinnati, he couldn’t have asked for a better theme. Bud created a haunted house that started in his front yard and expanded into two of his neighbor’s yards over the next several years.
During that time, the 16-room haunted house became too big not only for the neighborhood, but for Bud to get the entire thing taken down before Christmas. Simultaneously, an old high school buddy of his was also doing a haunted house in his front yard that was also getting too big. Thus, a bromance was formed where they decided to go into the haunt business together.
They bought a building in Cincinnati that, as fate would have it, was previously owned by The Boy Scouts of America, who they tried their hand at an attraction simply called: The Haunted House. Needless to say, with a snappy title like that, the Boy Scouts haunt attraction didn’t last very long. Bud and his partner snatched it up and didn’t have to do a lot to turn it into a new haunted attraction. It already had a clearly defined path for a maze and even met safety codes before they started work.
That first year, the attraction was populated with a lot of props that were used in their front yard haunts. However, while the construction crew they hired was excavating the basement to add extra scares to the maze, they pulled Bud aside. They asked if he had heard about the legend of the old janitor who used to work at the building when it was an actual Cincinnati schoolhouse.
According to legend, the school hired a janitor back in the 1950’s that just snapped one day. He went on a killing spree, murdering several children along the way. If you’re looking for evidence of this story, you won’t find it.
Mysteriously, the public records for the 12th School District of Cincinnati on that particular year have vanished. Was it because the city didn’t want to be known for this whacked out janitor? Perhaps. Regardless of the reasoning, Bud knew that this was going to be the theme of his haunt after its first season.
In year two, the attraction was renamed Dent Schoolhouse and all of the scenes in the maze were themed to a school in the 1950’s. Guests toured through classrooms, down hallways, between lockers and eventually ended up in a basement where… you guessed it… they came face to face with Charlie, a school janitor on a one-way train to crazy town. Haunt fans absolutely ate it up and if there was one major complaint to be had? Not enough Charlie.
The legend takes on a life of its own now and patrons of Dent Schoolhouse are always heard in line pondering where Charlie will be hiding this year. Due to popular demand, the demented custodian pops up in several places throughout the maze every year. Charlie has even taken on a C-List local celebrity status within Cincinnati. Haunt fans calling up the offices of Dent Schoolhouse often ask for Charlie by name or even end their phone message with “and give my regards to the janitor!” Believe it or not, they even sell Charlie bobble head dolls and t-shirts proclaiming, “Charlie Is My Homeboy!”
It’s rare that a regional haunted attraction keeps its theme throughout the entire maze, but Dent uses their legendary history to their advantage. Every scene pertains to a schoolhouse whether you are going through the science lab where some experiments have gone bad, to the nurse’s office where kids are being treated for some unusual wounds and fractures.
That’s right, kids. Dent uses actual children who wear gel in their slicked back 50’s hair do’s, sweater vests and poodle skirts that make them look like they are right out of an episode of “Not-So-Happy Days.” In addition, Dent Schoolhouse is littered with antiques from the 1950’s, including old light fixtures and authentic board games that are accurate to the time.
Not everything in Dent is an antique. The hallways are covered with missing children posters and even the shower stalls have an overgrown rat that chases you out of the locker rooms. These guys absolutely love their unique theme and play it out in as many sick and twisted ways that they can.
If you’re a detail lover like me, Dent Schoolhouse offers a lights-on tour a few times during the month of October. Visitors can take their time and admire the scenes and all the detail that you can’t always get with the lights off and someone behind you screaming in your ear.
For the truly brave, Dent offers a lights-out experience just after Halloween. As if a haunted house isn’t dark enough, they turn off all the lights in the building and give visitors glow sticks to navigate through the halls. This hand held neon-green light becomes not only the source for illuminating the path in front of you, but doubles as a target for actors to pop out of virtual thin air to scare the ever-loving piss out of you.
This year also marks the first year Dent Schoolhouse has offered an add-on attraction: The Queen City Slaughter Yard. Again, leaning on some of the stranger historic events of Cincinnati, the city was once known as a major place for pork manufacturing. I am not making this up. So if guests want a more intense experience, they can now feel what it’s like to be a pig about to be slaughtered to become someone’s BBQ dinner. I am told that this new add-on will appeal to the Saw and Hostel movie fans and the first scene alone features eight different guys with chainsaws looking to slice and dice their victims.
For more information on Dent Schoolhouse visit www.FrightSite.com and for the latest news in themed entertainment follow Theme Park University on Twitter by clicking here or like us on Facebook by clicking here!