Two years ago, I spoke with Fort Thomas native and co-owner of The Dent Schoolhouse, Bud Stross. We discussed how the owners first got their start by creating yard haunts in Fort Thomas on Majestic Drive and Rosemont Avenue before taking over The Dent Schoolhouse in 2004. While Dent is still owned and operated by Chuck Stross, Bud Stross, and Josh Wells, the attraction has certainly evolved over the past few years. It has continued to receive national media attention, and has secured its status as the scariest haunted house in the tri-state area. I recently caught up with Bud Stross again to talk all things Dent.
The Dent Schoolhouse has been featured on various media outlets for the quality of their haunt. "My favorite moment had to be our feature on Travel Channel," said Stross. "It was a goal for the business to hit a national TV station and we did. Toy Hunter was also a lot of fun too. My favorite and surprise this year was the BuzzFeed list!"
Stross was quick to point out that Dent has changed a lot since the last time we spoke about the haunt. If you've already braved the schoolhouse's haunted hallways this year, you may have noticed some differences with this year's experience. "We make sure to change the attraction by at least 1/3 every year. So since 2012, over 2/3 of the attraction is new! Plus, we introduced Queen City Slaughter Yard two years ago, our second attraction which is included with every ticket! That attraction is open air (no roof) and pays tribute to the meat packing and pork production history that Cincinnati has. Butchers, pigs, chainsaws, blood… you get the idea," said Stross.
According to Stross, some of Dent's new rooms have quickly become fan favorites. One of these is the new Nursery room. Sounds like innocent fun, right? Nope. It's filled with giant porcelain dolls that creepily watch your every move. Another is the Prom room, in which time actually stands still. "The food is on the tables, punch in the punch bowls, and eight couples frozen in spot during a slow song. Customers have to walk through the dancing couples to exit," said Stross. The fun doesn't end with the those rooms. Other highlights include, "A room that gets swarmed with the undead, multiple Charlie the Janitor encounters, and more scenes detailing a horror at school," said Stross.
Running an acclaimed haunted attraction is more than fun and games. Stross and his crew put in hours of work to make sure that every patron has a great time while being scared silly. "A typical night for a monster would be they arrive at Dent during their call time… anywhere between an hour to two hours before doors open. They clock in and go to costuming to check out their costume. From there, they wait to get their make-up on. Time for this all depends on the scene they are in," said Stross. Performers can spend anywhere from 15 minutes to over 45 minutes applying make-up and getting into character. Once they are ready, they perform their scenes in for at least 5-6 hours each night. The amount of willing victims (aka paying customers) entering Dent each night varies depending on the day of the week. According to Stross, "Saturdays we are doing several thousand customers. Most from the tri-state but many others from around the U.S."
One of the many great things about Dent is how you they offer different experiences for the guests thanks to the Zombie Nights and Lights Off options. Dent also now offers ghost tours of the schoolhouse. This idea came to light after the crew began having their own paranormal experiences while working on the site. Stross has personally had encounters with the paranormal, and is involved with the ghost tours. "I personally give most tours and share with guests the experiences that I have encountered plus those from other workers. It took a couple years in owning The Dent Schoolhouse but sure enough I saw an unexplained shadow of a woman that I have no explanation for… the list goes on though," said Stross.
If you're anything like me, you might be wondering what scares someone who professionally scares other people. "Sadly it’s not the actors or the sound effects," said Stross. "It would be the fact of whether the attraction was safe or not. We are one of the safest haunted attractions in the state of Ohio and to see some things not up to code in other haunts scares us! Safety is first!"
Stross finds that owning and operating a haunted house is incredibly rewarding, and worth all the hard work that the crew puts in behind the scened. "The best part is seeing people enjoy the show that we have created for them," said Stross. "Whether it be tears, screams, or laughter our guests are enjoying the entertainment that we designed for them! I love seeing that!"
Like previously discussed, Dent Schoolhouse is an ever-evolving project. Stross and his team are already scheming up new and terrifying ways to make Dent bigger and better next year. Stross is keeping the details under wraps for now, but is confident that they can keep patrons both happy and scared with each yearly visit. "The main goal is to keep making a bigger and better product. And each year you can bet that The Dent Schoolhouse has grown from its previous version," said Stross.
The Dent Schoolhouse crew certainly has a lot of be proud of thanks to their hard work and dedication, but that doesn't mean that they plan on slowing down anytime soon. "It has been like a dream really. To think everything started in two Ft. Thomas yards! It is very flattering but that doesn’t mean we are the best and just gonna stop there. We are working and learning every year to make The Dent Schoolhouse bigger and better," said Stross. I don't know about you, but I'm already excited and scared (okay, mostly scared) to see what the Dent team comes up with next.
Were you brave enough to face the horrors awaiting at Dent this year? If so, feel free to let us know about your experience in the comments. The Dent Schoolhouse is open nightly until November 2, so you still have time to face your fears and visit the schoolhouse.