The Dent Schoolhouse
5963 Harrison Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45248View All Details
Free Parking, Restrooms On-Site, Food/Concessions, Gift Shop/Souvenirs, “Hi-Tech” Attraction, Original Characters, Uncovered Outdoor Waiting Line, Indoor/Outdoor Attraction
Team Zombillies reviewed this attraction on September 23, 2017.
Final Score: 9.51
The Dent Schoolhouse has become widely known as being one of the premier haunted attractions in the Midwest. Offering guests just over 20 minutes of scholarly scares, movie-quality scenes and a vast supply of high-end props and animatronics, it’s easy to see why.
Two different attractions can be found here and both are included with every ticket purchase. The flagship attraction – The Dent Schoolhouse – takes place in an authentic, old school building with quite a horrific past. Rumor has it that, while the building was still functioning as a children’s school, Charlie (the janitor) started kidnapping the students and keeping them in his basement, never to be found again… well, alive anyway. The second haunt – The Queen City Slaughter Yard – winds you through the corrals of a pig packaging plant with several slash-happy butchers! Think you can make it through without being hacked to pieces yourself?
Dent continues to impress us each year and lots of changes have been made for the 2017 haunt season. With the popularity of the recently-released “It” movie, a portion of the tour heavily embraces clowns that still, somehow, manage to tie into their natural “school” theme. Be careful not to become a part of the school walls’ insulation and, remember… don’t be late for the field trip!
As hinted above, the cast at Dent are very familiar with entertaining the masses. So are lots of haunted houses; but one thing that sets these guys apart is using effective dialogue. Even their pop scares and drop panel actors used scene-related sayings and, occasionally, they mixed in some twisted puns that only a sicko – or, you know, haunted house-goers – would appreciate!
Ricky the Nerd kept us witfully entertained just before it was our turn to start and, as we approached the entrance, we crossed paths with Zobo the Clown (the scary one you’ve probably seen on Dent’s promos this year). We only saw him for a brief moment, so we didn’t have a chance to get very acquainted, but we were told he may also be found roaming the halls of the Schoolhouse as well, so be on the lookout! We never saw a single actor break character here… even after we’d left their scenes, which is an amazing quality that shows a clear passion for what they do and die-hard dedication to performing (that is, scaring the crap out of you)!
The very first actor we came across inside the Schoolhouse (who definitely looked like they’d seen better days) popped out from their hiding spot amidst the first aid kits, syringes and enough medical equipment to start a mini triage center. Clearly we were in the nurse’s office and, instead of growling or screaming at us, they loudly asked, “Have you seen the nurse? I don’t feel so good!” Another great example was found in the Anatomy 101 class, where the teacher welcomed us, showed us her selection of dissected human corpses and said we’d be learning about, “…our inner beauty,” of course with some maniacal laughter afterwards. This use of creative phrases was largely “the norm” for the rest of the haunt, which helped make each of the characters very believable. Though, to be fair, we did encounter a few generic “Help Me’s” and the like. Some of the other stand-outs from the evening include the trick-or-treaters in the basement (one was wearing a cat mask and the other was aptly named “bag head”) and the doctor who tried to give us a ‘stick’ with his large syringe.
The cast in the Slaughter Yard were quite a bit more intense and energetic than those we encountered inside… most likely because they have a lot more freedom to move without being constrained to a smaller scene. Nearly every time we turned a corner, they were trying to cut our heads off with some type of saw, butcher’s knife, cleaver… whatever they could get their hands on (go figure, right?)! Amidst the screams, saws and sounds, we soon learned there would be no help for us in escaping. Some believable victims pleaded for our help when they saw us and one was even choked as punishment for doing so! Overall, however, the Queen City cast seemed to be a bit less vocal in comparison to the main haunt. Those that did speak up were oinking at us and referring to us as “piggies” most of the way through, which is just a tad unsettling in its own right. We must say we were pretty impressed at how close they could get their weapons to our faces without actually touching us!
Since this haunt takes place in a 100+ year old building, it’s only appropriate that most of the characters were seen wearing vintage attire. A lot of the costumes looked like they’ve legitimately been around for decades with lots of grunge, filth, blood and otherwise nasty customizations. Teachers, prom-goers and librarians had victorian-style dresses, the doctor and Anatomy 101 teacher had authentic lab coats, regular students had dingy street clothes, the list goes on and on.
In addition to the “regular” school characters, Dent’s monsters turn much more sinister once you venture into the depths below the building. Massive bugs, creatures that are reminiscent of something you’d see out of Resident Evil, bloodthirsty vampires and, of course, their own brand of clowns can also be found as you haul hindquarters through these harrowing hallways.
Once… or “if”… you make it to the second haunt, each of the villains take the form of pig-headed assailants or uniformed “Queen City Slaughter Yard” employees. Victims were appropriately dressed in tattered street clothes and nearly all of the costumes were dashed with streaks and splatters of blood.
Several masks are used in each haunt and nearly all of them seemed to be of high quality construction. Probably the cheapest-looking masks we saw were worn by the cat trick-or-treater and “bag head,” but considering that they were old time trick-or-treaters, they still matched their characters perfectly.
Customer Service: 9.79
Finding Dent was easy for us, as our GPS led us right to it’s front door. The Schoolhouse is located in a fairly urban area with no parking lot of their own (that we’re aware of). Therefore, it is recommended to park in the Cinemark movie theater lot that is just down the road from Dent. It’s large, paved, well-lit, free to use and just a short walk from the haunt. We did see another nearby business charging for “VIP Parking,” but we don’t believe they were affiliated with the haunt, so we recommend driving a bit further to the theater. Police were in place to escort guests across the street, as this is a rather busy road and parking is on the opposite side.
The ticket booth and concession stand were very obvious upon arrival. Signs were in place to help us find the proper line to get in and the rest of the attraction was very easy to navigate. Some awesome haunt memorabilia can be purchased and they also have a trailer set up for you to pick up the photos that are taken before you enter the house. There are some steps inside the haunt, but they were well-lit and we didn’t receive any scares while walking down them.
Queue entertainment was aplenty and involved various crowd entertainers (who were very good at catching guests off-guard, by the way), a large projection screen that gave the main waiting line something to watch, many photo opportunities and other activities taking place closer to the entrance. The entertainers were found all over the property, doing the best that they could at nailing everyone at some point.
There were quite a few staff members in the midway area wearing staff shirts, at the concession stand / ticket booth and at the entrance to the haunt, in case you have any concerns or questions that arise.
Dent has one of those atmospheres that just makes us want to jump up and down upon arrival! The authentic, brick schoolhouse building, complete with boarded up windows, school bus out front and hearse parked across the street, just screams “haunted house” to us!
Overall, the atmosphere is very Halloweeny and spooky. A custom soundtrack filled the air as we neared the queue line, which we were told was exclusively recorded for The Dent Schoolhouse. We also noticed some very well-dressed queue line entertainers, including a particular crowd favorite that was wielding a very large wrench. But, our excitement didn’t really kick in until we entered the fall festival area. First of all, it only took about 5 seconds before a sudden “trick-or-treat” caught us off guard. You know it’s gonna be good when they scare you in the queue line! This area was very well decorated and showcased many Halloween-related photo ops, a giant and lively pumpkin, scarecrows, fog and several additional actors interacting with the line. Many jack-O-lanterns took their places on some shelving that served as a backdrop to a large stage and, every so often, a pumpkin light show accompanied the music!
From the time we stepped foot onto Schoolhouse property until we left, we bet the grins on our faces were so ingrained that it probably looked like we’d been carved… just like the pumpkins!
Special Effects: 9.58
Another one of Dent’s strongest points is the realism of their scenes and the sheer detail that goes into each and every one of them. Furthermore, inside those scenes, you will also find no shortage of high-quality props and animatronics that bring the scenes to life. There were so many original and creative effects at Dent that it’s hard to choose what to start writing about first! Suppose we’ll start at the beginning…
Even outside the building, you’ll see foreboding details like boarded-up windows and, on into the queue area, realistic corn stalks, a giant pumpkinhead, synchronized jack-o-lanterns, fall festival booths and mischievously-demonic children! The audio in this area, so we’re told, has been custom created just for Dent by an orchestra in California and, we must say, it’s quite creative and effective at maintaining the Halloween “feel” outside the haunt.
Once you get inside, you’ll find all sorts of highly-detailed classrooms, locker-lined hallways, lab rooms and even a nurse’s station! You’ll also find yourself passing through a cafeteria, a bus parking area and the carnival-esque PTA Fun Fest, along with Charlie’s basement, mechanical rooms, sewers and the new skull-spangled catacombs. In these rooms you can find lots of hanging bodies, a unique carousel horse, a giant box surprise, drop panels, coffins, flickering lights, sparking wires, giant bugs, smelly scents, running water, a ghostly apparition and “life-like” dolls… just to name a few. Everything in the Schoolhouse worked well at providing distractions for scares and reiterating each layer of Dent’s flagship theme… even the creepy sounds of alarms, sirens and, of course, the faint, ghostly voices of singing children.
On to the Slaughter Yard, things get a little bit more simple, yet still finely-detailed enough to be authentic-looking and realistic. The corral passages are lined with parallel boards (versus pallets) and are lit with vintage light bulbs that add a slightly-dim and treacherous glow to the chutes that you’ll be running through. Along the way, there are various pig-processing scenes, fog, a walk-in freezer, meat grinders, sounds of chainsaws and pigs squealing, a massive bone saw, numerous swine corpses and… oh yes… cages! But not just any cages… these are the ones you’ll be locked in if these guys get their hands on you.
They say that, back in 1942, this schoolhouse was a happy place and full of students… that is until children started to go missing. Years later, as students continued to go missing, local community members of Dent went to investigate a report of strange smells coming from the school’s basement, even though authorities were unable to find anything during their initial investigation. What they found was unspeakable. The rotting remains of all the children who had vanished were scattered throughout the basement. Who was the root to all this evil? So the story goes, it was the school’s very own janitor, Charlie. The school was shortly closed after and Charlie was, ironically, nowhere to be found.
The Schoolhouse is said to now be haunted by all the children that were “taken care of” by Charlie and you “may” come across some of them during your visit. Are the children the only ones roaming these halls?
This year, Dent drops you into a time where the faculty is hosting their PTA Fun Fest, which explains the presence of clowns. At first, you’re tempted to think this is all about fun, dancing and playing games, but we assure you, that’s not all you’ll find inside. Things have taken a darker turn in the Schoolhouse. Other new portions of the school have risen from the deepest parts of the basement that we’ve never seen before. In one area alone there were over 4,000 skulls lining the walls! It is said that this area is harboring an ancient evil and, once we saw the vampiress eye-balling our necks, we didn’t stick around long enough to find out what else was in store…
As we made our way down the hallways and through the classrooms each element of the theme was made very evident. We were even referred to as kids multiple times, as though we were wandering trick-or-treaters ourselves! We witnessed lunch ladies arguing, were told we were late for class, ran into a bus driver who had been drinking, nearly took a shower with a student (and his rubber duckie) and much more!
The Queen City Slaughter Yard has a totally different tone to it. This area resembles the corrals and butchering stations of a real slaughter yard where you will become “piggies” and tasked with escape while remaining in one piece. All we can say is good luck with not being chopped up and turned into a slab of meat in a deli somewhere!
Fright Effect: 8.9
What could be so scary about school you may ask? A LOT! The brick and wooden walls here encase quite a variety of fright techniques. Pop scares seemed to be the most commonly used attack, but they also had some other tricks up their sleeves…
Some of the hiding spots in this place were disguised so well that we wanted to high five the actors who came out of them! In addition, there were several extremely effective distractions on the lower floor of the school, which added to making a lot of the scares here pretty difficult to predict! Frights also came from above… so just when you thought it was okay to only pay attention to what’s in front of you… BAM! Somethin’ done caught you off guard and nearly pulled you through the roof!
The outdoor pig pen was a more intense experience for us this year. These slaughterers aren’t afraid to step off of their pedestals and come right after you! They were always waving very large weapons at us, narrowly missing our heads on several occasions. At one point, there was a group of guys behind us and the bravest of the bunch ticked off one of the actors. Well, before we exited, this guy was nearly knocking us over as he tried to get away from him! A word to the wise… don’t pi$$ these guys off! We did encounter some nice buildups of suspense in this part of the attraction as well; the sounds of chainsaws in the distance made us round each corner with caution.
When it comes to the finales of the attractions, let’s just say we hope you like growling chainsaws and energetic madmen behind them.
On a side note, Dent is historically one of the busiest haunts that we visit. It’s typical for them to have multi-hour-long waits and, as a result, it’s not uncommon for conga lines to form inside the attractions… especially if a few consecutive groups are especially fast or slow. This leaves the actors resorting to mainly using pop scares, which can be perceived as either a fast-paced, high-intensity tour, or a lack of interaction and meaningful dialogue from the cast. In other words, there are times where it can be one of those “love it or hate it” types of places. Fortunately, the Schoolhouse was flowing nicely on the night of our visit and we didn’t see any other groups until the end of the first haunt (we had some pretty fast scaredy cats catch up to us). We did, however, get paired up with that same group at the start of the second attraction, which allowed us to see how the actors handle larger groups. On that note, the assailants in the Slaughter Yard did their best to spread the scares out throughout the group… but since it’s a pretty short haunt and there were about 10 people with us, it was easy to feel like they kinda forgot about us at times.
There are multiple ticket options available at Dent. If you visit them on Sunday through Friday, general admission tickets are only $20.00. If you visit them on a Saturday in October, general admission tickets are $25.00. Fast Pass tickets are available for those who don’t want to wait in the regular admission line and can be purchased for $40.00 each. If you are in an absolute hurry and need to get through the line even quicker, Front of the Line Admission tickets can be purchased at $50.00 each and allows you to bypass both the general and Fast Pass lines.
It took our group about 16 minutes to complete our tour of the Schoolhouse, from the moment Ricky the Nerd let us in until we came barrelling out of the play area. There is a small break between the haunts to re-space the groups and, after that, it took us an additional 6 minutes to find our way through the Slaughter Yard. Combined, the attractions come to a total of around 22 minutes long. That brings their MPD (minutes of entertainment per dollar spent) score to 1.1 when purchasing the lowest general admission option. Although this value is a bit below the average of 1.5 that we see most often, Dent is very much a high-quality show that offers a lot of unique surprises and plenty of frights for everyone!
Dent will be hosting several different events in November and they are bringing back the ghost tours by popular demand. For those who aren’t brave enough to come through during the normal show, they are also offering lights on tours. All of the information for these special events can be found on their website, as well as group rate information.
As mentioned above, this haunt gets very busy so we recommend showing up early or even on a different day other than Friday or Saturday. If you haven’t been here before we strongly recommend you make the trip and, for those of you that have, there are plenty of new sights for you to see this season!
Photos from Review Trip:
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Most High-Tech Haunt (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Highest Rated Customer Service (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Actor Shout Out Award - Shower Girl (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Actor Shout Out Award - Trick-or-treaters (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Best Introduction of the Theme (Given by: Team Mysterious Misery)
Most Intimidating Character (Given by: Team Mysterious Misery)
Actor Shout Out Award - Geist Kurbis, A.K.A. "The Ghost Pumpkin" (Given by: Team Mysterious Misery)
Highest Dead Body Count (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Highest Rated Theme (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Highest Rated Customer Service (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Highest Rated Costuming (Given by: Team Zombillies)
Highest Overall Score (Given by: Team Zombillies)