The Dent Schoolhouse
Todd - Ok look, we don't need to really go over whether The Dent Schoolhouse is good or not. It is. It's fantastic. It stands in a class of its own.
So - just to recap quickly:
Is it worth the cost - yes
Is it worth the wait - yes
Will it impress you - yes
I'm going to utilize my screen time to dig a little deeper this year. Dent reminds me a lot of Disney World. I know that sounds odd (and who knows how many times I've said this), but if you've ever been to Disney, you're well aware that presentation is perfected - staged scenes are seemless to the eye, everything fits the theme of its area, you never see see an actor or prop from one "land" in another...it's as fully immersive as it can be.
Dent is as fully immersive as a haunted house can be, especially for one that aims to keep the roots of a traditional haunted house while injecting the latest technology. Every detail is perfected and seemingly fits within the time period of the lore. From floor to ceiling, nothing is void of content. We were told their goal was to go darker this year; more sinister. I feel that objective was met. The details of the countless bodies found within are immaculate. Both the deliberate gore and the implied devastation aftermath really came off well making Dent feel a little more like hell in a schoolhouse than a haunted one.
However, the question I asked myself this year was, "With all of these details, props, lights, actors...is it too much?" Dent has arguably become over-stimulating. At every corner, down every hall, there is something to look at, an actor yelling or some sort of noise being made. All together, it forms a mass off sensory overload. There's no "down time" and in my opinion, this dilutes the scare factor simply because once you've experienced the initial shock, your mind has no time to reset itself for the next event. Right from the front door you are incessantly berated by the chaos presented from the scenes, actors, props and sounds. It never quiets down and for many, this may leave them perpetually on alert. Much of Dent runs on a "10" throughout and then tries to punch you with an "11" every so often.
Another thing to prepare yourself for is the crowd and flow. Thousands visit Dent most nights. Not only does this contribute to up to a few hours in line, but they're forced to keep the line moving at a quicker pace than some of the smaller haunts. Unfortunately, this creates the infamous "conga line" effect - you are highly likely to catch up to the group ahead of you and/or the group behind you winding up on your heels.
For us, this caused a lot of timing problems. Actors were not able to properly reset and execute their delivery as I would imagine it was intended. Instead, it felt as if they were delivering generic lines on repeat just to reinforce their presence. The actors were fairly impersonal, but with the frequency of visitors coming through their scene, I can't imagine they had any other choice. I felt rushed through the majority of the haunt because other people were at our heels and I found myself more focused on keeping momentum than being able to enjoy the environment.
Despite my reservations, I was ready to hop back in line and go in again. Once again, like Disney World, you'll never be able to experience everything in a single visit. Each time walking through, there's no question you'll think, "Huh...I didn't notice that before. Cool!" Dent offers an experience unparalleled by most which is why an annual visit is by all means warranted, I just wish it allowed time to take it all in.
Behind The Dent Schoolhouse is a second haunt named Queen City Slaughter Yard which is included with your admission. Unlike the schoolhouse, this outdoor pathway is pretty bare bones. It consists of a winding, queue-like walkway where intermittently you'll be threatened by deranged butchers suggesting you will make the ultimate cut of meat.
Occasionally you'll stumble upon an unwilling victim, but most of the time you're either being barked at or threatened with a chainsaw - so much so that this might as well be called "Escape From Chainsaw Maze." This is a shorter, close-quarters haunt and there had to have been easily 5 chainsaw actors in there. If they bother you, then you'll surely be disturbed.
I went into QCSY with high expectations. We were told they finally found the right actors to really make it stand out. Unfortunately, I personally found the experience to be on par at best with past years - just "so-so." Neither actor was memorable to me, aside from the menacing girl controlling the large, suspended saw. She actually didn't say anything; only laughed maniacally and it really stood out!
Queen City Slaugher Yard doesn't offer a lot of scares, just more in your face threatening brutality. It's not dark - just loud and is surely more effective on those who are uncomfortable in enclosed spaces. With it being an outdoor attraction, there are a lot of challenges in really upping QCSY's game to its potential. However, if we ever received a second experience meeting the schoolhouse's caliber, The Dent Schoolhouse as a whole would even more of an ultimate haunt experience.
Teresa - The Dent Schoolhouse is a Cincinnati legend for good reason. The location is an actual, creepy old schoolhouse that was built in 1894. Try looking up the legend online. In a nutshell, it says that everything was fine until 1942, when kids started disappearing. They eventually found the decaying remains in the basement after a horrible smell made people suspicious. It was evidently the work of Charlie, the janitor, who disappeared without a trace. The rumor is that he returned to the school after it was closed by the authorities. And now, "students" line up in droves outside to get a peak inside.
The website is very good and you can find everything you need to know about tickets, parking, special events, and the like there. I want to tell you about the experience. First, if you don't like lines, you can pay extra for a fast-pass or skip-the-line ticket. If you don't want to do this, get there early. Ticket lines and the line to get in can be very long. We were there on a Saturday night and the line was probably 2 hours long. Having said that, there is plenty going on to keep you entertained while you wait. There are vintage cartoons and things showing via projectors, there are snacks available, music playing, and lots of creepy decor. Plus, you can see people running and screaming as they exit the haunt, which is always fun. The best part about the wait is the queue actors. They are always phenomenal and make the wait so much more fun. They sneak up behind people, engage you in really strange conversations, and may even pose for photos, but possibly not in the way you had in mind. There is also a photo booth, once you get inside the side yard, where they snap a photo of your group, which you can buy on your way out (if you survive). It makes a nice memento.
Inside, you get to see one of the new additions for this year right away. It is a memorial/portrait gallery, and it's very Harry Potter-esque and did not disappoint. The schoolhouse portion of the haunt is themed to perfection. It is so detailed that you'd have to go through several times, and maybe even to one of the lights-on events to be able to see everything. There are loads of props, lots of animatronics, and plenty of creepy characters and fantastic costumes and makeup. The scenes are movie quality. The lighting seemed a little darker this year and the characters a little more amped up. They don't touch you (unless you attend the lights-out event and you want them to), but you will be chased by clowns with horns, maniacs with chainsaws, and all kinds of other nightmare-ish beings. It really makes that "I forgot to study for my test" dream seem not so bad. You go through all kinds of rooms, including classrooms, the kitchen, the theater, a lost toy room, a locker room, bathroom, showers, etc. And when I say "room", most of these are way beyond anything you're picturing. Some are like those rooms in bad dreams that just keep turning into more rooms and you can't escape. You also go into the basement where Charlie hid all the bodies. Be on the lookout for him. And do admire all the decor while you're there. They have bodies that are so realistic that they look like real corpses. I'm not even kidding. And there are scenes that are so creepy and creative that you just have to see them. My favorites are a giant ossuary, people carved like jack-o-lanterns, and a mind-blowing, walk-through garbage/body pit. So disturbing! The schoolhouse is non-stop scares. Even the hallways and outside portions are full of characters yelling at you, grabbing for you, things are popping out of the dark...you never get a break.
When you exit the schoolhouse, it is a very short walk to the Queen City Slaughter Yard. This is a sort of indoor/outdoor haunt included in the ticket price. On entering you will find yourself surrounded by cages, some containing people. You find yourself in a maze of crazed, hungry butchers. The decor is fitting for an abbattoir and you get to see some really crazy saws and tools for processing meat. This part does a good job of sticking to the theme also, and uses crazed cannibals with chainsaws to really keep the adrenaline going.
There are few haunts out there as visually stimulating and detailed as The Dent Schoolhouse, and to reach those, you'd have to travel pretty far. The acting, the theming, the lighting, the costumes, the characters, the scenes...this place is the top of its class.
Paul - It's just in another league... This is what I keep saying to myself over the last day as I think about what to write for the Dent Schoolhouse. I've been fortunate to attend many, many haunts over the last several years, and the only one that can begin to compare to the Dent Schoolhouse is about 500 miles away. The Dent is a non-stop sensory overload of haunt. From the moment you walk through the front door, there doesn't seem to be a single place you look that isn't creepy, crawly, or jumping into your face.
The Dent Schoolhouse is an old Cincinnati schoolhouse from the 1800s. The story is that the school custodian killed several students over the years and stored their remains in the basement of the school. Once they were discovered, the school was shut down immediately, but the kids still haunt the school today.
The theme is used through the haunt exceptionally well. You pass through the cafeteria, kitchen, auditorium, classrooms, locker room, etc... But then things start to get really dark. The boiler room, sewer, dungeon, and crypt are all amazing, and the body disposal room was really gruesome to have to get through. With every corner you turn, and every actor you come across you fall deeper into the haunt and it feels more and more like a nightmare you have to escape.
Every year we visit I look forward to seeing what's new, and every year I walk into some room where my jaw drops. Every inch of the place is so detailed that sometimes you just don't know what's real and what's a prop.
The main haunt is fairly long and if you really enjoy haunts, you'll want to take your time and absorb every bit of it if you can. The line can be fairly lengthy during peak times but you have many roaming actors there to keep you company, and plenty of screams coming from inside to remind you of what's coming.
Once you make it out of the schoolhouse, you still have the Queen City Slaughter Yard to get through! Queen City is a maze of wooden hog gates you have to make your way through, but the workers there seem to have mixed with the pigs a bit and you have some really angry freaks there to cut you up and spit you out. This portion is pretty intense, but as someone who thinks chainsaws in haunts are more annoying than scary, this portion doesn't add to the experience for me very much.
That said, the Dent Schoolhouse is a haunt experience you just can't miss. I love all kinds of haunts, big and small, but this is just an experience unlike any other. Highly recommended!
Donna - We have been reviewing the Dent Haunted Schoolhouse as far back as I can remember. What I love about it is every year they change it up while keeping the same theme of the "urban legend" haunted schoolhouse. The path you follow doesn't seem so much like a maze but more of a natural walk through an old, creepy school that's inhabited by lots and lots of ghosts, ghouls, walking dead, rats, bugs, demented carneys and other deranged characters too frightening to describe. Of course, Charlie the janitor makes an appearance. According to the legend, he was the murderer of the schoolchildren back in the 50's who hid the bodies in the basement.
What I liked about this year is that the house starts off fairly quietly and lets the suspense build slowly. The attention to detail in every room is beyond compare to other haunts. The feeling of living out your worst nightmare grows as you make the trek through the old school totaling over a 25 minute trip. Never knowing what awaits you - but knowing it will be something horrifying!
The actors are relentless, the animatronics are superb and the creativity is off the charts! You even have to walk through a dumpster full of body parts!
This is a haunt not to be missed this year! Go and then go again when you can keep your eyes open!