Get Haunt Schooled with The Dent School House’s Bud Stross!

Dent Schoolhouse in Cincinnati

Louisville Halloween interviews Cincinnati’s legendary Dent School House owner/operator, Bud Stross, to uncover the inspiration behind one of the top rated haunted attractions in the nation.

In this edition of our new series of regional haunted attraction interviews, I’ll be casting my shadow across the bluegrass state to reach the river port city of Cincinnati, OH. I’ll be shinning my ghost light on a turn of the century schoolhouse built in 1894 with so many secrets lurking its hallowed halls and skeletons in its lockers that even its most distinguished alumni don’t talk about the things they saw while attending The Dent School House.

Over the last five years I’ve met haunters from all walks of life with careers as varied as doctors, lawyers and landscapers, but Bud Stross is the first haunter I’ve met that moonlights as a radio disc jockey.

Dent Schoolhouse in Cincinnati

“That’s right,” says Stross, “I have the 7 to midnight shift from Monday through Friday on a country music station in Cincinnati.”

Stross seems to have had theatrical tendencies from an early age, and made his first attempt at creating a trick-or-treat shock scene on his parent’s front porch with a stuffed dummy in the late 90’s, eventually building up to a 12 room yard haunt in the early 2000’s.

“I didn’t go to Spring Break in High School. I worked on building my home haunt instead.”

Stross’ favorite memory from his formative yard haunt years involves fangs, fire and fear. “I was playing Dracula in a scene in my haunt, and I would pop up out of my coffin and chase trick-or-treaters as they passed by,” he relates. “Back then we didn’t have LED lighting and fake torches, so my scene was lit by those summer lawn Tiki torches.”

“So I popped up out my coffin and bared my fangs at this guy who looked at me with this horrified expression and took off running. I chased him halfway down the block before I realized the lawn torch had caught my cape on fire,” Stross explains. “I thought he was afraid of Dracula, but I have a feeling he was more worried about the fire. The neighbors must have been surprised to see a flaming Dracula chasing a victim down the street.”

Stross opened The Dent School House in 2005, taking advantage of the building’s actual history and local folklore to create the theme of a haunted school house and the legend of a school janitor from the 1920’s named Charlie McFree. Local legend tells a tale of dozens of missing children that began in 1942 and continued until around 1955 when Dent parents discovered that Charlie was murdering school kids and keeping their bodies in his school basement workshop. Angry parents stormed the school and Charlie disappeared, never to be seen again.

“The legend comes up over and over every year in this area,” admits Stross. “There’s a Discovery Channel episode of ‘Facts VS Fiction’ focusing on the Dent School House and the legend of Charlie that plays every year around Halloween.”

Dent Schoolhouse in Cincinnati

“When we first opened, we only had one Charlie suit,” says Stross, “and it was me wearing the suit at that time. The biggest complaint we had from customers is that they didn’t see Charlie enough during their tour of the haunt, so we added a second confrontation with Charlie at the climax. Now you’ll encounter Charlie at least three times; once in the queue line, once in his basement lair and then once again at the chase out.”

The Dent School House employees between 50 and 60 actors per night, has 11 makeup stations and a crew of over 100. New for the 2016 Halloween season, Stross is building a “Toy Story Room” which will include giant toys, an out-of-control robot, an evil squad of army men and much more. There will also be a brand new extra haunt called Detention Hall.

“We don’t always follow the latest haunt trends here at Dent,” admits Stross. “We actually tried an extreme haunt event once, and it lasted all of about 15 minutes before we pulled the plug. Our customers include families and kids from all around the Cincinnati area, and we want them to have fun and not be traumatized by our attraction, so we stick to the ‘no touching, non-physical’ rule.

If you’re wondering what Stross’ biggest horror influences are, his favorite horror movie is “Halloween” (1978) and his favorite haunted attractions are “Netherworld” in Atlanta, GA and the “13th Gate” in Baton Rouge, LA. At only an hour and half drive from Louisville, The Dent School House should be at the very top of your list for a road trip haunt destination this Halloween. Find more information on the Dent School House and many other regional attractions on our Road Trip Attractions page.

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