Much like clowns, ventriloquist dummies are simultaneously amusing and terrifying. The art of ventriloquism may evoke a hearty laugh or a shriek of terror, but Vent Haven Museum in Kentucky—the largest collection of ventriloquist dolls and memorabilia in the world—is certainly worth a visit. If you have always feared that a ventriloquist dummy will spring to life and bite your hand as the dummy Willie did in a 1962 episode of The Twilight Zone, Vent Haven Museum is the ideal spot to face your fears.
Cincinnati businessman William Shakespeare Berger developed a keen interest in the lighthearted aspects of the art of ventriloquism. Berger was captivated by performers who could speak without visibly moving their mouths, Berger spent much of the early 20th century immersing himself in ventriloquist culture, and collecting dummies, playbills, scripts, and every other ventriloquist-related item he could find. Berger’s collection eventually became Vent Haven Museum in Kentucky. In ventriloquist circles “vent” is short for ventriloquist.
Vent Haven Museum offers vent enthusiasts the chance to adopt a historic ventriloquist dummy. For a small fee, adopted dummies are adorned with a card which features the name of the person who adopted them for one year. Vent Haven Museum features rows of silent ventriloquist dummies with information about their make and performance background pinned to their chests.
Vent Haven Museum hosts an annual International Ventriloquism ConVENTtion at a nearby hotel. The ConVENTion features lectures, performances, and a chance for working ventriloquists to share the tricks of the trade. The ConVENTion features more performers with endearing puppets than potentially sinister old-timey dummies.
The unbridled joy or unchecked terror of ventriloquism is in the eye of the beholder. One man’s comedy sketch is another man’s horror movie. Visiting Vent Haven Museum will help you decide which emotions the art of ventriloquism evokes in you.