We head over to the USA to take in a curious museum that you certainly won’t see on the streets of London. Dubbed as ‘The World’s Only Museum Dedicated to Ventriloquism’, Vent Haven in Kentucky is certainly a place that you won’t forget in a hurry.
How does one start a museum of ventriloquism? The answer of course is that you have to have a passion for the art and that was the case with William Shakespeare Berger, a businessman from Cincinnati and amateur ventriloquist. Having amassed a vast collection of memorabilia and merchandise related to ventriloquism throughout his life, he eventually set upon the idea of opening a museum in the heart of Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, just five miles from where he initially made his name.
Unfortunately for Shakespeare Berger, he died in the same year that Vent Haven opened – 1973 – but that hasn’t dampened the museum’s success with numerous photographs, posters and other merchandise being donated the premises over the last 45 years. Although these items undoubtedly improve the offering of Vent Haven, the real jewel in the crown is of course the 900+ retired ventriloquist dummies in their possession that have come from more than 20 countries around the world.
To a ventriloquist, Vent Haven is guaranteed to raise a smile but for those who find even one ventriloquist’s dummy a bit creepy, over 900 of them is sure to have them running for the door. Who knows upon which stages these dummies have been used? Or do you look at these specimens and only think of films like Annabelle, a horror movie about a family being terrorised by a vintage doll?
Whichever side on which you sit, one can’t deny that the museum is of great historical importance considering the various types of ventriloquist dummies on display. Although some wouldn’t be out of place on stage today, others are profoundly darker, harking back to a time when racism was commonplace and often ignored by the masses.
Ventriloquists will absolutely love a visit to Vent Haven and the best bit is that they even hold a convention each and every year, which is brilliantly stylised as the Vent Haven ConVENTion. Over 400 ventriloquists turn up to celebrate and we can only imagine the tales they must tell!