Blog Post

Whether you like your dummies creepy or classic, you’ll find them all at this museum

The following post is a guest blog by Wil Elrick. During this time when traveling is difficult, he is writing about places on our bucket list.

On our bucket list for adventuring section this week, I am featuring a place that Kelly and I have discussed visiting on multiple occasions, but just have yet to make it. We would like to venture a few hours north to Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, which is home to the world famous – Vent Haven Museum.

I know when you first hear the name, you think it’s a museum dedicated to vents which when combined with air-conditioning really make life much more bearable (at least here in the south). Instead, it is the world’s only museum dedicated to ventriloquists and their dummies.  

While I don’t know or have reason to expect the museum is haunted, the thought of almost one thousand ventriloquist dummies gathered in one location is spine-tingling. You are probably asking yourself right now, Why does this exist? I am here to answer that for you.

The museum’s humble beginnings date back to 1910 when William Shakespeare Berger purchased his first ventriloquism figure named Tommy Baloney. Berger was not a professional ventriloquist but rather the president of a large Cincinnati company. As with any collection, Berger kept collecting dummies and related memorabilia throughout his life. This collecting led to not just a remodel of his house in the 1940s but to the addition of a second building to house them in 1962. Sadly, Berger outlived his all of his family including his wife, son and grandson so he had no heir for his beloved collection. To ensure its preservation, he set up the foundation and museum which opened to the public in 1973.

Inside the Vent Haven Museum (5chw4r7z | Wikimedia Commons)

It is also worth noting that besides cultivating his ventriloquist collection, Berger was also an amateur ventriloquist and president of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists (which I now have a weird urge to join). He also wrote and published The Oracle, a monthly magazine which kept practitioners of the art abreast of current events in the community.

The museum is the home to dummies dating from as far back as the Civil War all the way up to current puppets. The size of the collection has doubled over that of Berger’s and has become a retirement area for puppets where they are cared for once their entertaining days are over.  Current mega-sensation Jeff Dunham and Shari Lewis of Lamb Chop fame are among hundreds who have donated puppets to the museum. Another shining star attraction is a replica of the famed puppet Charlie McCarthy of The Edgar Bergen-Charlie McCarthy Show which ran on American radio station from 1937 to 1957. The original puppet resides at The Smithsonian.

The museum is only opened seasonally, May through September, by appointment only but you can find information to schedule a tour here .

I admit that I am in no way, shape, form or fashion a fan of dolls, but I do think ventriloquism is a grossly underrated art form.  So, while I really want a visit this very odd museum, I’m not sure how I’ll react when I walk through the door and have thousands of them staring at me…. Well, it’s probably best not to think about that yet.

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