If you suffer from a fear of dolls or maybe even clowns, this might sound more like a nightmare museum than somewhere you’d like to stop off for an afternoon. But for avid lovers of ventriloquists and ventriloquism, the Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, is a pretty awesome offering.
The collection is dedicated to the art of ventriloquism and houses around 1,000 dummies and puppets, including Lamb Chop, the famous sock puppet used by television host Shari Lewis. Some of Jeff Dunham and Terry Fator’s dummies have also found a home in one of the museum’s four buildings, and they also house some truly historic pieces – the oldest of which dates back to the 1820s.
The museum began as the private collection of a man – not, interestingly, a ventriloquist – named William Shakespeare (W.S.) Berger. Since the enthusiast outlived his heirs, he set up a charitable foundation to care for his rather large collection of dolls, and, in 1973, the Vent Haven Museum became the result.
The place has fascinated visitors ever since and even inspired a book, Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits, by Matthew Rolston. Reviewers called the book “eerily compelling” and claimed the photos made it seem as if the “dummies have souls.”
Which, you know. Have some more nightmare fodder, horror film makers.
The museum also sponsors an annual ConVENTion, which hosts around 400 ventriloquists and offers workshops, roundtable discussions, and celebrity (as it were) lectures. If you’re interested, the 2019 event is taking place at the Holiday Inn in nearby Erlanger, Kentucky.
If you want to go for a visit, tours are by appointment from May 1 to September 1 – so you’ll need to either call ahead or visit the website.
Take lots of pictures if you do, because the people back home just aren’t going to believe it’s real.