Inside Northern Kentucky’s Vent Haven, the World’s Only Ventriloquism Museum
The world has just one museum dedicated to the art and history of ventriloquism, and it’s right here in the Greater Cincinnati area. Fort Mitchell’s Vent Haven Museum is home to 900 (and counting) unique sidekicks, some dating back to the 19th century.
They’re joined by an exhaustive collection of ephemera and historical archives, documenting what many consider the world’s greatest art form.
Having said that, walking into a room with hundreds of blank faces gazing back isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea — at least not right away.
“People walk into the museum and think, ‘Oh my gosh!’ It’s 900 dummies, and so many faces, which, for some people, can be initially off-putting,” says Vent Haven board member and media director Anne Roberts. “But when you hear the stories, you think, ‘wow, there’s so much more here than I thought.’”
Vent Haven visitors meet a guide at arrival and enjoy a tour through a few separate buildings rife with colorful faces and memorabilia, usually alongside other often-entranced visitors.
Many of those first-timers arrive with preconceived notions, which Roberts is quick to address. “Before they get to know us, some visitors want to feel like it’s creepy,” she says. “We get that a lot. But for the performers, that’s not their intent at all. The goal of the ventriloquist is to bring the puppet to life. We spend a lot of time saying, ‘the intent is not creepy.’ These are entertainment pieces.”
“Every dummy in the museum has a story,” she continues. “The museum is full of great stories of this art form that predates vaudeville, that’s associated with comedy.”
The Vent Haven museum was founded in 1973 by Cincinnati native William Shakespeare “W.S.” Berger, who had spent 40 years collecting dummies, recordings and notes related to ventriloquism.
The museum is open by appointment May 1-Sept. 30.