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"While a body might travel as baggage, the head was rarely out of reach..."
September 23, 2011 6:05 PM   Subscribe

"There is nothing quite like the gasp that escapes your mouth as you walk through three small buildings on a residential street here and find yourself mutely stared at by 1,400 eyes and grinned at by hundreds of painted lips over leathery chins." The Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky is a place where ventriloquist dummies go to retire.

Created by W. S. Berger, president of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists and publisher of the Oracle, as a way to keep his collection from being dispersed after his death, the museum has been open by appointment only since the seventies. It sponsors an annual convention (previously), just one of the many ventriloquism conferences that happens every year. Photo taking is restricted so the place hasn't become to internet senation you might expect. For people who grew up with ventriloquism as a somewhat facile-seeming party trick, it may be interesting to note that people used to find ventriloquism somewhat mysterious.

I only found out about the place after listening to Nina Conti talked about going there on Marc Maron's WTF podcast.
posted by jessamyn (30 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
the horror...



the horror

posted by leotrotsky at 6:08 PM on September 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


OK, when did this become "Puppets Staring at You in Mute Horror" Day on Metafilter?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:11 PM on September 23, 2011


"There is nothing quite like the gasp that escapes your mouth as you walk through three small buildings on a residential street here and find yourself mutely stared at by 1,400 eyes and grinned at by hundreds of painted lips over leathery chins."

I've been to bar mitzvahs like that. You get used to it.
posted by PlusDistance at 6:14 PM on September 23, 2011 [13 favorites]


High octane nightmare fuel.
posted by kmz at 6:16 PM on September 23, 2011


How do I live less than two hours from here and I've never even heard of this?
posted by Roman Graves at 6:20 PM on September 23, 2011


How do I live less than two hours from here and I've never even heard of this?

I know right? I have a cousin on Ft Mitchell who I have been to visit and we always went to Cincinnati for fun! I heard Nina Conti talking about this [a ventriloquist on a podcast was an odd choice but she's really funny] about how she had inherited this ventriloquist's dummies and how this is the museum where dummies retire when their ...person has died. Among other things. The place is apprently a little weird but they have the "no photos" rule because they don't want people making a bunch of PUPPETZ R CREEPY comments but honestly I'm not sure that really helps at all. I had fun today reading about the place. The guy who set it all up sounded like a real sweetheart of a guy.
posted by jessamyn at 6:22 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky is a place where ventriloquist dummies I go to retire burn down a ventriloquist dummy museum.
posted by cmoj at 6:31 PM on September 23, 2011


Jessamyn, this is waaay too soon after that Doctor Who episode *shudders*
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:39 PM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Vent Haven Museum, providing the finest in nightmare fuel and terrors since 1972.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:39 PM on September 23, 2011


[and I absolutely love Nina Conti, btw]
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:40 PM on September 23, 2011


I live less than 5 miles from there and I have never been there. The museum doesn't have standard hours; you have to go by appointment. And since there are zillions of other things to do here, well... But when y'all come to visit your cousins, we'll go!
posted by tizzie at 6:41 PM on September 23, 2011


You wanna see something really scary?
posted by Trurl at 6:46 PM on September 23, 2011


Ventriloquist dummies should get buried with their owners.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 6:47 PM on September 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


The Charles MacNider Museum is in northern Iowa and I made the trip there a while back. The have the Bil Baird puppets from the Sound of Music (and a tone of other things). I have a puppet fetish, so enjoy places like this.

I would love to give some of the puppets in the flickr pool a home.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:55 PM on September 23, 2011


Bookmarked in case I ever find myself in some kind of A Nightmare on Elm Street scenario.
posted by cog_nate at 6:57 PM on September 23, 2011


OH HELL NO.
posted by Elsa at 7:02 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is nothing quite like the gasp that escapes your mouth as you walk through three small buildings on a residential street here and find yourself mutely stared at by 1,400 eyes and grinned at by hundreds of painted lips over leathery chins.

Also, you are naked. And you forgot to study for the big test. Which is on the other side of the narrow ledge on the edge of the high cliff overlooking the writhing pit of spiders and centipedes and snakes. Did you just hear a clown chuckle? I think I just heard a clown chuckle.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:21 PM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Seconding Elsa, not a freakin chance.
posted by timsteil at 7:26 PM on September 23, 2011


Oh, given the chance, I would definitely go to the museum and have a great time. But I'd have nightmares about that roomful of dead faces staring back at me for weeks afterward. Weeks AT THE LEAST.
posted by Elsa at 7:45 PM on September 23, 2011


I just learned that I'm seriously creeped out by large groups ventriloquism dummies. Huh. Who knew?
posted by kprincehouse at 7:50 PM on September 23, 2011


The have the Bil Baird puppets from the Sound of Music

Those are marionettes, ingeniously controlled with strings by unseen puppeteers from above. I love those puppets and I love that number in the movie.

Ventriloquism I have never liked. There's just something unnatural or creepy or I don't know what about it. You've got this huge head-thing snapping back and forth and around, talking in a weird strangled voice, running through the dirty jokes and blinking... I hate it.
posted by longsleeves at 7:54 PM on September 23, 2011


There was a recent documentary, "Dumbstruck," bankrolled by Terry Fator, the Texas ventrilloquist who won America's Got Talent, and then landed a half-billion dollar gig in Vegas, and it's amazing. Some sad and lonely people, and this is the best, and in some cases, only way they can interact with the rest of humanity. Beautiful people fail, homely people win, winners lose and losers win, and they're all in it together. If you liked "King of Kong", you'll like this. It's about community and family in the modern day, and how good people choose where they belong once they're rejected by everyone else. The museum becomes significantly less creepy in this light... it's a collection of people's inner lives, secret dreams, staunch friends, implements of a craft built upon saying that what must be said.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:06 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


The very thought of clicking on those links is scaring me back to the chapter I should be writing. So, uh, thanks.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:16 PM on September 23, 2011


Ventriloquist dummies should get buried with their owners.

Right. You wouldn't want to spend all eternity without someone to talk to yourself with.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:20 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's weird that for me a puppet is a thing of job, while the dummy weirds me out.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:33 PM on September 23, 2011


Put it on the list!!
posted by not_on_display at 9:35 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


East Coast v West Coast
posted by Elmore at 2:45 AM on September 24, 2011


Did you just hear a clown chuckle? I think I just heard a clown chuckle.

You probably just need to join the Platinum Club.
posted by whir at 12:33 AM on September 25, 2011


How funny to see this on the blue. I went there a few weeks back on my way to Cincinnati. It's totally great and if you find yourself in the area, you should make an effort to go. The lady that curates it is really friendly and was very helpful when it came to setting up a pretty last-minute appointment.
posted by Lusy P Hur at 12:23 AM on September 26, 2011


If you liked "King of Kong", you'll like this.

I just saw it tonight, thanks so much for the suggestion.
posted by jessamyn at 11:26 PM on September 29, 2011


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