Sometimes the thought of a porcelain doll could make us jump into our bed and hide under the covers. But today we want to bring attention to the forgotten art of Ventriloquy.
Yes, once upon a time, people didn’t just use dolls to instill fear in small children and grown up alike. There was a time when performing with a doll was a science! It was a huge part of the world of Vaudeville. To bewilder and astound audiences with trained voices that could not be explained, and techniques and tactics to amuse and delight!
The first known use of Ventriloquy was back in 1584 if you’d believe it! Originally, ventriloquism was a religious practice. The name comes from the Latin ‘for to speak from the stomach’. The Greeks called this gastromancy. The noises produced by the stomach were thought to be the voices of the unliving, who took up residence in the stomach of the ventriloquist. The ventriloquist would then interpret the sounds, as they were thought to be able to speak to the dead, as well as foretell the future.
Naturally, the practice of interpreting sounds made by the human body after death was not so natural for most. Manipulating a corpse to mimic speaking left most instinctively offended, and the whole art came off as ‘eerie’. As a matter of fact, in the Middle Ages, Ventriloquism was thought to be similar to witchcraft. As Spiritualism led to stage magic and escapology, ventriloquism became more of a performance art. By the 19th Century it shed its mystical roots and has since become the freaky dummy play we know and love today.