The World’s Only Ventriloquism Museum is in Northern Kentucky
Vent Haven is a must-see for lovers of oddity museums, quirky collections, or off-the-beaten-path places
In the small town of Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, hundreds of dummies – from Shari Lewis’s playful puppet “Lamb Chop” to Jeff Dunham’s fuzzy, purple “Peanut” – line the walls of the only museum in the world dedicated to the art of ventriloquism.
Vent Haven Museum opened in 1973, spawned from the personal collection of founder W. S. Berger, who spent many hours backstage with his father, who was a stage actor.
While working his way up from mailroom clerk to president of Cambridge Tile Company, the Cincinnati native spent roughly 40 years amassing this stunning vault of artifacts dedicated to the ancient stage art.
It all began in 1910, when Berger was on a business trip to New York. While there, he purchased his first ventriloquist figure, Tommy Baloney, and the collection had begun.
From then on, Berger was interested in obtaining everything from dummies and puppets to ephemeral objects, like scripts and posters. Today, the Vent Haven collection consists of roughly 1,500 books, 1,145 dummies, over 5,000 photos, and countless other artifacts, from handwritten letters to playbills.
Present-day museum curator and director Lisa Sweasy learned about the museum through a coworker who, at the time, served as its director. “I was just curious about it as an oddity and a one-of-a-kind place,” Sweasy said. “And it just turned out that, at that time, she was ready to leave the position.”
In 2000, Sweasy took on the role and was soon launched into a wild world, swirling with colorful dummies, fascinating letters, and incredible stories. “I fell in love with it,” she said. “It’s a unique attraction in the world – a massive collection – and I immediately recognized how amazing the founder was.”
Standouts in the collection include artifacts that belonged to Chicago-born ventriloquist and Vaudeville comedian Edgar Bergen, father of Candice Bergen, who is considered a pioneer of the craft and best known for his acts with dummies “Charlie McCarthy” and “Mortimer Snerd.”