Kentucky Is Home to the World's Only Ventriloquism Museum

5chw4r7z, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0 (cropped)
5chw4r7z, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0 (cropped)

If you suffer from pediophobia (a fear of dolls), you'll probably want to avoid a visit to the Vent Haven Museum on your next trip to northern Kentucky. According to Smithsonian, this oddball offering in Fort Mitchell—located less than 10 miles from Cincinnati, Ohio—is the only museum in the world dedicated to the art of ventriloquism.

Roughly 1000 dummies and puppets live inside the museum's four buildings, including Lamb Chop, the sock puppet made famous by ventriloquist and television host Shari Lewis. Renowned ventriloquists like Jeff Dunham and Terry Fator have also donated some of their figures to Vent Haven. There are historic pieces, as well; one of the oldest is a realistic-looking papier-mâché head with glass eyes that was made in the 1820s.

This puppet paradise originally started out as the private collection of a local man named William Shakespeare "W.S." Berger, who was actually not a professional ventriloquist. Rather, he was the president of a tile company (though he was also the president of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists). Because Berger outlived his son and grandson and had no other heirs, he set up a charitable foundation to ensure that his collection of ventriloquism ephemera lived on. And thus, Vent Haven Museum was born in 1973.

A creepy doll
5chw4r7z, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

A ventriloquist dummy
5chw4r7z, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0 

The museum has long fascinated visitors and has even been the subject of a photography book by Matthew Rolston, titled Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits. One reviewer called the photos "eerily compelling," and another said it appeared as if the "dummies have souls."

Vent Haven also lends its name to an annual international ConVENTion (get it?), which sees more than 400 ventriloquists gather for workshops, roundtable discussions, and celebrity lectures. The 2019 event will take place July 17-20 at the Holiday Inn in nearby Erlanger, Kentucky.

As for the museum, visits are arranged by appointment only from May 1 to September 30. To schedule a tour, check out the museum's website.

[h/t Smithsonian]

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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No Squawking, Please: A Backyard Bird Library Is the Star of This Livestream

Bird Library, YouTube
Bird Library, YouTube

Many people discovered backyard birding when they were quarantined in their homes at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if you have a vibrant wildlife population in your area, the Bird Library webcam is worth checking out. As Atlas Obscura reports, the bird feeder at the focus of the livestream resembles a tiny library where feathered guests can misbehave.

Librarian Rebecca Flowers and woodworker Kevin Cwalina were inspired to build the Bird Library in 2015. Located in a backyard in Charlottesville, Virginia, it features a miniature reading chair, bookshelves, and a reception desk. The decorations are even updated to match the seasons; the feeder currently sports a banner that says "Summer Reading." The main differences setting it apart from a real library are the bird seed scattered on the floor and the avian visitors.

The Bird Library attracts a diverse collection of patrons. Sparrows, cardinals, and mourning doves have been recorded perching on the librarian's desk and checking out the reading materials. The occasional squirrel has also been known to stop by.

Live video of the feeder streams on the Bird Library's YouTube page and website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can play the video below to check in on the current guests. If the backyard Bird Library has inspired you to find birds closer to home, here's some gear for beginner naturalists.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]