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.
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.