A Brief History of Ventriloquism
The history of Ventriloquism begins with the word “ventriloquism” which comes from the Latin words “ventre,” meaning belly, and “loqui,” meaning to speak, making ventriloquists known, in essence, as “belly speakers” or “speaking from the belly.”Ventriloquism is a performance art where a trained entertainer “speaks” through another medium, usually ventriloquist dummies or puppets, without moving his or her lips. Ventriloquists can also create the illusion of object sounds and make them seem further or nearer to a particular object. This is referred to as throwing one’s voice. These two factors are the basis of ventriloquism, however Ventriloquism includes many more aspects.
Those wanting to learn ventriloquism are part of a rich history that dates back thousands of years to Ancient Greece, where a temple in Delphi was constructed for the oracles of Apollo. A priest or priestess would enter a trance-like state and then speak the oracles of the God of prophecy in a disembodied voice, which is known now as the earliest form of ventriloquism.
Ventriloquism continued on in Europe throughout the Romantic period. The art received a surge in popularity after the American Civil War with the rise of Vaudeville, giving ventriloquists a stage and an audience. Many performers including famous ventriloquist Edgar Bergen began in Vaudeville. In Vaudeville Many performers demonstrated their skills by switching their voices among a number of ventriloquism dummies, puppets, inanimate objects, or live animals. From there, ventriloquism spread to radio, film, and television. For those interested to learn ventriloquism, a more complete history can be found in the book “Dumbstruck” by Steven Connor.