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A ventriloquist is an entertainer that uses manipulation of his voice to make it seem as though the voice is originating from somewhere outside his body.
In ancient times, ventriloquists used a technique for "throwing" their voices as a means of appearing to possess supernatural powers. By the 20th century, it was more common that they used the ability to entertain, often employing comical dolls or dummies to help achieve this. Their acts were often humorous and some acts became quite successful. (TZ1: "The Dummy")
Sometimes criminals made use of ventriloquism to draw suspicion away from themselves. In one case, an unscrupulous pair of fellow entertainers tried to use a ventriloguist's dummies against the entertainer. One of the men was a little person and dressed as the dolls, tormenting the ventriloquist Paul Travers. They sought to drive the man mad by convincing him through his supposedly living dolls that he had committed a theft from his betrothed's wealthy family and murdered one of their employees. In the end, the man was driven to suicide, but not before the two offenders were implicated for their crime. (TZGKEY: 06: "The Last Sixty Seconds")
Not every case, however, was so easily explained away by ordinary circumstances. There were numerous cases where the action of the puppets used by the ventriloquist were not caused by the ventriloquist and truly were the work of supernatural forces. (TZ1: "The Dummy", "Caesar and Me")
- Ventriloquists and their dummies often were used in radio dramas during the "Golden Age of Radio." Elements of the supernatural, perhaps held over from the mythological origins of ventriloquism, were often retained and used in thrillers and horror shows. In such shows, the animators of the dummies were frequently portrayed as luckless, flawed men with fragile egos and problems with women.