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Hidden Cincinnati: This Northern Kentucky museum is a haven for ventriloquists

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Posted at 5:00 AM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 18:00:20-04

FORT MITCHELL, Ky. — Just off the Interstate 75 exit to Fort Mitchell lie some unassuming structures dotting West Maple Avenue. Inside, they’re hiding a very special surprise for visitors.

Vent Haven Museum, the world's only museum dedicated to the art of ventriloquism, houses hundreds of dummies smiling back at you in multiple buildings in Northern Kentucky.

Their collection holds about 1,000 dummies and puppets along with a massive library, written archive, photograph collection, and magazines, publications, all the kinds of things that go along with all things ventriloquism.

Vent Haven, short for “ventriloquist haven,” started in 1910 as a private collection. Today, Lisa Sweasy is the museum’s curator, and she says she receives the “most wonderful variety of visitors.”

“I get everyone from Boy Scouts to red hatters to collectors to photographers to ventriloquists to people, you know, senior centers, just all kinds of different people come here,” she said. “Most of the time, I think people are coming here because they want to see something that is unique, and that, you know, is just not available anywhere else in the world.”

Between 12,000 to 15,000 people tour the museum each year, by appointment and always guided so no one touches the dolls.

“Most people have some connection that I can make, whether it's that they know Darcy Lynn Farmer who won America's Got Talent, or they know who Jeff Dunham is, or maybe they're a little bit older and they know who Edgar Bergen is -- Paul Winchell. But if they don't, then this is an awful lot to take in,” she said.

Farmer’s dolls are part of the museum’s collection, and Sweasy said they’re an important reminder for young aspiring ventriloquists.

“Being a kid and a phenomenal singer, she brought a new generation of kids into our community,” she said.

The dolls, dummies and puppets get the proper amount of TLC at Vent Haven.

“Each one gets dusted inspected. It's very important because if a mouse got in, or if if there was, you know, any kind of insect infestation or anything like that it could be trouble really fast,” Sweasy said.

Shining a light on the hidden museum will guarantee more people pop in to this haven for ventriloquists.

"We're a very small museum, we have a very limited budget and we don't advertise, so it is still word of mouth," Sweasy said.