Originally, ventriloquism was a religious practice. The name comes from the Latin for to speak from the stomach; the Greeks called this gastromancy (Greek: εγγαστριμυθία). The noises produced by the stomach were thought to be the voices of the unliving , who took up residence in the stomach of the ventriloquist. The ventriloquist would then interpret the sounds, as they were thought able to speak to the dead, as well as to foretell the future.
One of the earliest recorded group of prophets to use this technique was the Pythia, the priestess at the temple of Apollo in Delphi, who acted as the conduit for the Delphic Oracle. Python subsequently became one of the most common words used in classical Jewish and early Christian writing to refer to necromantic ventriloquism; it has even been used by some early English versions of the Bible to translate the word gastromancy in the Septuagint and in the Book of Acts.
One of the most successful early gastromancers was Eurykles, a prophet at Athens; gastromancers came to be referred to as Euryklides in his honour.
In the Middle Ages, it was thought to be similar to witchcraft. As Spiritualism led to stage magic and escapology, so ventriloquism became more of a performance art as, starting around the 19th century, it shed its mystical trappings.
Other parts of the world also have a tradition of ventriloquism for ritual or religious purposes; the Zulus, Eskimo, and Māori are all adept at this practice.
Ventriloquism became popular in Vaudeville acts in the late 19th century. The Great Lester was one of the most famous ventriloquists of the time.
Ventriloquism was immensely popular in the middle of the 20th century, thanks in great part to the work of one of The Great Lester's students, Edgar Bergen. Bergen popularized the idea of the comedic ventriloquist. Bergen, together with his favorite figure, Charlie McCarthy, hosted a radio program that was broadcast from 1937 to 1956. It was the #1 program on the nights it aired. Bergen continued performing until his death in 1979
Soooo…the other day I went into the closet into the musty old suitcase and took out the Charlie McCarthy doll I bought for my son, like any good mom would do. I took him to the Holy Cross Cemetery and sat him on a ledge inside a fenced grave, for a photo shoot.
I looked over, and Charlie had jumped to the ground and couldn’t get out of the enclosure. I just watched.
He climbs up...
and falls down tired. He seemed fine...
but then he got up, walked one grave over, tripped on the ring-on-a-string that hangs out the back of his neck which controls his mouth movements, then just fell down and died. I swear I heard him mumble something strange.
I don't know how to tell my son that Charlie is dead.
Charlie's sisters The Porcelain Creepy Dolls went with us to the cemetery, but that's another story for another day......
Spirit of a Dove - Guest Post by Stephen Bourne
2 hours ago