Where did the evil ventriloquist dummy come from?


So…..where did the idea of the murdering ventriloquist dummy come from?

First…. a little bit of context.

Ventriloquist dummies are really a throwback to another time and place – the days of Music Hall and Vaudeville in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. These puppets existed far before Jim Henson came on the scene and forever changed and re-invented the design language and look of puppets, reinventing them to suit the television age.

The ventriloquist dummies of the early 1900’s were for the most part crudely made….at least by our standards today – and they were built to be seen by large audiences in big halls and theatres…hence the exaggerated features. Puppets of this era were more based on Punch and Judy designs – so they did not have the kind of cute design aesthetic that became so prominent later when Walt Disney and Jim Henson came on the scene. Puppets of this era certainly had an unsettling quality about them. The puppet ‘Bill’ we used in Puppets Who Kill was built in England in the 1940’s, but the design certainly goes back decades before that.

So it seems natural that someone was going to come up with a story about one of these puppets being evil or possessed.

There may well have been references to evil ventriloquist dummies earlier…..but it was the 1945 British film The Dead of Night with Michael Redgrave that really started the ball rolling.

After that…..it was Rod Serling’s epic series The Twilight Zone that really cranked up the creep factor when it comes to scary ventriloquist dummies in the episode called The Dummy [1962].

The idea later crept up in many episodes of TV shows and movies, most prominently in the film Magic [1978].

From there it moved on to parody….where we used it in Puppets Who Kill.