Do Ventriloquist Dummies Freak You Out?

Then you might not be surprised to learn they have a dark and scandalous past, as this post at Atlas Obscura reveals:

But ventriloquism is not a modern art—it dates back to at least the classical Greece, when it really freaked people out.

Back then, ventriloquists were called “engastrimyths”. Writes Steven Connor in his book Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism, this was a mashup of “en in,gaster the stomach, and mythos word or speech.” Basically, people believed engastrimyths had demons in their stomachs who belched words from their host’s mouths. Engastrimyths plied their trade for entertainment (what could be more thrilling than demonic tummy talk?) and as divination. Pioneering ventriloquist Valentine Vox writes in his book I Can See Your Lips Moving: The History and Art of Ventriloquism that the art’s roots lie in necromancy—the ancient art of allowing a dead person’s spirit to enter the necromancer and speak to the living.

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