Ventriloquism is almost as old as the world, or at least as old as intelligible spoken language. Just when and where in the past it had its origin will forever remain unknown. Unlike other arts, it was not brought to perfection through the slow development and the passage of time. By its very nature it must have sprung into existence full grown, like Venus from the sea.
Although there is no positive proof, it is fair to assume that many of the occurrences involving the assistance of an apparently supernatural voice, were feats of ventriloquism. Such marvels are inexplicable, if not pure fiction, except as the work of deception through the aid of ventriloquism. Many old superstitions were fostered in early civilization this way.
The belief in a `second voice,` or `familiar spirit` was very common. It was often said that the form of a spirit was evoked and consulted by divination to learn the right course of action for important occasions. This divination was practiced in many different semi-barbaric races of the ancient world and can be traced through a long period of time. This `second voice` was most likely the product of ventriloquism.
By the Mosaic Law, the Jews were forbidden to consult those having familiar spirits. However, the Hebrews were accustomed to `the voice` being used in divination during their captivity in Egypt. It is believed that Isaiah my have been comparing it to the power of sanctified utterance where he says (Isaiah 29: 4): `And thy voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.`
Just where the Egyptians obtained their knowledge of the art is uncertain, but a seemingly unearthly voice palyed an important part in the performance of the `mysteries` as part of their worship of Osiris. As the voices described match what has been peculiarly identified with ventriloquism, the practice of this art by unscrupulous priests would seem to seem to explain the mystery.
If there is any doubt as to the role ventriloquism played in this divination of a familiar spirit, there is none in the gatromancy employed by the Greeks. In this the voice of the `spirit` made its oracular replies apparently from the priest`s belly, the diviner himself standing with an impassive countenance and unmoving lips.
In modern times, Louis Brabant, Valet de Chambre of Francis I, greatly impressed a rich and beautiful heiress with the aid of his wonderful talent as a ventriloquist. The works of M. L`Abbe La Chappelle, published in 1772, contain references to the astonishing ven-triloquial achievements of Baron Menge at Vienna and those of M. St. Gille, a grocer living near Paris.
Ventriloquism does require some particular qualities of voice, such as strength, clearness, flexibility, ready ability to change at will, ordinary strength in the cartilaginous membrane of the throat, the muscles of the abdominal regions and an aptitude for mimicry, A person with a defective ear can not sing in tune or imitate sounds correctly because he has nothing to guide him in his own efforts. He may be endowed with every other prerequisite for the musical or the mimetic art, but his inability to accurately distinguish tone or pitch renders him unable to sing or imitate sounds.
There are very few people, however, whose ear is so imperfect that they cannot sing a little or imitate something. About eight out of ten could, with practice and perseverance, become acceptable if not great ventriloquists. There is nothing really special about the art, although the effects produced by a good performer may seem so. If one has the qualities mentioned, he can soon become a ventriloquist. The progress made will depend on the aptitude and faithfulness of the student.
The feminine voice does not readily lend itself to ventriloquism like the masculine does, but it is not impossible for a woman to become a fair amateur or even a professional performer. Many years ago a female ventriloquist presented an excellent act with four or five mechanical figures in the vaudeville theaters of the country. Some one has had the audacity to remark that ladies should not learn, `as their voices are heard in too many places already.` Of course, this should not deter any woman from taking up the art if she desires to do so. Women and men alike can learn to perform ventriloquism.
Have you always wanted to be a ventriloquist? The following links will help you get started on your way to becoming the best ventriloquit possible. Have fun!