Are Children Frightened by Ventriloquist Figures

There is a great debate about how children react to ventriloquist figures. Most seem to think that children are frightened by the old style wood carved ventriloquist figures and I have to pipe in with my observations of this past Thanksgiving.

Helen put together a great Thanksgiving dinner and we had 27 guests here which included 4 children ranging in age from 4 to 10. None had been over to the house before so had no clue that they were about to walk into the largest collection of Antique Ventriloquist figures around. Well let me tell you it was a treat.

These kids had never been exposed to them before and they all had a great time. One 4 year old asked their mom if they were alive and the mom told her they were dolls like the ones she has at home. She then wanted to play with them.

I used Happy Hazzard to show the kids what the figures could do and they were memorized. There was not one ounce of fear and they had a great time.

You see the fear has to be nurtured in a child. If the child is told that the figures are scary then they are going to think they are but if the mind of a child isn’t clouded first then they are fine. I also believe that even a soft figure will also scare a child if the child has first been told puppets are scary. They have to learn to be scared. It is not something that is inbred.

Just a recent observation



Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to:

Copyright 2010 by Dan Willinger

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4 Responses to Are Children Frightened by Ventriloquist Figures

  1. George Boosey says:

    A lot of the fear of traditonal wooden figures has to do with the size of the figure and the age and size of the children. I remember when my son was in kindergarten, I took my wooden figure, a relatively large Chuck Jackson figure, to entertain the kids. That figure was larger than some of the smaller kids. Some of them screamed with fear and were taken out of the room. I’ve had no such issues with smaller, standardized figures, such as Oscar, my Marshall figure, or Almer Danks, a Foy Brown figure. In fact, most of what I’ve done with Almer is fractured fairy tales type routines and the kids love them! I think it would be unlikely that younger kids would be frightened of soft, Muppet-like figures because they have seen similar puppets on television, especially Public Television programs geared toward young children.

  2. Nate Puppets says:

    Not necessarily that kids are afraid of puppets/figures it all depends on the puppet. my character Lobo id huge and some kids are terrified no matter what their parents tell them and some of my smaller puppets scare kids i think it all depends on the kid. Like Dan said the kids that were over his house loved the figures but some other kids may be terrified.

  3. Ed Thomas & Hugo says:

    Dan as you know ,I have been doing shows since1947.
    I did a lot of shows at them parks,many 3 times a day, and I can say for sure that a few kids are afraid of ventriloquist figures.

    On afew occasions kids would have to be taken from the audience after Hugo came out. These were not
    small close up. We were on the stage with about 100

    After the show the parents would exsplain that the
    fine line between real and not real was too much for
    them to understand

  4. BILL NELSON says:

    I agree with both George and Ed. While the influence of the parents is of major importance, part of that cannot be taught, or be influenced by, a parent…fear of the unknown.
    Where that starts I don`t know, but we carry it with us for the rest of our lives. Even at 64, there are great unknowns that concern me.
    So, with children, there will always be some that will be afraid, no matter what. There`s no way to ‘set it up’ before you introduce the figure, that just makes them more aprehensive.
    And there isn`t any way to console a child who is frightened because, in doing so, you single them out from their peers, which only serves to embarass them.
    And it doesn`t matter if you let children come up on stage to show them how it works, or carry the figure out to them…the movements don`t concern them, it`s the size…and the face.
    In their limited world, most of what they identify with are other children.
    But to see one their size , But seemingly dead, and with a strange hard face and hands, well, you can begin to see how they might be frightened.

    But there`s no solution. Just play to the masses.

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