McElroy Brothers and Magic

mcelroy skull 001

We are all familiar with the McElroy brothers because of their Rolls Royce ventriloquist figures of the 1930’s. These brothers were more well known for making superior marionettes at the time but they also produced a superb magical item called the talking skull.

The talking skull was not a new item to the magic fraternity at the time. As matter of fact the large magic supplier at the time Abbott’s, which became the McElroy brothers sales vehicle for ventriloquist figures, sold a terrific talking skull and is even in the same 1937 catalogue on page 290.

The talking skull was a full size human skull which was mounted on a post and then on a flat board which you held in your hand. You could ask your audience yes no or maybe questions and the skull’s mouth would move to give you the answer. The Abbotts skull was made of paper mache and looked like a Mexican style skull.

The McElroy brothers built these talking skulls, and theirs was far superior to the Abbotts skull. It was much more realistic and one of the oldest living and still performing magician today, John Calvert now 100 years young, uses a McElroy talking skull.

john calvert magician

(Here’s a video from the morning after his 100th birthday at the Abbott Magic Get Together)


Below I have included figures of this magical item produced by the genius brothers George and Glen McElroy.

mcelroy skull 002

mcelroy skull 003





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 2011 by Dan Willinger

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2 Responses to McElroy Brothers and Magic

  1. LeeDean says:

    His speech is great. One good thing about the Lester method is one does not necessarily need uppers to make the fricative S/SH sounds and curled tongue to hard palate suffices when one gets older and really does not like wearing false teeth, and he sounds like he has all his originals.

  2. Michael Richards says:

    Anyone know what the mechanism for the mouth movement is? I thought at first it might be a lever in the back of the jaw, but in the picture, John is holding it by the board; is there a lever underneath or something?

    Just curious. Very interesting skull figure.

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