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A ventriloquist is, as you probably already know, an entertainer who tries to convince an audience that a non-living thing (in most cases, a puppet) is alive and talking. Now this act, though odd, probably wouldn't be too offputting an entertainment—except that nine times out of ten, when a ventriloquist's puppet appears in a series or movie, it will be a hideous, dwarven creature who crawled straight out of the Uncanny Valley. With its jutting eyebrows, shifting eyes and its sharp, mechanical rictus of a smile, the Demonic Dummy occupies a prominent place in the darker recesses of the human subconscious—it is nitro-burning Nightmare Fuel for viewers both young and old.
One of the most common twists in a story which features a Demonic Dummy, is to have the dummy be real, and the ventriloquist either be a wooden puppet or a hapless human under the dummy's control—in fact, many Demonic Dummies get the ability to turn people into People Puppets, sometimes literally. Another twist is to have both the ventriloquist and the dummy be two parts of a split personality (with the human being the shy and nebbish part of the personality, and the dummy the loud and abrasive half). Other variations of the dummy/ventriloquist relationship exist as well, as you'll see below...
Also, note that other types of puppet aren't safe either. Classical-style ventriloquist dummies are the most popular, but anything from a sock puppet on up can fall into this category.
- One truly creepy "Twisted" ad for Slice featured a pathetic ventriloquist (among other things, he hit his dummy, a major no-no for ventriloquists). Suddenly, the audience starts booing him... and the camera turns around to reveal his entire audience consists of ventriloquist dummies, one of whom (who bears a notable resemblence to Slappy) gets a close-up to intone, "Not funny."
Anime & Manga
- Juri Katou from Digimon Tamers had a Hand Puppet that she used to talk by proxy. While not creepy by itself, if reflective of deeper issues, it transitioned into flat-out creepy at about the same time the D-Reaper made its first appearance. This is not a coincidence.
- Karin gives us "Boogey-kun," the most frequently seen of Anju's dummies/ImaginaryFriends. As the series progresses, it's increasingly implied that Boogey-kun may not be all that imaginary...
- In the manga, Boogey-kun is explicitly revealed to be the ghost of a dead serial killer trapped in the doll.
- Dolce from Geneshaft definitely qualifies for the split personalities part.
- Mahou Sensei Negima has Chachazero, who rides the line between this and Perverse Puppet.
- In Pandora Hearts Break, while not adverse to insulting people directly himself, seems to do a lot of it and threats threw emily (who is probably an ordinary doll)
- The Ventriloquist, aka Arnold (not Albert) Wesker is a Batman villain whose multiple personality disorder led him to carry around an aggressive mafia-esque dummy named Scarface—which became the dominant personality of the duo, abusing Wesker and ordering him around. This made Wesker a rather tragic villain, because his core personality is mild-mannered and doesn't like what Scarface is doing or the abuse Scarface heaps on him, but cannot seem to break with the idea that he and Scarface are separate individuals. In one instance, Wesker actually shoots Scarface while the dummy is still on his hand, then proceeds to not notice that his hand is bleeding.
- The second Ventriloquist was much the same, except we were told why she'd had a mental breakdown and taken over Wesker's schtick. Unless, of course, Scarface really is the combined ghosts of all the murderers hanged on the gallows he was carved from.
- DC also has a really obscure Golden Age villain called The Dummy, who is Exactly What It Says on the Tin—a magically-animated ventriloquist's dummy.
- An early example is in the 1964 movie Devil Doll, which was featured in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The twist here is that the possessed doll itself isn't evil. Rather, the doll (named Hugo) is the hapless assistant of an evil hypnotist/ventriloquist who trapped Hugo's spirit within the doll and then killed off Hugo's human body. The doll spends most of the time under the ventriloquist's control, but eventually gains enough self-awareness to fight back and give the ventriloquist a taste of his own medicine. After he killed the ventriloquist's assistant, of course.
- Earlier still is the ventriloquist dummy, also named Hugo, from a segment of the 1945 British anthology horror film Dead of Night.
- The dummy Fats, from the 1978 Anthony Hopkins film Magic.
- Even Hopkins reportedly thought Fats was Nightmare Fuel.
- Can you blame him?
- From IMDB: Upon seeing Fats for the first time, Anthony Hopkins was allowed to take the doll home to work with it. However, he wound up being so unnerved by it that he called the consulting ventriloquist in the middle of the night, threatening to throw Fats into the canyon if someone didn't come and get the doll immediately. Richard Attenborough ended up going to Hopkins' house to calm him down.
- Gary Oldman depicts Fats for a New York Times piece. Just... see for yourself.
- Even Hopkins reportedly thought Fats was Nightmare Fuel.
- The practically movie Dead Silence - the plot of which revolves around the ghost of a ventriloquist using her puppets (lots and lots of puppets!) as minions to do her dirty work so that when they scream, she can rip out their tongues and steal their voice as well as when it's revealed at the end the main character's wheelchair-bound father has been dead the whole movie, his "new wife" having been possessed by the ventriloquist, and operating him just like a puppet.
- Child's Play; A serial killer transfers his soul into a Good Guy doll named Chucky to avoid death after getting gunned down in a toy store.
- Averted in the 2007 comedy The Ten, where Wynona Rider's character carries on an affair with a quite inanimate ventriloquist's dummy because she apparently thinks she's a real person. However, the ventriloquist holds a conversation with the dummy when no one else is around, so either the dummy actually is alive, or the ventriloquist is just really weird.
- Billy, Jigsaw's dummy in the Saw films.
- Subverted (oddly enough) in the Adrien Brody movie Dummy. From the description (a socially stunted young man is obsessed with ventriloquism and attempts to woo a beautiful woman using his dummy) you would think it was a horror film- it's actually a romantic comedy.
- The Puppet Master series.
- Fletcher in the German-produced film Making Contact (released as Joey in its native Germany)), who looks like the love child of Charlie McCarthy and a deranged chimpanzee and wears a monocle. Among other things, the little nightmare puppet can shoot lightning out of his eyes, psychically control other toys and open portals to what appears to be limbo. And he tends to just growl like an angry dog in lieu of speaking (although he does have a few lines).
- The Goosebumps Night of the Living Dummy series and its Spinoffs. The main dummy, Slappy, differs in appearance depending on whether you're reading the book (looks like a mini-Joker with normal skin and a black tuxedo) or watching the TV series (clothes are the same, but head is rounder and has flaming red hair).
- The "split personality" version was the twist ending in a 1955 short story by Anthony Boucher.
- In the children's fantasy novel Fablehaven, the witch Muriel has an enchanted, living evil puppet named Mendigo, whom she uses to do her evil bidding (since she herself is bound to a specific hut). She also attempts to use him to gain the trust of the main characters by making him "dance" and "do tricks" for them, but they're all put off by how unnatural his movements are. In the second book, he does a Heel Face Turn and becomes a servant of the good guys. He's still creepy, but he's no longer evil.
- Parodied in Our Dumb Century, within an article about Howdy Doody. They refer to his dangling above the ground as "levitation."
- Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Crimson Clown and Zeebo the clown. They are both a Monster Clown to boot.
- "Bill," a character on the demented Canadian television show Puppets Who Kill, is a psychotic ventriloquist's dummy whose partners keep having unfortunate 'accidents.' Although an episode never goes by without one of the four puppets who comprise the main cast killing someone, Bill is responsible for the largest portion of the body count.
- Angel's "Smile Time" does this with puppets on a children's show.
- The Twilight Zone episode, "The Dummy" ends with an alcoholic ventriloquist and his fed-up dummy switching places.
- An episode of Fantasy Island featured a female ventriloquist whose dummy came to life and threatened to pull a similar switcheroo.
- Another creepy dummy related episode from The Twilight Zone was "Caesar and Me", in which the titular dummy convinces his owner to commit a burglary, lets him get arrested, then offers to team up with a creepy little girl.
- Although Shari Lewis isn't evil per se, there are many who find her character, Lamb Chop, more than a little creepy.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer subverted it by having the dummy be a demon hunter, long since cursed to that state by a group of demons called the Seven.
- A really strange example is the Pushing Daisies episode 'Dummy', in which a man claims to have been killed by a crash test dummy. As it turns out it was a Corrupt Corporate Executive disguised as a dummy.
- The Middleman episode "The Vampiric Puppet Lamentation" has Little Vladdie, Vlad the Impaler's favorite ventriloquist dummy. Add in a dummy for Vlad's vampire bride, an entire dummy convention, and, briefly, two dummies for the Middleman and Lacey and that's a whole lot of dummies. Fortunately, only Little Vladdie (and his bride) is evil.
- Mister Sin from the Doctor Who story the Talons of Weng-Chiang, actually a Killer Robot from the fifty-first century.
- The dolls from "Night Terrors", which turn you into one of them.
- And just two episodes later, the cackling ventriloquist's dummies in "The God Complex".
- Let's not forget Mr. Marbles, Kramer's dummy that plagues Jerry in one episode of Seinfeld.
- A comedic version is Franklin Bluth from Arrested Development. When GOB wears it, he tends to blurt out racist and sexist comments while Franklin speaks in Jive Turkey. Franklin is often used to knock out people by dipping his lips in ether and "giving some sugar" to the victim's nose.
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents: the episode "The Glass Eye". The presence of Billy Barty in the cast should give you a hint.
- Another Hitchcock episode: "And So Died Riabouchinska", based on a short story written by Ray Bradbury and previously adapted for radio's Suspense.
- The spoof soap opera Soap had Chuck and Bob Campbell, an almost-inseparable ventriloquist act; Bob wasn't exactly evil but could express the smartass opinions Chuck was too meek to.
- ALF had a ventriloquist puppet in one episode, with the puppet slowly taking the dominant part of the relationship. Though it is not entirely clear how much of that was just another of ALF's stunts to get attention and have someone to shovel the blame on.
- An episode of Tales from the Crypt about a junkie ventriloquist. His puppet was actually his conjoined twin. He uses the drugs to keep his twin sedated.
- Subverted in another episode. The puppeteer's puppet Coco does look pretty creepy, being a clown and all, and the puppeteer honestly believes that Coco is real in a Scarface sense. He turns out to be the kind of sorta good guy that kills the real villains (the puppeteer's wife and her lover) after they cause the puppeteer to suffer a fatal heart attack. It's also implied that Coco is being possessed by the dead puppeteer himself since his new face in the end looks just like the puppeteer.
- On an episode of Two and A Half Men, Alan took up ventriloquism. The dummy kept suggesting that they kill Charlie.
- As Oscar of Friday the 13th: The Series said, "Murder is easy. It's comedy that's difficult."
- In Love Soup, Alice had a weird dream in which she sees a friend of hers as a ventriloquist. When she goes to see him after the show, it turns out he is being controlled by the dummy. It gets very weird when she sleeps with the dummy, and afterwards she goes to the lifeless body of her friend and manipulates him into kissing her.
- If you were to believe the Wild Mass Guessing from Victorious that Robbie's puppet Rex does this, then yes. Except Rex isn't demonic - he's more of a comedic example. Or a mild Fridge Horror example.
- Conky on Trailer Park Boys. Conky is basically a puppet version of Bubbles. Bubbles has a very peculiar bond with Conky. Ricky's pranoia and subsequent plot to kill Conky is priceless.
- Stevil and Carlsbad, seen in the Halloween episodes of Family Matters, were evil ventriloquist dummy-versions of Steve and Carl. Of course, while the show got whacky in its later years, these episodes were All Just a Dream.
- The Collector: The Devil took this form once. The human-looking ventriloquist was his dummy.
- One episode of the German Sitcom Hausmeister Krause features an Ax Crazy serial killer, whose Kasperle hand-puppet urges him to "play Hannibal".
- Doctor Steel used to have a ventriloquist dummy as part of his stage show; on the DVD with commentary of his live performance he says regarding it, "As you may already know, ventriloquist dummys, all ventriloquist dummys, are inherently evil."
- Monty had a job as a ventriloquist, but his dummy's offensive wisecracks had him go from there to the employment office, to negotiating rent with the landlady, to begging in the street, where the dummy warned passersby that he'd only spend any money on booze.
- The Suspense episodes "Riabouchinska" and "Flesh Peddler".
- The CBS show Escape did a radio adaptation of "Dead of Night" (see Film listing above).
- "The Rival Dummy", on Molle Mystery Theater.
- Later adapted for television's Studio One in the '50s.
- The Yu-Gi-Oh monster card Malice Doll Of Demise qualifies, and is a favorite of many Fiend-Type duelists.
- An experimental gigantic Tedi from Conkers Bad Fur Day named, em, The Experiment, was apparently controlled by his puppet of a little squirrel girl, named, ah, Little Girl (Rare weren't very good at naming things back then). Sightly subverted in that we're introduced to Little Girl first before we find out its a puppet.
- Mel from Suikoden III is a puppeteer who blames her puppet "Branky" for its rude behavior and puts it through a fair amount of abuse. (She also uses it to inflict violence upon her enemies.) This is one of those rare cases where a puppeteer is actually far more disturbing than the puppet.
- A stock Castlevania enemy since Symphony of the Night. Dawn of Sorrow features a boss that uses these marionettes in battle, as well as placing voodoo dolls in iron maidens.
- The king of the medieval-era area in Secret Of Evermore spends his time watching a bizarre puppet show. Once the hero figures out that an evil creature is manipulating him, he fights it on the stage, while the puppets join in.
- Shadow Hearts has one sidequest per game involving these. There's also an inversion in Covenant, however; Geppetto's puppet, Cordelia, has much more mobility than any puppet should (especially since, although Geppetto uses puppet string for a weapon, she doesn't have strings), but's she actually a very sweet girl. In large part because the soul of Geppetto's late daughter has taken up residence in her, and she was a very nice girl in life.
- Case 3 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All introduces Trilo Quist, who isn't evil, but is pushy, loud-mouthed, and argumentative. He frequently bickers with, and even punches, his meek partner Ben.
- But let's get to the creepy part. The reason Ben and Trilo were near the crime scene was that Trilo was going to propose to Regina. The puppet was going to propose. Regina seems to think this was perfectly normal, and we never get Ben's thoughts on the subject.
- Mr. Bear the teddy bear from Advance Wars: Days of Ruin; at least if we take Penny's word for it. He seems to have his own agenda, however, making Penny give tactical advice to the heroes on how to defeat her, not ratting out Will during an infiltration mission and eventually convincing Penny not to collide a plane containing all of the protagonists and herself to kill them all. And no; he never actually talks, or does anything for that matter—Penny is just Ax Crazy and delegates half of her mind to the inner voice of Mr. Bear.
- Sadly, he was practically removed from the European version for some reason, making him nothing more than a nameless teddy bear in Penny's character sprite.
- He wasn't actually in the Japanese version to begin with and was added to the American version by a Woolseyism.
- Sadly, he was practically removed from the European version for some reason, making him nothing more than a nameless teddy bear in Penny's character sprite.
- Similar to the above, League of Legends has "Mr. Tibbers", the teddy-bear that Annie carries around with her - and turns into a giant, demonic version of itself when she uses her Ultimate ability.
- In The World Ends With You, Shiki has an adorable cat doll she made herself, named Mr. Mew. We don't get to watch, but upon entering the Reapers' Game, she animated him via a process called psychomancy. She later tells Neku that she only uses telekinesis to throw him around and levitate him in front of Noise—the doll apparently does all the slashing to ribbons on its own. Cue an ominous shot of Mr. Mew from behind. Neku begins to have thoughts and so do we.
- What if it's possessed...? Waiting to pork-chop us in the back of the head??
- In Final Fantasy IV, the Calcabrina, a set of magically possessed dolls that belonged to the dwarf princess Luca, were definitely working this vibe.
- The Wracky species in Monster Rancher is a wooden puppet/doll; not only does it have a creepy stare, but in its Idle Animation, it likes to start playing with enormous sharp knives out of nowhere. One of its "secret" forms has the appropriate name of Satan Claus.
- In Sam and Max Freelance Police: The Devil's Playhouse, the power of Psychic Ventriloquism is granted by a creepy-looking dummy known as Charlie Ho-Tep. In "Beyond the Alley of the Dolls", he turns out to be alive and the mastermind between the army of Sam clones that have been turning the city upside-down in an effort to find the Toys of Power.
- Lil Cal from Homestuck epitomizes this trope. If any individual can be responsible for anything in a world where You Can't Fight Fate and the present is caused by the future, then Cal is responsible for everything bad that happens in the comic other than the end of the world. (And yes, this includes at least one destroyed universe.)
- It is also noteworthy that Cal is literally a nightmare. Dave had nightmares from living with Cal, causing Cal to appear in the room where he dreamed. This Cal was then sent back in time and wound up being the cause of Dave's nightmares in the first place. and since Gamzee is the one who makes cal materialize in Dave's dreams with Terrifying Chucklevoodoos, then this means that Gamzee is DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYTHING BAD HAPPENING IN HOMESTUCK.
- To put it simply, the Bigger Bad of the series was made from Lil' Cal.
- And for more of the sock puppet variety, there is this excellent animation by Patrick Smith. Excellent, if cringe-worthy.
- "Your mother plays card games in Hell!"
- The literal Demonic Dummy in Ruby Quest.
- Popsicle Pete, from Seanbaby's Man Comics series, may not be a dummy, but he certainly looks like one and is certainly demonic.
- "NONE OF YOU ARE SAFE!!"
- The Simpsons episode, "Krusty Gets Kancelled", features a dummy named Gabbo that can apparently move and think independently of its "master". In spite of this, it's really more annoying than creepy.
- Much worse was the puppet Krusty tried to compete with Gabbo. Its jaw fell off, its skull caved in when he knocked on it...
- On a more humorous note, The Tick featured The Human Ton and Handy, a barely sentient 2000 lbs. Giant Mook with a green hand puppet that appeared to have a mind of its own and bossed The Human Ton around. Not to mention that Handy was considerably smarter than his handler - and all of the other supervillains they teamed up with for that matter. Intriguingly enough, for all the verbal abuse Handy put him through, The Human Ton's immediate reaction to having Handy removed was to scream loudly and faint.
- Mr. Hat from South Park fills the split personality role by becoming terribly jealous when Mr. Garrison leaves him behind. He also occasionally ventures off on his own, one time attempting to kill a celebrity for a perceived slight.
- Also Cartman's face-painted-on-a-hand Jennifer Lopez, although it's not entirely clear how much of that was "true" and how much a Xanatos Gambit to trick Kyle.
- Although it's a little more clear that this is the case when Jennifer Lopez and her alter-ego Mitch Conner reappear in the episodes 200 and 201. There it's revealed that Mitch Conner has been to Vietnam in 1977, knows Mr. Hat personally, and knows who's Cartman's real father is. But, this brings up more questions than answers, as Lopez could not have possibly done all that while attached to a fourth grader's body...
- Flippy in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius was originally just a dummy owned by Jimmy's dad. Jimmy implanted him with a chip to make Hugh a good comedian, but the plan backfired and Flippy started to absorb his dad's brainpower.
- An episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force has a pair of murderous ventriloquist dummies, who are only capable of saying "Kill" and "Die" respectively.
- Batman the Animated Series and The Batman have both used Arnold Wesker and Scarface (see entry in Comics section.) Since it's a doll and not a living creature, Batman the Animated Series used it for Getting Crap Past the Radar by killing it on screen.
- Methods include: tossing into a wood chipper, sliced in half by sawblades on a Conveyor Belt of Doom, and in its last appearance Arnold finally guns it down with a machine gun before it falls into a high-speed fan.
- Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab acknowledges that people suffer Primal Fear. They have an entire line of fragrances called Monsterbait. One of these is Monsterbait: Ventriloquist Dummy.
- Jeff Dunham is such a skilled performer that some of his livelier dummies seem to be their own entities (even, occasionally, when obviously being manipulated by Jeff, like when he reaches over to adjust the set of a foot). The most apparent case, Peanut, isn't evil and isn't as pushy as Trilo, but is decidedly weird and gets right up in Jeff's face a lot. Also he and Jose the Jalapeno (onna Steek) tend to converse in Spanish, which Jeff claims he can't speak. Jose acknowledges this with a long, slow look at Jeff and the Twilight Zone theme. Dunham's puppets are a rare aversion to this trope, however: Whether the viewer finds them funny or not depends, but only the most timorous of weenies would find any of them scary.
- Adding to the Nightmare Fuel is a short rant by Peanut (apparently ad-libbed by Dunham) during a stage show. The jokes were derived from a supposed argument between puppet and puppeteer, but Peanut then calmly explains to the audience that Jeff really does hate him, and would like to kill him, but can't because "that would be a form of suicide."
- Career. He's referring to Dunham's career.
- David Strassman uses a remote-controlled dummy to often disturbing effect.
- Averted by Edgar Bergen's Charlie McCarthy, who isn't evil, just a little naughty.