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Ventriloquism

VENTRILOQUISM (Lat. venter, belly, and loqui, to speak), the art of producing the voice in such a manner that it shall appear to proceed, not from the speaker's own mouth, but from some place altogether distant from him. The art of ventriloquism was formerly supposed to result from a peculiar use of the stomach (whence the name) during the process of inhalation. As a matter of fact, the words are formed in the normal manner, but the breath is allowed to escape very slowly, the tones being muffled by narrowing the glottis and the mouth opened as little as possible, while the tongue is retracted and only its tip moves. Gestures and facial expression are employed at the same time to assist in the deception by stimulating the imagination of the listeners and to distract their attention from the speaker. " Thus," says Huxley, " if the ventriloquist desire to create the belief that a voice issues from the bowels of the earth, he imitates, with great accuracy, the tones of such a half -stifled voice, and suggests the existence of some one uttering it by directing his answers and gestures towards the ground. The gestures and tones are such as would be produced by a given cause; and, no other cause being apparent, the mind of the bystander insensibly judges the suggested cause to exist." Ventriloquism, which is still a recognized form of conjuring entertainment, is of ancient origin. Traces of the art are found in Egyptian and Hebrew archaeology. Eurykles of Athens was the most celebrated of Greek ventriloquists, who were called after him Euryklides, and also Engastrimanteis (belly-prophets). It is not impossible that the priests of ancient times were masters of this art, and that to it may be ascribed such miracles as the speaking statues of the Egyptians, the Greek oracles, and the stone in the river Pactolus, the sound of which put robbers to flight. Many uncivilized races of modern times are adepts in ventriloquism, as the Zulus, the Maoris and the Eskimos. It is well known in Hindustan and China, where it is practised by travelling magicians.

See De la Chapelle, Le Ventriloque, ou I'engastrimythe (London, 1772); E. Schultz, Die Kunst des Bauchredens (Erfurt, 1895); Sievers, Grundz&ge der Phonetic (Leipzig, 1901); Russel, Ventriloquism (London, 1898).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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