My McElroy Story
When I was 11 years old I heard about the
Ventriloquist (“Vent Haven”) Museum near Cincinnati, OH. I had been
doing ventriloquism since I was six years old so I had been at it
for a whopping five years! My mother took me to the museum and we
went on a private tour. Vent Haven is sort of the retirement home
for dummies; and on display were more than 500 old ventriloquist
dummies along with all sorts of “vent” memorabilia.
At that time, I did not own a professional vent dummy (actually they
are called “figures”). One of the things I was hoping to find out at
the museum was how to actually get one.
Almost immediately upon entering the museum I was drawn toward
certain figures that captivated me. “Tell me about this one,” I
asked the curator of the museum.
“Oh his name is Cecil Wigglenose. He was once owned by a
ventriloquist named Valentine Vox and was made by two brothers right
here in Cincinnati back in the 1930s. Their names are George and
Glenn McElroy. Would you like to see how he works?”
Would I?! She let me operate the figure. You could make just about
everything on his face move. The eyes rolled and went crossed, the
ears wiggled, the nose wiggled, the upper lip moved up revealing a
row of front teeth, the tongue stuck out, his eyebrows moved, he
winked, and his hair even popped up as if he were frightened! I had
never seen anything like it in my life. As an eleven year old I was
“How could I get a figure like that one?” I asked, wondering if
George and Glenn were still making them.
“The McElroys haven’t made any figures for years. They are still
alive, but they are both retired. Their figures have now become rare
collectors’ items and the Vent Haven museum has the largest
collection of them in the world -- six of them,” the curator
boasted. “And no one that I know of makes figures like they did.”
I’ve been told that the McElroys only made about 30 or 40 dummies,
which makes them an incredibly rare find. The Vent Haven Museum now
has nine figures made by the brothers. Apart from those nine, I’m
only aware of about maybe 20 others.
From that day on, I dreamed of owning a McElroy figure. In 1995 I
met someone at the Ventriloquist Convention that had a McElroy
figure that he was selling. I asked him how much he wanted and he
said “thirteen.” I thought to myself, “Thirteen hundred dollars?
Where’s my check book?” Then of course he clarified, “That’s
thirteen THOUSAND dollars.”
“Oh... never mind.” I actually considered mortgaging the house, but
my wife Lynda brought me back to reality. Instead, I bought a
limited edition signed poster of “Johnny Smiles,” another McElroy
creation on display at the museum. I had that poster matted and
framed where it hangs above my desk at home. Frequently I would look
at that poster and say to myself, “Well, maybe some day...”
On January 4, 2002 I did a program for the “Singles Ministry” of a
church. After the program a woman came up to me and told me that her
grandfather had been a ventriloquist and that she had inherited his
I began to ask her about the history of the inherited dummy. She
said that she wasn’t sure, but that she thought that it was made by
a couple of guys in Ohio. Needless-to-say, my heart skipped a few
beats, but I was still skeptical. I asked her if it had a lot of
interesting movements on it. She said, “Oh yes, it has wiggling
ears, hair that pops up, a nose that wiggles.”
“So how old is this dummy?” I asked her.
“Oh, my grandfather performed with it for probably 60 years. He was
a vent during WWII,” she said.
Trying to contain my excitement while not allowing my hopes to get
too high I asked if she was interested in selling the figure.
“Yes,” she said, “That’s why I came up to talk to you. I enjoyed
your show and was so touched by your message that I thought it would
be neat to see my grandfather's dummy back in the hands of a
ventriloquist that could carry on his legacy.”
I then explained to her the history of George and Glenn McElroy, the
figures they created that fit her description, as well as the rarity
and value of these dummies. I expressed to her that it had been a
life-long dream to own a McElroy but I also warned her that if her
figure was indeed a McElroy, I might just pee my pants!
She laughed and we scheduled a meeting at her home for the following
day. I don’t think I need to tell you that I didn’t sleep much that
night. When I got to her house at the appointed time, she invited me
in. She had the figure sitting on the sofa. I walked over, looked at
it and know it was a McElroy and I began to get choked up. I just
couldn’t believe it! She was touched as well and looking at me she
said, “I think God has been saving him for you.” I will never forget
that statement. We both got choked up. To bring some levity to the
moment, she asked, “You’re not going to pee your pants now are you?”
After I pulled myself together, I told her that I would love to buy
the figure, and we negotiated a price that we could both be happy
with. My figure has the exact same face as “Johnny Smiles,” the very
same face as the poster that has hung over my desk these past
several years! I’ve redressed him in a tuxedo now, and I’ve decided
to name him “Mack Elroy” in honor of his makers. I’ve been using him
in my act since mid-February 2002.
In April, my wife Lynda and I attended a ventriloquist convention.
There was a guy there in the Vent Convention Dealers Room (Tom
Ladshaw) that had a table where he was selling Ventriloquism
memorabilia. I told Tom that I had a “McElroy” figure and asked him
if he had anything at his table that had anything to do with the
McElroys. He told me that he had some old photos of some
ventriloquists who used McElroy figures. He then pulled out a photo
that was taken probably in the late 40’s of the figure that I now
own along with the ventriloquist who used him. I about fell over. I
told Tom that was the figure that I now owned. He told me that he
had been searching for that figure for years!
Indeed it has been fun for me to incorporate Mack Elroy into my act.
Frankly, he is a challenge to operate, but I have enjoyed the
challenge. If you would like to see Mack Elroy in action, along with
my other “partners,” give me a call to book a performance and check
out my DVD of the show. My web site is
Click on pictures for