Fear of Ventriloquists Dummies or
Automatonophobia can be defined as the irrational fear of wax figures, humanoid robots, audio animatronics,
ventriloquist’s dummies or other
figures that represent human beings. Although this condition rarely develops into a full blown phobia, the
person with this condition will very likely experience hesitation when encountering these figures.
The cause of the fear of ventriloquist’s dummies is hardly known.
However, one theory
states that it may be partly because of our own innate expectations of human behavior. Most of the time, we tend to
mistrust people who stare at us blankly, who remain quiet or act in ways that are different from us and from
most people we know. Whether the human figure is programmed to move or to stay quiet, automatons look like
humans but do not behave like one at all.
The level of expertise and craftsmanship in these human figures can vary from one piece to another. Today,
automatons look surprisingly lifelike. However, a closer look and evaluation will show that they are not really
humans and a bit “off’”. These human like figures have smooth, perfect skin and vacant eyes – all these things are
common in all automatons but they do not perfectly resemble real human bodies.
People who make these figures are highly aware of the quality of their work as well as its limitations. There
are automatons housed in displays with strategic lighting just to make sure that the slight unreality will not be
readily noticed. That is why in most museums where automatons are features, they use dim lights, spotlights and
other effects that imply a sense of “creepiness”, further adding to the fear provoking effect of the figures.
Automatonophobia is often attributed to the fear of masks or maskaphobia. The fear of dolls or pediophobia is
considered as a subset of the fear of dummies. All these fears are believed to have similar or related causes.
This particular phobia of ventriloquist’s dummies or human figures can manifest in a number of ways. There are
some people who are afraid of only wax figures, while some are afraid of dolls alone. Some people find it
disturbing to visit theme parks and local attractions that often use moving humanoid figures in their displays.
If you have this type of phobia, you may experience shaking, crying, extreme heart palpitations and other
physiological effects that imply great fear whenever you are confronted with the subject of your fear. You may also
find it very difficult to go inside a place where human like figures are displayed. And if you encounter one
unexpectedly, your reaction will only be one among three things – you may run away without looking back, you may
freeze in place without even knowing it, or you hide as fast as you can.