whip the dummy

The Dummy

"The Dummy" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone.

Opening Narration

You're watching a ventriloquist named Jerry Etherson, a voice-thrower par excellence. His alter ego, sitting atop his lap, is a brash stick of kindling with the sobriquet 'Willie.' In a moment, Mr. Etherson and his knotty-pine partner will be booked in one of the out-of-the-way bistros, that small, dark, intimate place known as the Twilight Zone.


The episode opens with Jerry Etherson, a ventriloquist, and his dummy Willie in the middle of one of his acts, somewhere in New York City. After the act he goes back to his dressing room and begins to drink from a liquor bottle he'd had hidden in a drawer. His agent comes in and is upset that he's drinking again. He tells his agent that Willie is alive and that he is at the mercy of the dummy. The agent does not believe him and thinks he might need psychiatric help.

Jerry decides that he is going to perform with a different dummy for his next act (and all acts in the future) and locks Willie in a trunk. After the second act, his agent tells him that he is quitting, but Jerry says he is leaving to go to another city and try to get away from Willie. His agent tells him that it doesn't matter where he goes; he'll still have this delusion if he doesn't deal with it here and now. While he's standing outside of the back door to the theater, he hears faint whispers of Willie's voice. He sees the dummy's shadow and continues to hear his voice until a coworker from the theater walks up and asks if anything is wrong. Jerry invites her to get a coffee, but does it nervously and eccentrically, thereby causing the woman to become frightened and run away.

As soon as she leaves, he hears Willie's voice again and runs back into the theater. He goes into the dark dressing room, opens the trunk and throws the dummy on the floor, smashing it. But when he turns on the light, he realizes that he smashed the fake dummy that he was going to use in his future acts. He can't understand how he could have been mistaken. He sees Willie sitting on the chair, laughing. Jerry asks how he can be real when he's made of wood, and Willie tells him that it was he, Jerry, who made him alive.

The scene cuts to a stage in Kansas City announcing that the next act will be "Jerry & Willie" and we see the beginning of the act from the back of the man who walked out. As the camera rotates to the front, it is revealed that the man is actually Willie, and he is holding a dummy that looks just like Jerry.

Closing Narration

What's known in the parlance of the times as the old switcheroo, from boss to blockhead in a few uneasy lessons. And if you're given to nightclubbing on occasion, check this act. It's called Willie and Jerry, and they generally are booked into some of the clubs along the 'Gray Night Way' known as the Twilight Zone.

Preview for Next Week's Story

Next week through the good offices of Mr. Richard Matheson we tell you a story of a young man's fancy, which is kind of a euphemistic description of a mortal combat between the living and the dead, between the present and the past, between Miss Phyllis Thaxter and Mr. Alex Nicol. The battleground is this old house and its front door will be opened to you next week on The Twilight Zone.


Influenced by a 1945 British film entitled Dead of Night, in which Michael Redgrave played a ventriloquist convinced that his dummy was coming evilly to life. Further inspiration was taken from an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents titled The Glass Eye, in which Jessica Tandy plays a woman who falls for a handsome ventriloquist (played by Billy Barty), only to find that the ventriloquist is in fact the dummy, while the hideous dummy is the actual ventriloquist.

R. L. Stine's Goosebumps series features a saga of several books/stories (the first of which is entitled Night of the Living Dummy) with a similar premise.

Abner Biberman also directed "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You".

Willie can be seen at Disney's Hollywood Studios in the dark corner of a barred off exhibit to the side of one of the elevator exits of the "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" ride. Whether or not this dummy was used in the actual episode is unconfirmed.

A similar Twilight Zone episode of a dummy coming to life is Caesar and Me.

A Buffy: The Vampire Slayer episode titled The Puppet Show focuses on a living ventriloquist's dummy who was once a living human.


  • DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1593931360
  • Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0970331090

External links

Twilight Zone links

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