Believe it or not, I remember the TV series, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! – the 1980s version with Jack Palance that is, not the 1940s original with Robert Ripley himself. And now Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is taking over the world with its museums of oddities – not bad for one man’s obsession with the curiosities of the world.
Robert Ripley began his career as a cartoonist, doing sports cartoons and subjects such as people running backwards – clearly he always had a unique take on life. His own curiosity took him traveling around the world in search of the strange and interesting and, when he began to tour North America with a stage show of amazing stories and objects, people flocked to hear him speak.
In the 1920s, Ripley’s first Believe It or Not! book sold 500,000 copies. In the 1930s his first public exhibition of curios at Chicago State Fair attracted 2 million people. This man knew how to give the people what they wanted!
London’s Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is located near Piccadilly Circus and continues to give people what they want in terms of thrills, chills and surprises. There’s Marilyn Monroe’s makeup kit, a model of the Tower Bridge made from 264,345 matchsticks, a chewing gum sculpture of The Beatles, a picture of Charles and Diana’s wedding by artist Enrique Ramos in which the royal family is made of ants.
Another contribution by Ramos is a picture of Jimi Hendrix painted on dung. One of the best things is the Mirror Maze – find your way out of that if you can! The London Ripley’s does have one added attraction he may not have bargained on – the building is said to be haunted in its upper floors; you might get more than you paid for!