Ripley's Believe It or Not!
is a franchise, founded by Robert Ripley
, which deals in bizarre events and items so strange and unusual that readers might question the claims (however, to this day, authorities at the company insist that they thoroughly investigate everything and ensure their accuracy before they publish their research. This is emphasized on their television
show, where they often say "If you see it on Ripley's, you can bet that it's real").
The Believe It or Not
panel proved popular and was later adapted into a wide variety of formats, including radio
, a chain of museums
, a book series and a pinball
game (produced by Stern Pinball, Inc.
The Ripley collection includes 20,000 photographs, 20,000 artifacts and more than 130,000 cartoon panels. With 50-plus attractions, the Orlando-based Ripley Entertainment, Inc., a division of the Jim Pattison Group, is a global company with an annual attendance of more than 12 million guests. Ripley Entertainment's publishing and broadcast divisions oversee numerous projects, including the syndicated TV series, the newspaper cartoon panel, books, posters, games and mobile phone content.
Syndicated feature panel
"Ripley’s Believe It or Not!" is a registered trademark of Ripley Entertainment, Inc. Ripley first called his cartoon feature, originally involving sports feats, Champs and Chumps
, and it premiered on December 19, 1918, in the New York Globe
. Ripley began adding items not related to sports, and in October 1919 he changed the title to Believe It or Not
. When the Globe
folded in 1923, Ripley moved to the New York Evening News
. That same year, Ripley hired Norbert Pearlroth
as his researcher, and Pearlroth spent the next 52 years of his life in the New York Public Library, working ten hours a day and six days a week in order to find unusual facts for Ripley. Other writers and researchers included Lester Byck and Don Wimmer.
Those working on the syndicated newspaper panel after Ripley included Joe Campbell (1946–1956), Art Sloggatt (1917-1975), Clem Gretter (1941–1949), Carl Dorese, Bob Clarke (1943–1944), Stan Randall, Paul Frehm (1938–1978; he became the full time artist in 1949) and his brother Walter Frehm (1948–1989); Walter worked part time with his brother Paul and became a full time Ripley artist from 1978–1989. Paul Frehm won the National Cartoonist Society Newspaper Panel Cartoon Award for 1976 for his work on the series. Clarke later created parodies of Believe It or Not! for Mad, as did Wally Wood and Ernie Kovacs, who also did a recurring satire called "Strangely Believe It!" on his TV programs.
At the peak of its popularity, the syndicated feature was read daily by about 80 million readers, and during the first three weeks of May 1932 alone, Ripley received over two million pieces of fan mail. Dozens of paperback editions reprinting the newspaper panels have been published over the decades. Other strips and books borrowed the Ripley design and format, such as Strange As It Seems by John Hix and It Happened in Canada by Gordon Johnston. Recent Ripley's Believe It or Not! books containing new material have supplemented illustrations with photographs.
Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz's first publication of artwork was published by Ripley. It was a cartoon claiming his dog was "a hunting dog who eats pins, tacks and razor blades." Schulz's dog Spike later became the model for Peanuts' Snoopy.
In April 1930, Ripley brought "Believe It or Not" to radio
, the first of several series heard on NBC
and the Mutual Broadcasting System
. As noted by Ripley On Radio
, Ripley's broadcasts varied in length from 15 minutes to 30 minutes and aired in numerous different formats. When Ripley's 1930 debut on The Collier Hour
brought a strong listener reaction, he was given a Monday night NBC series beginning April 14, 1930, followed by a 1931–32 series airing twice a week. After his strange stories were dramatized on NBC's Saturday Party
, Ripley was the host of The Baker's Broadcast
from 1935 to 1937. He was scheduled in several different 1937–38 NBC timeslots and then took to the road with popular remote broadcasts. See America First with Bob Ripley
(1939–40) on CBS expanded geographically into See All the Americas
, a 1942 program with Latin music. In 1944, he was heard five nights a week on Mutual in shows with an emphasis on WWII. Romance, Rhythm and Ripley
aired on CBS in 1945, followed by Pages from Robert L. Ripley's Radio Scrapbook
Robert Ripley is known for several radio firsts. He was the first to broadcast nationwide on a radio network from mid-ocean, and he also participated in the first broadcast from Buenos Aires to New York. Assisted by a corps of translators, he was the first to broadcast to every nation in the world simultaneously.
As the years went on, the show became less about oddities and featured guest-driven entertainment such as comedy routines. Sponsors over the course of the program included Pall Mall cigarettes and General Foods. The program ended its successful run in 1948 as Ripley prepared to convert the show format to television syndication.
Films, television, internet, and computer game
The newspaper feature has been adapted into more than a few films and TV shows.
- Ripley hosted a series of two dozen Believe It or Not! theatrical short films in 1930 and 1931 for Warner Brothers Vitaphone. He also appeared in a Vitaphone musical short, Seasons Greetings (1931), with Ruth Etting, Joe Penner, Ted Husing, Thelma White, Ray Collins, and others.
- Ripley's short films were parodied in a 1939 Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies cartoon titled Believe it or Else!. Released on 25 June, directed by Tex Avery and written by Dave Monahan, it featured a running gag in which Egghead (a prototype Elmer Fudd) appeared to declare, "I don't believe it!" On 5 November of the same year, another Avery documentary parody, Fresh Fish, was released. Written by Jack Miller, this cartoon's running gag was a two-headed fish that kept swimming onto the screen to ask, "Pardon me, but can you tell me where I can find Mister Ripley?"
- The first Believe It or Not TV series, a live show hosted by Ripley, premiered March 1, 1949. Shortly after the 13th episode, Ripley died May 27, 1949 of a heart attack and several of Ripley's friends appeared as the host including future Ripley's Believe It or Not! president Doug Storer. Robert St. John served as host from the second season until the series ended on October 5, 1950.
- Ripley's Believe It or Not! aired from 1982 to 1986 on the American ABC television network. Character actor Jack Palance hosted the popular series throughout its run, while three different co-hosts appeared from season to season, including Palance's daughter, Holly Palance, actress Catherine Shirriff, and singer Marie Osmond. The 1980s series reran on the Sci-fi Channel (UK) and Sci-fi Channel (US) during the 1990s.
- An animated series, Ripley's Believe It or Not!, was produced in 1999 and followed the adventures of "Michael Ripley", Robert Ripley's nephew. The show was aimed at a younger audience, and would often feature Michael going around the world.
- The most recent series based upon the comic strip, once again titled Ripley's Believe It or Not! also debuted in 2000 on TBS. Hosted by actor Dean Cain, the series took a slightly more sensationalistic approach to its subject matter. The series was cancelled in October 2003 after four seasons. Like the previous syndicated live-action series, this latest edition moved to the Sci Fi Channel for reruns, and continues to air today.
- Ripleys.com held a Dear Mr. Ripley contest where 10 contestants were chosen to be voted upon as to which of their stories is the most unbelievable. The contestants included a two-faced kitten, a car hurdler, a painting on human flesh canvas, a swallowed golfball by a snake, an unopen deck of cards in a thin neck bottle, a collector of Converse shoes with over 400 pairs, a man that survived a dumptruck falling on him, a painting made of nail polish, a kid that pogo's and plays sports at the same time, and a tongue swallower. The winners were announced on December 15, 2006.
- The puzzle-solving game Ripley's Believe It or Not!: The Riddle of Master Lu was published and developed by Sanctuary Woods, and released in 1995.
- A movie about the life of Robert Ripley is to be released in 2009 and starring Jim Carrey.
When Ripley first displayed his collection to the public at the Chicago World's Fair
in 1933, it was labeled Ripley’s Odditorium and attracted over two million visitors during the run of the fair. That successful exhibition led to trailer shows across the country during the 1930s, and Ripley's collections were exhibited at many major fairs and expositions, including San Francisco
, San Diego
. In New York
, the famed Times Square
exhibit opened in 1939 on Broadway
. In 1950, a year after Ripley's death, the first permanent Odditorium opened in St. Augustine, Florida
As of August 2006, there are 29 Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditoriums around the world. Odditoriums, in the spirit of Believe It or Not!, are often more than simple museums cluttered with curiosities. Some include theaters and arcades, such as the one in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Others are constructed oddly, such as the Orlando, Florida Odditorium which is built off-level as if the building is sinking. The first one was opened in Chicago in 1933, where, in an apparent promotional gimmick, beds were provided in the Odditorium for people who "fainted" daily.
(Note that the list below is incomplete and is not all inclusive.)
- San Francisco - There is a Ripley's Museum located near Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco.
- Buena Park, California - This Ripley's Odditorium is located in Buena Park's E-Zone district on Beach Boulevard. It is within close distance of Knott's Berry Farm as well as the now-closed Movieland Wax Museum. This is the location where Steve Sindad broke the world record for consuming ranch dressing, drinking 61 bottles worth (about 7 gallons).
- Hollywood - There is a Ripley's Museum on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
- St. Augustine - Ripley's oldest Odditorium, located in the Castle Warden, was purchased shortly after his death in 1949 and opened in 1950. Prior to becoming home to Ripley's vast collections from his many travels, "The Castle" as it is known, was once a hotel which played host to many famous guests, including Ripley himself and author/owner Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. "The Castle" was originally a Moorish Revival style mansion, built in 1887 by millionaire William Warden as a winter home. The popularity and success of this museum led Ripley's associates to open new establishments throughout the United States and the world. But "The Castle" remains the permanent home of Ripley's personal collections and is the flagship of the Odditoriums. Perhaps not surprisingly, it is also rumored to be haunted. Segments of the most recent Ripley's TV series were filmed here, including the opening credits. Among the attractions here are a mummified cat, a 1/12 scale model of the original Ferris wheel made out of Erector sets, life and death masks of famous celebrities (including Abe Lincoln), and shamanistic apparatus from cultures around the world.
- Panama City Beach - Opened in 2006, this Ripley's Museum is at the intersection of Front Beach Road, Middle Beach Road, and Thomas Drive on Panama City Beach and is designed to look like a 1950s luxury cruise liner that has run aground on the beach. The Panama City Beach Ripley's Believe It or Not location also has a moving 4-D theater.
- Orlando - This Odditorium is located on the busy International Drive tourist corridor, and is built to appear as though it is dropping into a sinkhole.
- Key West - The Ripley's Museum is located on the famous Duval Street.
- Ocean City - The Ripley's Museum in Ocean City, Maryland is located on the boardwalk at Wicomico Street. It is a popular destination for tourists and it sits at the entrance to Jolly Roger's Pier Amusement Park. It features a large model of a shark that appears as if it has crashed through the museum.
- Branson - The Branson, Missouri museum looks like a stone edifice that was cracked by an earthquake.
- Atlantic City - The Ripley's Museum in Atlantic City, New Jersey is located on the boardwalk between New York Avenue and St. James Place. The museum facade is designed to look as if the front of the building is falling off!
- New York City - The Ripley museum opened on 42nd Street in July 2007.
- Myrtle Beach - The Myrtle Beach, S.C. museum looks like a building cracked by a hurricane. It is at the corner of 9th Avenue and Ocean Boulevard, across from the famed pavilion. Ripley's has five other attractions in Myrtle Beach besides the museum: an aquarium, a moving-theater attraction, an arcade, a haunted house, and a house of mirrors.
- Gatlinburg - The original Gatlinburg, Tennessee museum, built in 1970 by Douglas Schnittker, was destroyed by a massive fire caused by a faulty light fixture in a neighboring shop on July 14, 1992. The museum had to be completely rebuilt. Some of Ripley's most prized and unique possessions were consumed by the blaze. The current museum opened in 1995, with a tribute to the city's firefighters included among the collections. Artifacts salvaged from the blaze sport "I Survived The Fire" decals. The new building also has nearly twice the amount of exhibit space as the original. As with some other Ripley museums, this building has a theme. The museum looks as if it has survived a major earthquake. The interior and exterior of the building feature cracks throughout, adhering to the theme. The original museum featured the same theme. The Ripley's Company has since opened several other attractions in the area, including a "four-dimensional" theater, a state-of-the-art aquarium, a haunted mansion, several arcades, two miniature golf attractions and a mirror maze all of which carry the Ripley's brand name and signature logo.
- Grand Prairie - Ripley’s Museum is located on 601 East Safari Parkway in Grand Prairie, Texas. It is just west of downtown Dallas, Texas on I-30 Highway, and it is on the northwest intersection of Belt Line Road & I-30,7 miles East of Six Flags.
- San Antonio - The Ripley's Museum is located across from the historic Alamo. In the same building is a wax museum, and just a short walk down the road is Ripley's Haunted Adventure.
- Williamsburg - This Ripley's Museum in Williamsburg opened in 2006. The Museum has 11 galleries and over 300 exhibits. There is also a 4D Theater that shows 3D movies with added effects (air, water, scent, etc.)
- London - The world's largest Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum opened on August 20th, 2008 at 1 Piccadilly Circus.
- Blackpool - The first Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum opened in the UK is based in the popular holiday destination of Blackpool.
- Great Yarmouth (closed) - There was an Odditorium in Great Yarmouth on the east coast of England. It opened 1993 and it closed in 1997. It is now a wax museum.
- Bangalore, India - The Ripley's Museum is at the Innovative Filmcity in Bangalore.
- Pattaya, Thailand - The Ripley's Museum is in Royal Garden Plaza in Pattaya.
It appears as if an airplane has crashed into it.
- Genting Highlands, Malaysia - The Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum is inside the First World Hotel in Genting Highlands, Malaysia.
- Metro Manila, Philippines (closed) - In the Shangri-La Mall in Ortigas.
- Hong Kong, China (closed) - There was an Odditorium in The Peak, Hong Kong. It opened early 1998.
- Kuwait City, Kuwait - The Ripley's museum is located in the Hadiqat Al Sheaab Amusement Park.
- Gold Coast, Australia - There is a Ripley's Museum located at the popular tourist destination Surfers Paradise. At the museum's entrance stands a water display illusion with a giant floating faucet and tap pouring never-ending water into a barrel. This museum is closed for renovations until late 2009.
- Mexico City, Mexico - Opened in 1992, the Mexico City's Ripley's Museum is shaped like a Medieval castle and has 14 exhibitions halls within it. It was the first of several Ripley's museums to open in Latin America.
- Copenhagen, Denmark - A smaller museum located close to the city hall of Copenhagen, next to a the museum of Jacob McCartney Walters.
Around the World
In 2006, the Philippines made a local adaptation of Ripley's Believe it or Not but with a local host. ABC-5 (now known as TV5) was the first to make it with Raymond Bagatsing as host. The show however was shortlived.
In 2008, GMA Network bought the rights and revived Ripley's in the Philippines. This time Chris Tiu of the Ateneo Blue Eagles was chosen as host. It will be part of the "Bilib Ka Ba? Nights" Block of the Network which premiered August 17, 2008.