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. The Believe It or Not panel proved popular and was later adapted into a wide variety of formats, including radio, television, comic books, a chain of museums and a book series.
The Ripley collection includes 20,000 photographs, 30,000 artifacts and more than 100,000 cartoon panels. With 80-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 and games.
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 unrelated 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 Post. 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. In 1930, Ripley moved to the New York American and picked up by the King Features Syndicate, being quickly syndicated in an international basis.
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 Cartoonists Society's 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. The current artist is John Graziano.
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 Ralph Graczak's Our Own Oddities, John Hix's Strange as it Seems, and Gordon Johnston's It Happened in Canada. 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.
Some notable books:
Ripley's Believe It or Not (1929), reprinted in 2004
Ripley's Mammoth Book of Believe It or Not (1955)
Ripley's Giant Book of Believe It or Not (1976)
Ripley's 35th Anniversary Believe It or Not (1954)
Ripley's 50th Anniversary Believe It or Not (1968)
Ripley's Believe It or Not Special Edition 2012 (2011)
A series of paperback books containing annotated sketches from the newspaper feature:
In April 1930, Ripley brought "Believe It or Not" to radio, the first of several series heard on NBC, CBS 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 (1947–48).
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 between 1930 and 1932 for Warner BrothersVitaphone. A 2-DVD release featuring 24 of these theatrical shorts is available in the USA beginning March 16, 2010 from Warner Home Video, through their Warner Archive manufacture-on-demand program.
Ripley's short films were parodied in a 1939 Warner BrothersMerrie Melodiescartoon 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?"
20th Century Fox produced another film short titled Acquitted By The Sea, released September 27, 1940, produced by Truman Talley and directed by Earl Allvine. This told an unusual story involving the Titanic
The first Believe It or Not TV series, a live show hosted by Ripley, premiered March 1, 1949. Shortly after the 13th episode, on May 27, 1949, Ripley died of a heart attack and several of his friends substituted as 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. Based on three pilots/specials conceived, produced and directed by Ron Lyon and Jack Haley, Jr, (1980–81) the series was a Haley/Lyon/Rastar production in association with Columbia Pictures. Featuring film star Jack Palance who hosted the popular series throughout its run, the series had three different co-hosts, who appeared from season to season, initially actress Catherine Shirriff followed by Palance's daughter, Holly Palance, later singer Marie Osmond. The 1980s series reran on the Sci-Fi Channel (UK) and Sci-Fi Channel (US) during the 1990s; it is currently airing on NBCUniversal's horror/suspense-themed cable channel Chiller.
An animated series, Ripley's Believe It or Not!, was produced for Fox Family 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! aired from 2000 to 2003 on TBS. Hosted by actor Dean Cain, executive-produced by Dan Jbara and co-executive-produced by Dennis Lortz, the series took a slightly more sensationalistic approach to its subject matter and "premiered as the highest-rated original series on cable" at that time. The series was cancelled in October 2003 after four seasons. Like the previous syndicated live-action series, this latest edition moved to the Biography Channel for reruns, and continues to air today. Outside of the U.S., re-runs of this 3rd series are still screening in countries such as Australia, where the show is currently broadcast on the Australian version of the Sci-Fi Channel.
In 2006, the Philippines made a local adaptation of Ripley's Believe it or Not! 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 short-lived.
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 is part of the "Bilib Ka Ba? Nights" ("Do You Believe? Nights") Block of the Network which premiered August 18, 2008.
Internet and games
In 2006, the Ripleys.com website held a "Dear Mr. Ripley" contest in which contestants submitted "unbelievable" stories and with a public vote selecting a winner. The submissions included stories about a two-faced kitten, a car hurdler, a painting on human flesh canvas, a snake swallowing a golfball, an unopened deck of cards in a thin-necked bottle, a collector of Converse shoes with over 400 pairs, a man who survived a dumptruck falling on him, a painting made of nail polish, a child who played sports while hopping on a pogo stick, and a tongue swallower. The winners were announced on December 15, 2006.
Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum at Innovative Film City in Bangalore, India.
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. (In an apparent promotional gimmick, beds were provided in the Odditorium for people who "fainted" daily.) 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, Dallas and Cleveland. 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 December 2010, there are 32 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 ones in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. Others are constructed oddly, such as the Orlando, Florida Odditorium which is built off-level as if the building is sinking.
(Alphabetical, by country)
Victoria Peak, Hong Kong (closed) – There was an Auditorium in The Peak.
Bangalore, India – This Ripley's Museum is at the Innovative Film city.
Mandaluyong City, Philippines (closed) – This Ripley's museum was in the Shangri-La Mall in Ortigas.
Jeju Island, South Korea - This Ripley’s museum is located at the Jeju Jungmun resort.
Pattaya, Thailand – This Ripley's museum is in Royal Garden Plaza in Pattaya. It appears as if an airplane has crashed into it.
Copenhagen – This Ripley's museum is a smaller one located close to the city hall and next to the giant bronze statue of Jacob McCartney Walters.
London – This Ripley's museum is the world's largest and it opened on August 20, 2008 at the London Pavilion, 1 Piccadilly Circus. It houses over 500 exhibits from educational artifacts to the truly weird and wonderful. It is famed for its large collection of Marilyn Monroe personal belongings and interactive exhibits.
Blackpool – This Ripley's museum was the first and it 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 in 1993 and closed in 1997. It is now an indoor miniature golf course that uses some of the leftovers from the Odditorium as scenery for the holes.
Ripley's in Niagara Falls, Ontario
Cavendish, Prince Edward Island – This Ripley's museum is located in a concentrated area of tourist attractions adjacent to the Prince Edward Island National Park. A lighthouse (the top broken) features the Ripley's sign. The museum is adjoined to a wax museum and also features a mini-golf attraction.
Niagara Falls, Ontario – This Ripley's museum is shaped like the Empire State Building fallen over, with King Kong standing on top of it. This is the second oldest Ripley's Museum in the world and is one of two in Canada. Located across the street is a Ripley's 4D Moving Theatre, and up the street there is a Louis Tussauds Wax Works which is owned by Ripley's.
Buena Park (closed) – This Ripley's Museum was located in Buena Park's E-Zone district on Beach Boulevard, close to Knott's Berry Farm. This is the location where Steve Sindad broke the world record for consuming ranch dressing, drinking 61 bottles worth (about 7 gallons). It closed its doors on March 30, 2009.
Key West – This Ripley's Museum is located on the famous Duval Street.
Orlando – This museum is located on the busy International Drive tourist corridor, and is built to appear as though it is dropping into a sinkhole.
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. It also has a moving 4-D theater.
St. Augustine – It is the oldest Ripley's Believe It or Not! and is located in the Castle Warden, was purchased shortly after his death in 1949 and opened in 1950. Prior to becoming home to his 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. It was originally a Moorish Revival style mansion, built in 1887 by millionaire William Warden as a winter home. Its popularity and success led Ripley's associates to open new establishments throughout the United States and the world. 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 Abraham Lincoln), and shamanistic apparati from cultures around the world.
Baltimore – This Ripley's Museum opened June 26, 2012, in the Light Street Pavilion of Harborplace on the Inner Harbor.
Ocean City – This Ripley's Museum 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 – This Ripley's museum looks like a stone edifice that was cracked by an earthquake.
Atlantic City – The Ripley's museum is on the famous Boardwalk.
Newport – This Ripley's museum was funded by Jacob Walters and built in 1986. It is at the Historic Bayfront and one of three amusements known as Mariner Square. The other two are the Wax Works and the Undersea Gardens.
Myrtle Beach – This Ripley's museum looks like a building cracked by a hurricane.
Gatlinburg – The original museum, built in 1970, was destroyed by a massive fire caused by a faulty light fixture in a neighboring shop on July 14, 1992. It had to be completely rebuilt. Some of Ripley's most prized and unique possessions were consumed by the blaze. The current museum opened in 1994, with a tribute to the city's firefighters included among the collections. Artifacts salvaged from the blaze sport "I Survived The Fire" decals. It also has nearly twice the amount of exhibit space as the original. As with some other Ripley museums, it has a theme. It looks as if it has survived a major earthquake. Its interior and exterior feature cracks throughout, adhering to the 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 factory, several arcades, two miniature golf courses, and a mirror maze all of which carry the Ripley's brand name and signature logo.
El Paso - This Ripley's Museum is located at 7051 S Desert Blvd. in Canutillo, Texas.
Gold Coast – This Ripley's museum is located at the popular tourist destination Surfers Paradise. It reopened in the new Soul Centre on January 22, 2010, featuring a band of human oddities playing songs at the entrance.
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". However, two myths[specify] dispelled by MythBusters using the scientific method have appeared in their books. One myth which had previously appeared in Ripley's books, concerning an accidental execution of 1,200 Turkish prisoners, has had its accuracy called into question by Snopes. If one sends a letter questioning an inaccuracy they will receive a card that says "Believe It or Not!"
Hananuma Masakichi statue – one of the most famous Ripley artifacts: a statue of a man which is indistinguishable from his creator.