Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium
An American Tradition Comes to New York City's Times Square

For over 40 years, Robert Ripley-- the modern Marco Polo and the real-life Indiana Jones-- traveled the world collecting the unbelievable, the inexplicable, the one-of-a-kind.  All of it amazing and much of it extremely amusing.  His collection is housed in over 27 museums in 10 countries.  Each museumís collection is 90% unique and different.  After his famous Believe It or Not! cartoon took off in hundreds of Sunday newspapers coast to coast, Robert Ripley became an avid world traveler, seeking stories of bizarre and unusual proportions to include in his internationally known feature. The new Times Square Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, the original Ripley museum, houses many objects from Robert Ripley's personal collection.

Robert Leroy Ripley in his CBS radio days

The marquee of the Ripley's Odditorium on 42nd Street
In 1933, almost 2 million people visited Ripley's first "Odditorium" at the Chicago World's Fair. Inside, there were posters of Ripley's Believe It or Not! cartoons, as well as artifacts from his travels and live performers.  Today, many of Ripley's personal treasures can be seen in Believe It or Not! museums located around the world. Each museum is unique in its collection of oddities and in their presentation and there is a careful balance between the strange, the shocking, and the beautiful in each museum. 

Ripley's first Odditorium in 1933
Ripley's notoriety was so widespread that his fame has carried into the 21st Century, more than 50 years after his death in 1949. Ripley's Believe It or Not! continues to be a tremendously popular newspaper and magazine feature and the spin-off television program, videos and numerous paperback books are as popular as the 29 Ripley Believe It or Not! Museums around the world, most open 365 days a year.
A Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum offers fun for all ages. Experience the thrill of adventure while you explore more than 800 exhibits at the Original Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum on 42nd Street in Times Square. You'll laugh one moment and gasp the next! You will be amazed and wonder why ... is it real or is it a fake? See the unusual, the unorthodox, and the exotic, collected from the far corners of the world. Join us for a journey from the past to the present...or is it the future?   Seeing is Believing!  In the first half of the 20th Century, Robert Ripley was one of the most famous people in the world. His Believe it or Not! cartoon featured tales that were too incredible to believe, but he claimed they were all true.

The average Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum houses over 400 of the most bizarre and outlandish oddities that you will ever see, ranging from a two-headed calf  to an authentic vampire killing kit from 1850.  Popular exhibits include items like a replica of the U.S.S. Forrestal made out of toothpicks and matchsticks, a Roman Coliseum replica built out of playing cards, an array of optical illusions, genuine shrunken human heads, and more. Fun optical illusions will have your entire family laughing together, while some of the odd and bizarre displays may leave you with nothing else to do but shake your head in disbelief!

Collectively, Ripley's museums have the largest collection of 
human heads in the world

At Ripley's you can have your picture taken with many of the displays. This is a witch doctor on the left, my wife barbara on the right.
Ripley's Believe It Or Not, one of the longest-running comic panels in history, continues to fascinate comics readers with unbelievable facts from around the world. These fascinating illustrated panels are read every day in more than 37 countries including Saudi Arabia, New Zealand and Norway. Ripley's has developed a worldwide following since Robert Ripley's first Believe it or Not! cartoon appeared in The New York Globe in 1918. Over the next decade, the panel established a tradition of bringing phenomenal events to local newspapers. Ripley traveled all over the world to find the strange tid-bits for his Believe It or Not! books and comic strip. He continued to do the strip until he died in 1949.

Robert Leroy Ripley, artist, author, and radio broadcaster, was born on Christmas Day, 1893, in Santa Rosa, California. A talented, self-taught artist, Ripley sold his first drawing to Life magazine when he was only 14! Ripley was also a natural athlete who longed for a career in baseball, but his dreams of pitching in the Big Leagues were shattered when he broke his arm while playing his first professional game. After the accident, Ripley returned to his earlier goal of becoming a professional artist. He landed a job as a cartoonist covering sports for the San Francisco Chronicle, but, soon after, he left California and headed for New York City.

In 1918, while working as a sports cartoonist for the New York Globe, Ripley created his first collection of odd facts and feats. The cartoons, based on unusual athletic achievements, were submitted under the title "Champs and Chumps." His editor, however, wanted a title that would describe the incredible nature of the sporting feats. After much deliberation, it was changed to Believe It or Not!® -- the cartoon was an instant success.

Travel was Robert Ripley's lifelong obsession and during his career, he visited 198 countries, traveling a distance equal to 18 complete trips around the world! In 1920, he made his first trek across Europe. Two years later, he visited Central and South America and wrote about what he saw in a syndicated feature column called "Rambles Around South America."
He was drawn to Asia in 1925, crossing through Japan, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Ripley felt most at home in China. He found Chinese culture to be fascinating, and adopted certain Chinese customs. When he entertained, he often greeted his guests in traditional Asian costume. He presided over elaborate feasts in which he described the dishes of each course in precise detail, and at one point he even signed his cartoons "Rip Li!"
Ripley lived up to his reputation as a man who thrived on all things strange, and his personality was in many ways as unusual as the stories and objects he collected! His houses and apartment were filled with artifacts he brought back from his travels. There were Chinese wall hangings, totem poles from Alaska, a collection of beer steins from Germany, and giant bronze guardian statues from the Orient. A colleague once said that "the most curious object in the collection is probably Mr. Ripley himself." He drew his cartoon every day between 7 am and 11 am -- always drawing it upside-down! He was a man who dressed in bright colors and patterns, wore bat-wing ties and two-toned spat shoes. He collected cars, but never learned to drive. Even though he often used complicated recording equipment for his broadcasts, associates remarked that he was afraid to use a telephone for fear he would be electrocuted! A non-swimmer, he owned an odd assortment of boats including dug-out canoes and even an authentic Chinese sailing junk moored at B.I.O.N. Island, his estate in Mamaroneck, New York.

The Ripley's graphic novel

The 1930s and 40s were the Golden Age of Ripley. The phrase "Believe It or Not!" has become a part of everyday speech. In small towns across the United States, people filled halls and vaudeville theaters to hear his lectures and see his films. Later, he would introduce his wonders to the world via television. The shy young man from a small town in California was now a celebrated public figure. Self-educated, he received honorary titles and degrees, and was the first cartoonist to become a millionaire!

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