Ripley’s Believe it or Not! was a brilliant experience. The founder of the curious collection of exhibits and world wonders, Robert L. Ripley (1890–1949) traveled to 201 countries over a span of 35 years seeking the odd, the unusual, and the unexplained. Nicknamed “The Modern Marco Polo”, in his endless search for unbelievable stories to draw in his immensely popular newspaper cartoon feature, Ripley acquired hundreds of exotic artifacts from around the world. The London Ripley’s Believe it
or Not! is the largest Ripley’s in the world, with over 700 exhibits.
The first Believe It or Not! books, collections of Ripley’s newspaper cartoon drawings, appeared in 1929 and 1931, and the
success of the first book led to a live radio show, which ran continuously from 1930- 1944. By 1948 he was experimenting with
the new medium of television, and launched his weekly show in 1949, displaying some of his artifacts, as well as re-enacting
some of the unbelievable stories he had encountered.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! have created a life-sized waxwork of Maria Jose Cristerna, known as the “vampire woman” because of her extreme body modifications, including hundreds of tattoos, skin implants, and permanent fangs.
Another life-sized waxwork is of Erik Sprague, better known as The Lizardman, a freak show and sideshow performer. His body modifications include sharpened teeth, full-body tattoo of green scales, split tongue, subdermal implants of small horns and recently, green-inked lips.
Rumors that he hoped to
get a tail transplant
have been fobbed off
by Erik himself, who
states that it would be
These incredible Transformers are made entirely from old car parts! The gigantic scrap sculptures were constructed by a team of specialist engineers in a secret location in Thailand, and some of them are two stories high!
This giant gorilla was made en’tyre’ly from old vehicle tyres!
Polycephaly is the condition of having more than one head. The
term is derived from the Greek
word ‘poly’ meaning “many” and
‘kephalē’ meaning “head”.
Two-headed animals (called
bicephalic or dicephalic) are the
only type of multi-headed
creatures seen in the real world, and form by the same process as conjoined human twins from monozygotic twin embryos.
This 3-wheeled, single driver street-legal car fits into a standard sized elevator! Weighing in at only 79.4kgs, it weighs less than a lot of average sized adults!
This entire Ferrari F355 is knitted, and took 19.31kms of wool to complete! It’s made up of 250 knitted squares and is fitted onto a steel frame that the knitter welded her (yes, that’s ‘her’) self!
An exquisite portrait of John F Kennedy made entirely from butterflies.
This portrait of Diana Ross is made from vehicle number plates.
Upside down, or not?
This portrait of the singer Sting, was created by Alex Queral. Using an ordinary phone book, he carves portraits into this book of so many faceless names. With a very sharp cutting knife, an acrylic medium to set detail areas and a great deal of talent, Queral literally peels away the pages like the skin of an onion to reveal the portrait within. Once the carving is complete, he will often apply a black wash to enhance the features and then seal the entire book with acrylic to preserve the work. He loses very little line registration; and the book remains quite pliable.
Fedor Jeftichew, better known as Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy (1868 – 1904) was a Russian sideshow performer. Afflicted with hypertrichosis, an abnormal growth of hair over the face and body, Jo-Jo was covered with long, silky hair and was said to resemble a Skye terrier.
‘Beatles on Beetles’ – portraits of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, have been etched onto the bonnets of Volkswagen Beetle cars.
This ‘Scold’s Bride’ was used to punish ‘outspoken’ women in medieval ages. Fitted over the woman’s face, it had a piece of metal that went into the mouth over the tongue, and often had a spike that caused immense pain if the tongue was moved. The ass’s ears were to further humiliate the ‘lippy’ lady!
In the dungeons and torture chambers there were a number of horrific items like this ‘Chinese Hellfire’, which involved chaining a person to a chimney and then stoking the fire in the stove below.
Intentional cranial deformation predates written history and was
first written about by Hippocrates as far back as 400BC. It was
practised by a number of geographically and chronologically
widely separated cultures, and still occurs today in a few places, including Vanuatu. Artificial cranial deformation
is a form of body alteration in which the skull of a human being is deformed intentionally is done by distorting the normal growth of a child’s skull by applying force. Flat, elongated (produced by binding between two pieces of wood), rounded (binding in cloth), and conical shapes are among those chosen. Typically, it is carried out on an infant, as the skull is most pliable at this time. In a typical case, head-binding begins approximately a month after birth and continues for about six months.
Artist Willard Wigan has got an incredible eye for detail. He spends weeks using a tiny diamond cutter and tweezers made from his own eyelashes to create his micro-sculptures, which are so tiny, that they’re only visible through a microscope. They’re so small that they can fit inside the eye of a needle, on the head of a pin, even on a grain of sand, and can be as small as 0.005mm tall! In fact, Willard enters a meditative state where his heart rate slows and his hands relax so he can sculpt between heart beats! His love of all things miniature began with making tiny houses for ants when he was just 5 years old, as he thought they needed somewhere to live!
Image courtesy of Google Images
Image courtesy of Google Images
Image courtesy of Google Images
Walking through the mirror maze was such fun! We all walked into more than one wall thinking it was a passageway! Eventually we were walking with our hands in front of us. Lots of laughter!
Earl Hughes, weighed 92kgs at age 6; and as an adult, weighed in at a whopping 485kgs! His weight was the heaviest recorded during his short lifetime of 32 years (1926 – 1958).
Robert Wadlow, once the world’s tallest man grew to be 2.72m by the time he stopped growing! Sadly he died at age 22 (1918 – 1940). Also known as the Alton Giant and the Giant of Illinois, he became famous as the tallest person ever, in recorded history.
The FeeJeei mermaid was an object comprising the torso and head of a juvenile monkey sewn to the back half of a fish. It was a common feature of sideshows, presented as the mummified body of a creature that was supposedly half mammal and half fish, a version of a mermaid. The original had fish scales with animal hair superimposed on its body. The mouth was wide open with its teeth bared. It was supposedly caught near the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific. Several replicas and variations have also been made and exhibited under similar names and pretexts.
Human skulls were often carved into elaborate masks in the belief that the wearer would take on the knowledge and wisdom of the deceased. The collection at the museum was mostly obtained in Tibet in 1936 and is rated among the most unusual and valuable of the Ripley’s collections.
A corpse petrified using arsenic. Why the word ‘petrified’ was ever applied to this form of mummification, one can only guess! Ryan wasn’t looking very scared or petrified!
The “Black Hole” tunnel, a rotating vortex tunnel that leaves guests fighting for balance, was the weirdest experience. A short walk through a tunnel which uses optical illusions to make you feel like you’re spinning around inside a vortex. You almost feel as if you are going to topple over and it’s difficult to walk up straight. Loads of fun but it can leave you feeling very dizzy.
Ripley’s also have a collection of genuine shrunken heads!
Cheri & Ryan did the Laser Race, while Riaan and I watched
from the outside. You have to move across a pitch black room,
while avoiding laser beams which scan all over, so you can get
to the other side to unlock the exit door. You can crawl under or jump over the laser beams, but just don’t let them touch you! There’s a daily leader board that lets you know how well you performed compared to everyone else that day. A brilliant afternoon of fun was had by all!
We took a leisurely walk through Leicester Square, watched some buskers doing their thing to earn a pound or two and then down past the National Gallery & Trafalgar Square, where we got the tube back to Pimlico Station and back to the hotel for dinner and suitcase packing.
A fabulous five days, and now it was time to head for the east coast, and a family visit.