Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Ripley's Believe It or Not! is a comic strip featuring unusual, hard-to-believe facts from around the world. The cartoon was conceived and drawn by Robert Ripley. It later became a radio program, a television show, a chain of museum and the subject of a pinball game.
Originally involving sports feats, Ripley first called the strip Champs and Chumps, but he retitled it less than a year later as it began to focus less on sports. It premiered on December 19, 1918 in the New York Globe and continued in other hands after Ripley's death in 1949.
At the peak of its popularity, the cartoon feature was being read 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 comic strip have been published over the decades. There have also been strips and books that have borrowed the Ripley format, such as It Happened in Canada. Recent Ripley's Believe It or Not! books containing new material have mostly done away with comic art in favor of photographs.
Believe It or Not! was the first appearance of the creator of "Peanuts", Charles Schultz. Schultz submitted an entry that claimed his dog "Spike", the inspiration for Snoopy, was "a hunting dog who eats pins, tacks and razor blades.". Schultz drew the image of his dog himself.
In April of 1930, Ripley brought "Believe It or Not" to radio with stints on NBC, CBS and Mutual. 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 heard in 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).
The early years of these radio shows were marked by nervousness on the part of Ripley. He could often be heard stuttering or dropping the scripts he was reading. 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 Brown & Williamson's 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.
To date, there have been at least four television series based upon the newspaper feature.
- 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 of a heart attack and was replaced by Robert St. John who served as host until the series ended on October 5, 1950. Prior to that TV series, Ripley had hosted a series of Believe it or Not! theatrical short films dating back to the 1930s.
- Ripley's Believe it or Not! aired from 1982 to 1986 on the American ABC Network. Character actor Jack Palance hosted the popular series throughout its run, while several different co-hosts appeared from season to season, including Palance's daughter, Holly Palance , actress Cathie Shirriff , and singer Marie Osmond. The 1980s series reran on the Sci-Fi Channel during the late 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 most recent series based upon the comic strip, once again titled Ripley's Believe it or Not! also debuted in 1999 on TBS. Hosted by actor Dean Cain, the series took a slightly more sensationalistic approach to its subject matter, often finding excuses to show scantily clad women between coverage of legitimate oddities from the Ripley archives. It was also criticized for using subtitles when interviewing British people. The series was cancelled in October of 2003.
As of August, 2004, there are 27 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 theatres and arcades, such as the one in Gatlinburg, Tennessee which features a motion theater. Others are constructed oddly themselves, such as the Orlando, Florida Odditorium which is built off-level. The first one was opened in Chicago in 1933.
The original Gatlinburg, Tennessee museum, built in the 1970s, was destroyed by a massive fire caused by a faulty light fixture on July 14, 1992. The museum had to be completely rebuilt. Many 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. Ironically, the new building has caught fire twice since being rebuilt, in 2000 and again in 2003. Both of those fires were also caused by faulty light fixtures and caused only cosmetic damage.
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, although the 1995 museum features a much more elaborate design. In fact, the only remaining artifact of the original museum's building is one of the "cracks" that still stretches onto the city sidewalk.
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 and miniature golf attractions, all of which carry the Ripley's brand name and signature logo.
- Robert Ripley
- Primitive & Jungle
- Chamber of Tortures
- Bathing Beauty
- Animal and Human Oddities
- Dangerous Driver
- Ripley's Adventures
- Interactive Fun Zone
- Rotating Tunnel
Apart from the special galleries, it contains a lot of special and valuable exhibits, which make many tourists feel surprised after seeing them.
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