Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! is all about the bizarre and the unbelievable, exhibiting real life artefacts and bizarre stories from throughout the world which will enrapture the imaginations of kids and adults alike. The museum encapsulates the spirit of Robert Ripley, an American cartoonist who set off from the States in 1922 on his first round the world trip, to satisfy his curiosity for all things exotic and unbelievable. Ripley’s cartoons initially focused on incredible sporting feats, before he began to expand their palette to include other subject areas. His 1929 piece, ‘Believe It Or Not: America has no national anthem’, was the catalyst for The Star-Spangled Banner being enshrined in law as the national anthem by Herbert Hoover two years later in 1931. Ripley’s real passion, though, lay away from home, in travelling the world. He visited 201 countries in 35 years, in pursuit of the unexpected, and earned the nickname ‘the modern Marco Polo’ in the process. Ripley’s cartoons were first collected into books in 1929 and 1931; a live radio show followed, which saw him broadcast from whatever exotic location he found himself in, whether it was underwater, deep in a cave, or high on a mountain top. By the late forties, he had made the transition to the new medium of television, where he displayed his artefacts, drew cartoons live, and told incredible stories. Ripley was a beloved personality in America, being voted the most popular man in the country in 1936; he received an average of 3,000 letters per day for over 20 years, and was the first cartoonist to become a millionaire.
For all the remarkable exploits in Robert Ripley’s life, though, it wasn’t until after his death in 1949 that a permanent Believe It Or Not! museum was opened, in December 1950 in St. Augustine, Florida. Today’s London museum is full of amazing oddities and artefacts to suit all tastes; if you’re on the lookout for West End hotels for your trip to London, The Piccadilly West End is a luxurious and surprisingly cheap option.The Gallery of Greats is home to artworks made from all kinds of unusual materials, including matchsticks, insects, laundry lint and toast! Many of these represents famous people, such as a bottle top portrait of Michelle Obama, and a painting of John Lennon on the back of a beetle’s shell. Ripley was a keen amateur anthropologist, and his collections include amazing artefacts from often ancient cultures around the world. Highlights of the London exhibits include a mummified Egyptian hand, an invincibility belt from the Philippines, and a self-deformed Peruvian skull. There’s also a gallery celebrating some of the world’s most remarkable people, including the tallest, smallest and hairiest people who have ever lived. These include Fedor Jeftichew, also known as Jo Jo the Dog Faced Man, whose entire body was covered in long hair; Ching Foo of Shensi, China who was born with a blue face; and Liu Ch’ung, who was born with double pupils in both eyes.