Anyone that’s known me for any amount of time knows that I’m a lifelong fan of Robert Ripley, his travels, his treasures and his passion for the unusual. My parents took me to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in Myrtle Beach when I was young and the seed was planted. From there I’ve purchased several books, studied Ripley’s art, dug deeper into the stories he sizzled, gasped in amazement at stories of wondrous feats, shrieked in terror at stories of intercontinental depravity and daydreamed in a complete state of nirvana after reading stories of majestic kingdoms and worldly travel. All because of a single man’s dream and passion; all because of one Robert LeRoy Ripley.
When Erin and I got together I was beyond thrilled to find out that she, too, had a lust for the unusual, a passion for the weird and an equal fascination with Ripley. In the 11 years we’ve been together we’ve traveled to the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! in Gatlinburg, TN countless times and have aspirations of visiting them all.
Visiting them all… Quite a concept. I think we’ll try it!
Last year Erin and I decided that our world traveling goal is to one day say we’ve visited them all. At present there are 32 “Odditoriums” around the globe including 19 in the states, three in Canada, two in both Mexico and the UK, and one each in Australia, Denmark, Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia and India. Erin and I have each visited Gatlinburg and Myrtle Beach – 2 down – so there was no way we were going to skip the opportunity to hit one on our recent vacation to Universal Studios in Orlando!
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium in Orlando is truly a sight to behold. Once you approach the building as we did you may find it difficult to keep your balance as the building is made to look as though it has fallen into a sinkhole! Sculptures are sinking into the ground and the entire building appears to be slowly sliding into the ground. Inside the walls are lined with wonderful classic Ripley’s memorabilia including magazine covers, advertisements, letters that seek to disprove Ripley’s claims of truth and photos of Ripley, himself, with several of his prized possessions and the lovely, yet odd, folks he met along the way. There are large sections of phenomenal artwork, intricately designed wooden masks and sculptures, hands-on brain teasers and genuine artifacts Ripley picked up from all around the world.
My favorite in this location is the amount of wax figures placed throughout the museum to represent some of the famous sideshow attractions that used to be frequent attention grabbers in the early days of the Odditorium. Inside, among others, you’ll see Johnny Eck “The Amazing Half-Boy”, Erik Sprague “The Lizardman”, Maria Jose Cristerna “The Vampire Lady”, “Rubber Face” J.T. Saylors, the Lighthouse Man, Grace McDaniels “The Mule Faced Woman” and the great Chamouni “The Incombustible Man”. Go ahead and pose for photos with them! I did!
I took a bunch of other photos you can find over at my Flickr account but for now, here’s these:
Anyway, when our vacation came to an end it was an awesome feeling to know that we’ve marked number 3 off our list. Three down, 29 to go! Where will we go next? Will it be Baltimore? NYC? Niagara Falls? All three? Sounds unbelievable? Believe it!