The Fabulous Mr. Ripley


The Man Behind “BELIEVE IT OR NOT!”

Robert Leroy Ripley

Robert Leroy Ripley

Robert Ripley, the cartoonist, the explorer, the reporter, adventurer, illustrator, collector and seeker of the odd and unusual, is a man who lived a life that can only be summed up by the statement he himself created; “Believe It or Not!”

His life’s work, his discoveries, his artistry, the tales he told and adventures he lived will forever be the foundation of all that Ripley Entertainment encompasses.

World Famous

Ripley was one of the most famous people in the world during the first half of the 20th century.

Born LeRoy Ripley in 1890 in Santa Rosa, California, “Roy” was an avid artist and a great athlete at a very young age. He pitched semi-pro baseball at age 13 and also illustrated the posters advertising the games.

Ripley with 1st cartoon

Ripley with 1st cartoon

At age 14, he sold his first cartoon to LIFE Magazine for eight dollars. By age 15, Ripley was working at the San Francisco Bulletin and soon moved on to the San Francisco Chronicle.

In 1913, he moved to New York and, as ‘Robert’, rather than ‘Leroy’, he began working at the New York Globe sketching sports cartoons. After having done this for several years, Ripley came upon a slow sports day and decided to draw up nine unusual sports event in small sketches. The cartoon was originally titled, “Champs and Chumps”, but after much deliberation, the title was changed to Believe It or Not!. The rest is history!

Once the cartoon took off and became immensely popular, Ripley became a world traveler, seeking stories of bizarre and unusual proportion to put in his internationally known feature. In an era when not many people traveled outside their own hometown, let alone out of the country, he became a compulsive traveler and journeyed whenever he could!

Ripley at Chinese Tomb (2439)Ripley on Donkey (1982)Ripley with Cannibal (6280)Ripley with Headhunter (6307)Ripley with Statues (717)Ripley's NY Apartment (2085)

He ventured into unconventional areas in India and the Orient and visited people and cultures that most Americans never knew existed. His favorite destination was China, and for several months after he first traveled to the Orient, Ripley signed his cartoons Rip Li. It was also during these travels that he picked up many strange and unbelievable souvenirs that later became an extensive collection of amazing oddities and stories that serve to entertain the public even today.

“I have traveled in 201 countries and the strangest thing I saw was man”
— Robert Ripley

Ripley on an airplane

Ripley on an airplane

An Uncommon Man

Ripley was commonly known as being extremely eccentric; his friends called him “his own greatest Believe It or Not!”. Although he was noted as being extremely shy, he dressed in flamboyant color combinations, often wearing bat-wing ties, pith helmets, coolie shirts, and Eskimo parkas. He kept a 28-foot boa constrictor as a pet and let squirrels and chipmunks run around him while he drew.

He thought both smoking and playing cards were evil, but was a heavy social drinker and a notorious ladies man, at times housing up to five or more live-in girlfriends at a time. He loved sailing and purchased a Chinese Junk he called “Mon Lei” or “Infinity”, yet he couldn’t swim a stroke. It has also been rumored that he changed his own birthday from December 26 to Christmas Day in order to accentuate his eccentricity!

Given his unbelievable life, perhaps it is fitting that even Robert Ripley’s death left the world wondering about the “Believe It of Not!” circumstances. At age 58, Ripley died while taping the 13th episode of his television series, an episode that dealt with death and death rituals. He passed out during the show, was taken to the hospital and, soon after, was pronounced dead of a heart attack.

The man himself

The man himself

Ripley’s Legacy

Ripley’s legacy and what he brought to the world is alive in all of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museums and his traditions continue with the Believe It or Not! cartoon series. Today the daily cartoon is seen in nearly 200 newspapers worldwide, in 42 countries, and 17 languages. The majority of the exhibits in all of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museums are based on the collections of oddities obtained by Ripley throughout his world travels. Every year millions of people visit the Ripley’s museums to take part in the adventure, one in which they experience first-hand the incredible world of Robert Ripley! Believe It or Not!

THE MAN BEHIND “BELIEVE IT OR NOT!”

Robert L. RipleyRobert Ripley, the cartoonist, the

explorer, the reporter, adventurer, illustrator,

collector and seeker of the odd and unusual, is a man who

lived a life that can only be summed up by the statement

he himself created; “Believe It or Not!” His life’s work,

his discoveries, his artistry, the tales he told and

adventures he lived will forever be the foundation of all

that Ripley Entertainment encompasses.
World Famous

Ripley was one of the most famous people in the world

during the first half of the 20th century. Born LeRoy

Ripley in 1890 in Santa Rosa, California, “Roy” was an

avid artist and a great athlete at a very young age. He

pitched semi-pro baseball at age 13 and also illustrated

the posters advertising the games. At age 14, he sold his

first cartoon to LIFE Magazine for eight dollars. By age

15, Ripley was working at the San Francisco Bulletin and

soon moved on to the San Francisco Chronicle. In 1913, he

moved to New York and, as ‘Robert’, rather than ‘Leroy’,

he began working at the New York Globe sketching sports

cartoons. After having done this for several years,

Ripley came upon a slow sports day and decided to draw up

nine unusual sports event in small sketches. The cartoon

was originally titled, “Champs and Chumps”, but after

much deliberation, the title was changed to Believe It or

Not!. The rest is history!

Ripley with 1st cartoon

Once the cartoon took off and became immensely popular,

Ripley became a world traveler, seeking stories of

bizarre and unusual proportion to put in his

internationally known feature. In an era when not many

people traveled outside their own hometown, let alone out

of the country, he became a compulsive traveler and

journeyed whenever he could! He ventured into

unconventional areas in India and the Orient and visited

people and cultures that most Americans never knew

existed. His favorite destination was China, and for

several months after he first traveled to the Orient,

Ripley signed his cartoons Rip Li. It was also during

these travels that he picked up many strange and

unbelievable souvenirs that later became an extensive

collection of amazing oddities and stories that serve to

entertain the public even today.

“I have traveled in 201 countries and the strangest

thing I saw was man”

— Robert Ripley

Ripley with Fiji mermaid
An Uncommon Man

Ripley was commonly known as being extremely eccentric;

his friends called him “his own greatest Believe It or

Not!”. Although he was noted as being extremely shy, he

dressed in flamboyant color combinations, often wearing

bat-wing ties, pith helmets, coolie shirts, and Eskimo

parkas. He kept a 28-foot boa constrictor as a pet and

let squirrels and chipmunks run around him while he drew.

He thought both smoking and playing cards were evil, but

was a heavy social drinker and a notorious ladies man, at

times housing up to five or more live-in girlfriends at a

time. He loved sailing and purchased a Chinese Junk he

called “Mon Lei” or “Infinity”, yet he couldn’t swim a

stroke. It has also been rumored that he changed his own

birthday from December 26 to Christmas Day in order to

accentuate his eccentricity!

Given his unbelievable life, perhaps it is fitting that

even Robert Ripley’s death left the world wondering about

the “Believe It of Not!” circumstances. At age 58, Ripley

died while taping the 13th episode of his television

series, an episode that dealt with death and death

rituals. He passed out during the show, was taken to the

hospital and, soon after, was pronounced dead of a heart

attack.
Ripley’s Legacy

Ripley’s legacy and what he brought to the world is alive

in all of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museums and his

traditions continue with the Believe It or Not! cartoon

series. Today the daily cartoon is seen in nearly 200

newspapers worldwide, in 42 countries, and 17 languages.

The majority of the exhibits in all of the Ripley’s

Believe It or Not! museums are based on the collections

of oddities obtained by Ripley throughout his world

travels. Every year millions of people visit the Ripley’s

museums to take part in the adventure, one in which they

experience first-hand the incredible world of Robert

Ripley!