UNBELIEVABLE SINCE 1918!
The foundation of our museum exhibit collection was set by Robert L. Ripley (1890-1949), a cartoonist, explorer, reporter, adventurer, collector, who traveled to 201 countries in 35 years seeking the odd, the unusual, the unexplained.
“I have traveled in 201 countries and the strangest thing I saw was man”
— Robert L. Ripley
He was nicknamed “The Modern Marco Polo”, and in his endless search for unbelievable stories to draw in his immensely popular newspaper cartoon feature, he acquired hundreds of exotic artifacts from around the world.
THE BIRTH OF THE ODDITORIUMSIn time he opened seven different odditoriums, typically associated with World Fairs, to house his huge collection. In 1933 over 2 million people visited Ripley’s first “Odditorium” at the World’s Fair in Chicago.
THE ORIGINAL SUPER-STAR
In addition to being a cartoonist, an author and a radio personality, Ripley was also a movie star, making 24 “shorts” for the Vitaphone Film Company in 1931–32. Robert Ripley was voted the most popular man in America, placing well above President Roosevelt (who ended up in 3rd place!)
Did you know Robert Ripley received an average of 3,000 letters a day for over 20 years? THAT'S OVER A MILLION LETTERS A YEAR!
ODD EVEN IN DEATH
Ripley’s television show was the first “reality” show and was growing quickly in popularity until on show #13 on May 23, 1949, Ripley had a heart attack while on stage discussing the military funeral hymn “Taps”.
THE BIRTH OF THE RIPLEY COLLECTIONThe majority of his artifacts were sold at a four day long public auction, and the lion’s share was bought up by New York City entrepreneur John Arthur. In December of 1950 Mr. Arthur opened the first permanent Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium in St. Augustine, FL.
RIPLEY’S LEGACY TODAY