Ripley’s Orlando Believe It or Not! Odditorium
Otherwise known as “The City Beautiful” and “The Theme Park Capital of the World,” Orlando, Florida is home to our corporate headquarters and our Orlando Believe It or Not! Odditorium which is celebrating 25 years on the iconic International Drive!
Believe it or not, our Orlando Odditorium was the first attraction to star on International Drive, commonly known as I-Drive. Originally, the street was all drive-by. No one would have predicted the incredible growth this corridor of Florida tourism continues to experience.
“Orlando had Disney, so we knew we would do well here,” said Edward Meyer, VP Exhibits & Archives. We were here before Universal, but once they came, we were assured of success with two huge people magnets so close to us.”
Our Orlando Odditorium was so successful that it led the Ripley Entertainment headquarters to move from Toronto, Canada to Orlando, Florida in 1993.
Falling into a Sinkhole
From our Taj Mahal inspired building in Grand Prairie, Texas to Orlando’s Sinkhole, all of our Odditoriums have a unique theme. Bob Fleming had a theory on attraction architecture. There should always be three distinct views: long distance, across the street, and in the doorway. Since we were calling our museums odditoriums, it would only be appropriate for them to look unusual.
“The Florida sinkhole idea was my response to his [Fleming’s] request for an odd themed building,” said Meyer.
In 1993, our own Edward Meyer purchased his Winter Park house that is only several miles away from an enormous sinkhole. That was the inspiration for our Orlando building.
Did you know that the second most photographed building in Orlando was our Odditorium? It was second only to the Magic Kingdom castle in Disney World.
The first museum Fleming ever worked on for us was our Myrtle Beach Odditorium in 1988. We utilized his concept and knowledge for the next ten years, making strangely shaped buildings all over the continent.
For several years in the mid- 2000s, we had an incredible festival called “Oddtober fest” in the parking lot of the Odditorium. The event only featured the best of the best. We even had a double feature stunt show five years ago that highlighted the Painproof Man and Steve(sic) Stalionos who juggled bowling balls and even ate fire.
Now the museum participates annually in International Sword Swallower’s Day, giving free performances of daring feats and stunts to anyone wandering up to see the weirdest place in Orlando.
World Famous Exhibits and Artifacts
The shrunken head has been a Ripley’s staple, and it’s been a part of our exhibit since the opening of the Orlando Odditorium. As Meyer would like to put it “It is the very best shrunken head in our collection!”
This shrunken head came from Hamburg, Germany. The private collection was purchased from our longest standing vendor H. M. (Herman Mark) Lissauer. From 1970 until his death in 2014, H. M. supplied us with some astounding ethnographic exhibits from the deepest corners of the globe.
“He circumnavigated the globe twice a year for nearly 40 years equaling to 80 times around the world,” said Meyer.
The Fertility Statues have been our most popular exhibit for the past 21 years. It was such a hit that the story broke when they were hanging out in our warehouse. Without hesitation, we moved them to our Orlando Believe It or Not! Odditorium in 1996. A live radio broadcast with “Doc and Johnny” lead the story to other programs, including “Inside Edition,” “Unsolved Mysteries,” and “The Morning Show.” They have been on a global tour ever since.
“I had been trying to get pregnant for years,” said Lauren Hubbard, from Denver, Colorado. “We had already been to the Dr and they wanted to do more tests. Before our appointment, I went to Ripley’s in Orlando and touched the fertility statues and according to my Dr’s estimated time frame, I got pregnant a day later! My son was born in October of 2013. I think touching the statues was a fun way to make it less stressful to conceive.
We currently have a new pair of Fertility Statues in Orlando. According to tribal legend, to ensure a couple’s fertility these statues are to be placed on either side of a doorway leading into a bedroom. If a woman or her spouse touches either statue as they enter the room, they will soon get pregnant.
These male and female statues were hand carved out of ebony using primitive tools around 1930 by the Baule tribe from the Ivory Coast in Africa.
Happy 25th Anniversary
To thank YOU for supporting us for 25 years, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! (Orlando, FL) is hosting a “Meet a Hero, Be a Hero” event on July 25!
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Mission Blue Inc., an organization dedicated to supporting First Responders who have been injured on the job.
Guests and kids can meet, interact, and ask questions with the firefighters. The Fire Truck Education Visit is a free outdoor event open to the public. Blood donors receive free admission to our Ripley’s Odditorium.
Come celebrate our 25th anniversary with us! You can purchase your tickets here!