If you're a product of the '80s, you might have caught the TV show “Ripley's Believe It or Not!” The ABC program featured any number of oddities and was hosted by famed actor Jack Palance.
The show took on a life of its own as Palance's rugged facial features and gravelly voice made any man tremble in fear. The show saw a major facelift as the former Man of Steel from “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” Dean Cain, highlighted spectacle rather than the absurd. You can still see reruns of this version that ran from 2000 to 2003 on the Sci Fi channel.
The 20,000 photographs, 20,000 artifacts and more than 130,000 cartoon panels of the Ripley collection can't all fit into 30-minute blocks of programming. From Orlando, Fla. to Copenhagen, Denmark, odditoriums – yes, odditoriums –house Mr. Ripley's wealth of treasures.
Don't bother trying to catch the red eye to sunny Orlando as you just have to make a trip down Hollywood Boulevard to see L.A.'s own odditorium. Believe it or not, follow the road until you see a giant Tyrannosaurus Rex with a backwards-running clock in his mouth.
Over 300 items, including the T-Rex's feet are on display at Ripley's. The life-sized portrait of John Wayne made out of household lint, the statute of Marilyn Monroe made out of shredded dollar bills and a figure of the world's tallest man, Robert Wadlow, towering at a mammoth 8 feet 11 inches may bring about awe from every child and child at heart.
But it's best to know this: leave the nieces and nephews at home and embrace the grotesque tendencies ticking in your noggin. Seeing a real life piece of the Berlin Wall complete with graffiti may be a history buff's dream come true, but shrunken heads, human freaks and three headed babies? Welcome to Hollyweird, you're going to want to see those shrunken heads first.
Witness the weirdness of “The Lighthouse Man” from Chunking China, who lived his life with a candle growing on top of his head. Rest assured that the shrunken heads that you see are in fact the real deal, but it is sad to point out that many of the believed or not to be believed (the man from Chunking I'm afraid) are replicated in wax sculpture.
And like it's neighbor, the Hollywood Wax Museum, Ripley's houses a Chamber of Horrors, though this one eclipses the Hollywood Wax Museum's. It literally beats the Wax Museum's to a bloody pulp.
It's a sadistic ride as you peruse through the real life happenings and disgusting outcomes of the damned. Imagine if you will Faces of Death meets the Guggenheim. Videos of a man putting a live mouse in his mouth and blowing up a balloon with his eye socket are just a taste of the meatiest and quite possibly the most “Ripley-esque” depiction: a figure of Phineas P. Gage.
Gage was impaled by a tamping iron, which entered his face beneath his left eye and came through the back of his head. You may not believe it, but it sure looks like it hurt!
For more information, visit www.ripleys.com .