Ripley's Believe It or Not!
( bizarre events and
items so strange and unusual )
Ripley's Believe It or Not! is a franchise, founded by Robert LeRoy
Ripley, which deals in bizarre events and items so strange and unusual that
readers might question the claims. The Believe It or Not panel proved popular
and was later adapted into a wide variety of formats, including radio,
television, a chain of museums, a book series and a pinball game.
The Ripley collection includes 20,000 photographs, 30,000 artifacts and more
than 100,000 cartoon panels.
Robert LeRoy Ripley
LeRoy Ripley was an American cartoonist, entrepreneur and amateur
anthropologist, who created the world famous Ripley's Believe It or Not!
newspaper panel series, radio show, and television show which feature odd
'facts' from around the world.
Subjects covered in Ripley's cartoons and text ranged from sports feats to
little known facts about unusual and exotic sites, but what ensured the
concept's popularity may have been that Ripley also included items submitted by
readers, who supplied photographs of a wide variety of small town American
trivia, ranging from unusually shaped vegetables to oddly marked domestic
animals, all documented by photographs and then depicted by Ripley's drawings.
He died on broadcast during his weekly show May 27, 1949.
Throughout the 1920s, Ripley continued to broaden the scope of his work and his
popularity increased greatly. He published both a travel journal and a guide to
the game of handball in 1925 and, in 1926, became the New York state handball
champion and wrote a book on boxing.
The 1930s saw Ripley expand his presence into other media. In 1930, he began an
eighteen-year run on radio and a nineteen-year association with the show's
producer, Doug Storer. Funding for his celebrated travels around the world were
provided by the Hearst organization, and Ripley recorded live radio shows from
underwater, the sky, caves, snake pits and foreign countries. The next year he
hosted the first of a series of two dozen Believe It or Not! theatrical short
films for Warner Brothers. .
During World War II, Ripley concentrated on charity efforts rather than world
travel, but after the war, he again expanded his media efforts. In 1948, the
year of the 20th anniversary of the Believe it or Not! cartoon series, the
Believe it or Not! radio show drew to a close and was replaced with a Believe it
or Not! television series. This was a rather bold move on Ripley's part because
of the small number of Americans with access to television at this early time in
the medium's development. Ripley only completed thirteen episodes of the series
when he became incapacitated by severe health problems. He reportedly passed out
during the filming of his final show. His health worsened, and on May 27, 1949,
at age 58, he succumbed to a heart attack. He was buried in his home town of
Santa Rosa, in the Oddfellows Lawn Cemetery, which is adjacent to the Santa Rosa
Ripley is often regarded as an extraordinary individual. His cartoon series was
estimated to have 80 million readers worldwide and it was said that he received
more mail than the President of the United States. He became a wealthy man, with
homes in New York and Florida, but he always retained close ties to his home
town of Santa Rosa, California.
Ripley's ideas and legacy live on in Ripley Entertainment, a company bearing his
name, which, since 1985 has been owned by the Jim Pattison Group, Canada's 3rd
largest privately held company. Ripley Entertainment airs national television
shows, features publications of oddities, and has holdings in a variety of
public attractions, including Ripley's Aquarium, Ripley's Believe it or Not!
Museums, Ripley's Haunted Adventure, Ripley's Mini-Golf and Arcade, Ripley's
Movie Theater, Ripley's Sightseeing Trains, Great Wolf Lodge overlooking Niagara
Falls, Guinness World Records Attractions, and Louis Tussaud's wax Museums.