Ripley’s Believe or Not in Atlantic City is one of many located around the world. The building, whose front facade appears to have fallen from the structural supports, is located on the boardwalk next to New York Ave. The building, with its falling front, immediately reminded me of Wonderworks in Orlando, FL. The RBION self guided tour costs 8.95 and can take from 30 to 90 minutes depending on how much you want to linger over the various exhibits.
Robert Ripley was born in 1893 in California, and after his hopes of playing major league baseball were dashed, he became a cartoonist for the SF Chronicle. He drew a cartoon about unusual sports feats, such as the man who walked the fastest backwards, and the man who jumped rope the longest. The title was Champs & Chumps but the editor changed it to Believe It Or Not, and thus an industry was born.
Ripley was obsessed with travel and foreign culture and traveled in the 1920’s thru all seven continents, earning the nickname “the modern Marco Polo”. He ran a syndicated column with cartoons describing the things he saw and encountered. He made 100K a year and the column ran in 300 newspapers worldwide in 17 languages with an estimated readership of 80 million.
In the 1930’s and 40’s Ripley’s tales were told on the radio. the show ran for 14 years until 1948 when he moved to television. The show was a smash hit but the grind of a weekly TV show wore heavily on him and in episode 13 he had a heart attack on air, and died 3 days later. The first museum, called an odditorum was actually an exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. The fair featured replicas of strange people and things, bizarre art, shrunken heads from the Amazon, as well as live performers, such as a man who could place an entire baseball in his mouth. Ripley collected shrunken heads, more then 8,000 of them over his lifetime, and many were put on display.
The RBION Museums would eventually include exhibits of science, representations of strange rituals, illusions, videos, pieces from his exotic collection, as well as brain teasers. Every museum is unique, there is no duplication of items in any two RBION museums, but some items will seem familiar regardless. This particular museum is home to the world’s largest tire, a life sized statue of Robert Wadlow the world’s tallest man at 8 foot 11 and 490 lbs, and lots of examples of unusual art, such as a roulette wheel composed of jelly beans, a recreation of a famous bridge composed from toothpicks, as well as a piece of the Berlin Wall. All in all this was familiar territory for anyone who has visited other RBION museums or has watched the show. The tour is a good value for several reasons. 1: the tour is not overpriced, 2: the material is interesting. 3: every RBION museum has unique items.
In addition there are some things here relative to NJ. First is the Jersey Devil, the legendary 13th child of Mrs. Leeds who ran up the chimney and has stalked the people and animals of the Pine Barrens for the last 200 years. Constructed by Tom Jackson out of various animal bones, this represents what the jersey devil might look like. I always thought it would be much taller… Ripley’s also runs an annual weird face contest every November. Now when I say weird I don’t mean ugly or homely, I mean people who twist and contort their faces, or do something weird like bug their eyes really far out. Typically the event is judged by local celebrities & past winners. Registration is not needed, simply show up at the event, held the third Wednesday of each November. They typically get 20 contestants, competing for a top prize of $300, a picture on their wall of fame, as well as tickets to a local show. For details call 609 347-7021