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‘Ripley's Believe It or Not!’ Museum in Florida Displays the Unbelievable

  • Cheng Xiaohong

The world is full of many strange and bizarre things. "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" Odditorium in Orlando, in the southeastern state of Florida, houses many such things and offers visitors experiences almost too incredible to believe. VOA's Elaine Lu narrates the story.

Some things you have to see to believe and that is one reason tourists flock to the 29 "Ripley's Believe it or Not" museums around the world.

Robert Ripley started the collection of weird and bizarre things in the early 20th century. He started sharing his collection in a newspaper comic strip in 1929 featuring the incredible stories he discovered traveling around the world. Over the years his cartoon was translated into 17 languages and was read by 80 million people,

The idea of a museum took root when his collections were displayed at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. In the following years Ripley's museums sprang up one after another.

Joe Kasinski is the Director of Marketing at "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" Orlando Odditorium. "This museum in Orlando opened in 1992, so we have been here for about 14 years now. It is actually more than a museum; we call it (an) Odditorium, which is a term Robert Ripley himself came up with, because everything is odd, bizarre, and unusual.

Visitors are welcomed to the museum by Ripley sitting behind his desk. Of course this is just an illusion, a reminder that many more of them are to come.

Edward Myer is the Vice President of Exhibits and Archives at "Ripley's". "Many of the items you see here behind me are the things that Mr. Ripley had at his home, personal items, collected from all the countries around the world. [A] Buddha from China, [a] wood carving from Japan, [a] genuine ancestry scull from New Guinea. Above me is a large column of books, representing the hundreds of thousands of copies of books that Ripley had sold since his first item in 1929.

Optical illusions at the museum can really twist reality for visitors.

"If you look at the things on (the) wall, they are all drawn by Mr. Ripley. They challenge you, your eyes perceive the truth. We have two circles. One on the left appears to be considerably bigger than the one on the right. But believe it or not, the circles are the same diameter."

And there are other illusions - a diamond for the taking.

A billiard table that defies gravity

"Here we are in the billiards room. Every millionaire in the 1930s had to have his own billiards room, but of course Ripley's is just a little different from everybody else's. Here we defy gravity. No matter where I put the ball on this table, whether I do it slow or fast, somehow it will climb up the hill and end up in the far pocket."

Myer says every visitor comes up with his or her own theory of the billiard table. "Well, most people believe it is a magnet. But I assure you that is not it. It is strictly an optical illusion. What you think is happening is not what is really happening. "

There are many other bizarre and unusual things in the collection: A two-headed calf, a headless chicken, a man from China with lit candles on his head and a British man with a 17-centimeter-long nose. Meyer shares another oddity.

"Behind me, the world largest matchstick model, believe it or not, this is 1907 Rolls Royce made from one million matchsticks. [The] lights actually work, [the] wheels really turn. "

And there are more. Mona Lisa's mysterious smile made out of toast.

Lincoln's portrait made of pennies. The gigantic portrait of Van Gogh made from 3,000 postcards depicting 115 Van Gogh paintings and drawings.

Meyer says of all the places Ripley visited, China held a special spot for Ripley.

"Ripley's favorite country is always China. He returned there four times in his career, and brought back hundreds of oriental artifacts, [and] filled his three mansions with [them]. Behind me is one of the largest pieces in our collection. [A] replica of China's emperor's rickshaw. Completely carved with solid jade, worth millions of dollars. This is probably [the most] expensive piece in the entire Ripley collection.

The self-guided museum tour finishes with a dizzy exit through a revolving hall, but again, as the museum reminds you over and over, this is an illusion. What revolves is the wall, not the ground under visitors' feet. Believe it or not.

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