Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is an American franchise that deals in bizarre events and strange and unusual facts. It was founded by Robert Ripley in 1918 with a sports cartoon in the New York Globe. It soon sounded expanded to include items from other areas and then onto different formats like radio, television and books. Continuing that expansion have been the exhibitions first in the US, before countries like Mexico, Canada, India and Australia. And of course the UK. It was about time I saw the one in Piccadilly Circus, London.
Even before entering you’ll get a sense of the place. The super tall guy is a first sign that you are entering something very different. The gorilla that greets you inside is just as imposing. But perhaps most striking is the crystalised Mini Cooper. Inspired by The Italian Job, a couple from Canada covered their car with one million genuine Austrian Swarovski lead crystals. After getting your ticket you then use the lift to go down to see more of the 700 artefacts.
It’s no surprise that celebrities are well represented. But the materials and style is certainly impressive. Highlights include an image of Amy Winehouse made up of pieces of compact discs, Michael Jackson created from sweets, Whitney Houston formed with cassette tape and Sting carved into a phone book. There’s also a quirky take on art too, with a landscape portrait made up of toast and a horse creating its own work.
A big part of the exhibition though is not about celebrities, but ordinary people. Though they don’t seem so ordinary. One of these is information about Johnny Eck, who was born without his lower torso. Despite his physical restrictions, Eck had many talents and achieved success in countless entertainment forms. Walls are decorated with black and white posters and there’s a torture section. You might recognise the famous Blue and Black or White and Gold dress that sent Twitter into meltdown.
There are several different exhibitions, including Curious Cultures, Remarkable People and Incredible Nature. But one of the advantages about the exhibition is that it feels quite seamless going from the beginning to the end. There is also the spinning tunnel . The walkway doesn’t move but the illusions certainly make it seem like it does. The hall of mirrors is certainly intricate. My friend Tosha and I found the entrance a few times before we found the exit, but it was fun. For prices and opening times for Ripley’s you can find more information here.