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  • Billyjean Jackson

Intern Trip 2022: Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

On the MCARLM Intern trip to San Francisco we discovered many different places. Of those, my favorite was Ripley’s Believe It or Not! The American franchise exhibits the adventures of its founder Robert Ripley. Adventurers become immersed in a variety of oddities, strange stories, and themed galleries. The museum illustrates peculiar events and items so strange that visitors question the claims leading to Ripley’s slogan of Believe It or Not!

Ripley’s objective was to discover the strange, unusual, and unexplained. Through his travels of the unbelievable he collected bizarre artifacts and was nicknamed the “Modern Marco Polo.” Marco Polo was known for his travels of Asia and his documented exploration of the Silk Road to China.

The Modern Marco Polo, Mr. LeRoy Robert Ripley, began as a newspaper cartoonist before creating his museum full of oddities. His television and radio shows, books, museums, and travels were all rooted to the beginning of his career as an artist. Through his over 45,000 sketches he became the first cartoonist millionaire and was the first to be inducted into the Cartoon Hall of Fame.

My time at his peculiar museum took me through his voyages of the odd and strange. My main reason for advocating to go this museum was because of my childhood experience at Ripley’s Believe or Not Museum in San Diego. I was enamored with the out of ordinary exhibits and still am today. Ripley’s weird displays peaked my interest because of the odd facts from around the world.

Into the Jungle, one of my favorite exhibits of Ripley’s, was The Jungle. In this strange environment Ripley exhibits many different and unusual cultural practices of various tribes. Similar to that of Indiana Jones’ adventures, there were shrunken heads, cannibal skulls, and other interesting tribal customs and artifacts. As the real life treasure hunter, Ripley, explored deep within the jungle to discover different cultures and their way of life. For instance, the shrunken head display came from the Jivaro Natives of Ecuador. One of this tribe's traditions was to claim the heads of their enemies to display them as symbols of bravery and war trophies.

Another mystery that Ripley discovered was the cannibal tribe known as Asmat; they are located on the island of Papua in New Guinea. They would eat the brains of skulls with sago worms. To get their skulls the tribe would hunt and feast on the deceased. After they were satisfied, the tribe decorated the skulls to display in their homes as symbols to worship. Ripley collect these particular skulls in the 1920s and 30s but, rumors of the cannibalistic behaviors continued on until the 1980s. The jungle setting has increased my curiosity into unknown environments such as the Amazon Rainforest.

Ripley’s adventures have inspired me to also explore the weird and unusual around world. Strange People Ripley’s museum also includes people with strange characteristics. A few of these people include Wolf Girl and the Lizard man. These people come from a variety of lifestyles causing their unique traits to be highlighted. Kamala, the Wolf Girl, is the most primitive of these people. She was carried off by a she-wolf in 1912 and was raised by wolves until she was “rescued” 8 years later. When she was taken away, she pined for her wolf family. After Kamala was sent to an orphanage, she died of a broken heart and loneliness as she resisted human ways.

The famed Lizard Man has changed himself into a human lizard! Erik Sprague tattooed his entire body with green scales, has had surgery to insert horns into his scalp, forked his tongue, and had bizarre piercings put in all over his face. His transformation illustrates that people can achieve their dreams no matter how strange they may be.

Overall, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum was an incredible experience that expanded my worldly knowledge of the weird and unusual. I am grateful that Mr. Ripley took a chance to explore the world and discover the unknown and dangerous. His explorations have inspired me to venture out on my own adventures. Ripley’s curious true lies will continue to mesmerize all those who visit and learn about the odd facts of the world.

"Ripley’s Believe It or Not was my favorite Museum to visit because of its weird and almost unbelievable exhibits. It made me question my reality and what I know to be true. I am very curious to know what other exhibits Mr. Ripley’s might be hiding. I am anxious to explore the questionable reality again!"

-Billyjean Jackson

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