Robert Ripley, the Believe it Or Not! Icon, Created His First Believe it Or Not! Cartoon in 1918

Robert Ripley’s life was an unbelievable journey. For 35 years he explored the uncanny and witnessed the superb. His Imagine It or Not! cartoon teemed with unimaginable – however confirmed – phenomena day by day. Known as a liar extra usually than any man who ever lived, Ripley by no means failed to determine the reality of each assertion. He was a world traveler who visited greater than 200 international locations seeing locations few folks had even heard of, from the tombs of the Ming Emperors in China, to a city known as Hell in Norway!

Ripley was an artist, a reporter, an explorer, and a collector. The tales he gathered, illustrated by Ripley himself, would later seem in his widespread newspaper cartoon characteristic Imagine It or Not! Right now the venerable cartoons are nonetheless loved by thousands and thousands of readers worldwide.

Wherever Ripley went, he looked for the odd and the bizarre. In his quest, he documented the customs and beliefs of many historic and unique fashionable civilizations. Each time doable he introduced dwelling artifacts from his journeys, which at the moment kind the guts of the best assortment of oddities ever assembled. Right now these artifacts may be seen in Ripley’s Imagine It or Not! museums all over the world. Yearly thousands and thousands of individuals go to these museums to participate in an journey, one by which they expertise first hand the unimaginable world of Robert Ripley!

The Ripley story begins on Christmas Day 1890 when Robert Leroy Ripley was born in Santa Rosa, Calif. A proficient, self-taught artist, Ripley bought his first drawing to Life journal when he was solely 18. Ripley was additionally a pure athlete, and his old flame was baseball. He performed semi-pro ball for a number of years, however his dream of pitching within the Huge Leagues was shattered when he broke his arm throughout a New York Giants spring coaching sport. After the accident, Ripley was pressured to take his artwork extra critical; his pastime would develop into his occupation and his life work. He labored first for newspapers in San Francisco however left for the intense lights of New York Metropolis through the winter of 1912.

The Delivery of an American Axiom

On a sluggish day in December 1918, whereas working as a sports activities cartoonist for the New York Globe, Ripley created his first assortment of strange info and feats. The sketches, primarily based on uncommon athletic achievements, have been initially entitled Champs and Chumps,” however after a lot deliberation, Ripley modified the title to Imagine It or Not! The cartoon was an unlimited immediate success. The remainder is historical past and the phrase Imagine It or Not! is utilized by nearly everybody – nearly day by day.

Beginning in 1914 with a visit to Belgium and France, journey grew to become Ripley’s lifelong obsession. Throughout his profession he visited 201 international locations, circumnavigating the globe twice, and touring a complete distance equal to 18 full journeys all over the world.

In 1922-23 he traveled to the Orient, crossing by way of Japan, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and India. He wrote about what he noticed and skilled, and his “diary” was revealed again dwelling in syndicated each day installments.

Ripley felt significantly drawn to China. He discovered Chinese language tradition to be fascinating, and he adopted many Chinese language customs. For many of his life he most popular to entertain wearing Chinese language robes and he usually served his friends elaborate Chinese language feasts. At one level early in his profession he signed his identify “Rip Li” and later in his life he acquired an genuine Chinese language junk, which he used as his pleasure craft and it grew to become his dwelling away from dwelling.

Ripley was nicknamed “the Fashionable Marco Polo” by the Duke of Windsor and his travels took him to the 4 corners of the world. On one journey alone, he crossed two continents and coated 24,000 miles – 15,000 miles by air, 8,000 miles by ship and greater than 1,000 miles by camel, donkey and horse!

70 Years of Guide Publishing

Ripley’s early cartoons, a set of oddities discovered on his journeys, have been first revealed in ebook kind by Simon & Schuster in 1929. Imagine It or Not! by Ripley, bought greater than 500,000 copies and was on the bestseller record for months; it will keep in print for almost 40 years. Right now, if all of the Imagine It or Not! books ever revealed – properly over 100 titles – have been stacked one upon one other, the overall variety of books bought could be greater than 300 instances as tall as New York Metropolis’s Empire State Constructing!

In 1929, after signing on as a syndicated cartoonist with King Options, a part of the William Randolph Hearst newspaper empire, Ripley’s wage rocketed from $10,000 to $100,000 a 12 months. A legend was born and Ripley would quickly develop into the primary cartoonist to make one million {dollars} a 12 months.

On the peak of his reputation, the Imagine It or Not! characteristic was carried in additional than 360 newspapers all over the world, was translated into 17 completely different languages and had a each day readership of 80 million folks!

The response from his readers, many demanding proof of his unbelievable statements, was equally unimaginable. One cartoon alone, revealed in 1927, by which Ripley acknowledged that Charles Lindbergh was not the primary man to cross the Atlantic by airplane, drew 170,000 letters! This cartoon made Ripley so well-known that postmen forwarded his mail even with no full handle. Envelopes merely addressed, “To Rip” or “To the World’s Greatest Liar” have been all delivered. One man even despatched a letter written in a microscopic code that might solely be deciphered with a magnifying glass. The weird types of addresses and the sheer quantity of mail was sufficient for the U. S. Postmaster Basic to subject a decree in 1930: “…mail to Ripley wouldn’t be delivered if the handle was incomplete or indecipherable.” The regulation had little impact, nonetheless; “Rip-o-mania” was sweeping the world.

A Ripley contest to seek out unbelievable tales that ran in additional than 100 newspapers for 2 weeks in 1932 drew 1,750,000 entries. A decade later, a contest devoted to the conflict effort introduced in 19,712,213 responses! A survey performed in 1936 discovered that Ripley’s cartoons have been the most well-liked characteristic in any paper and had a larger readership than even front-page information. Ripley himself was voted the most well-liked man in America, above film stars, sports activities figures and even President Roosevelt.

Three linguistic consultants and a dozen researchers labored with painstaking precision to confirm each unbelievable truth. His large assortment of artifacts, most of that are nonetheless in Ripley’s Imagine It or Not! museums internationally, was assembled when he started bringing objects again from his in depth travels simply to show the authenticity of his weird and outlandish claims.

Ripley’s followers included the wealthy, the poor, the well-known and other people of all ages. His most well-known fan, nonetheless, was a person who made it his life’s mission to try to show Ripley a liar! Wayne Harbour, a postal employee of Bedford, Iowa, was an intrepid letter author. For 26 years he wrote letters to folks featured within the Imagine It or Not! cartoon looking for factual errors. Imagine it or not he wrote greater than 22,000 letters, however by no means obtained a single reply that contradicted certainly one of Ripley’s statements! Upon his demise, Harbour’s widow donated his huge assortment of correspondence – greater than 80 cartons – to the Ripley archives. Right now Harbour’s life work has been preserved and may be seen in Ripley museums all over the world.

One other well-known Ripley fan, who would later settle in Ripley’s hometown of Santa Rosa, Calif., was the late Charles Schulz, creator of Charlie Brown and the “Peanuts” cartoons. Charles Schulz’s first ever-published drawing, a sketch of a sure canine that might later develop into well-known as “Snoopy,” appeared within the Imagine It or Not! cartoon panel of Feb. 22, 1937.

The Broadcasting Pioneer

In the course of the 1930s and 40s Ripley’s tales of the odd and weird entered thousands and thousands of residing rooms throughout America by way of radio. Ripley pioneered “on-location” broadcasts from the strangest locales and carried out many “firsts” within the historical past of radio. He was the primary individual to broadcast from ship to shore, the primary to broadcast from Australia to America, and the primary to broadcast all over the world concurrently utilizing a corps of translators. He interviewed a handler of toxic snakes from a snake pit in Florida and a daredevil skydiver in Georgia whereas falling 12,000 toes earlier than opening his parachute. He went behind Niagara Falls and to the underside of a shark tank.

He went underground within the Carlsbad Caverns, down the Colorado River within the Grand Canyon, and he even dragged his workers and tools to the North Pole! He interviewed accident survivors, baseball legends, politicians, and on one Christmas Eve he even interviewed a person named Santa Claus and a lady named Merry Christmas!

In 1938 on maybe his most memorable present, he described for his listeners the dramatic, reside efficiency of 1 Kuda Bux, an Indian firewalker. A 20-foot ditch was dug in a car parking zone outdoors Radio Metropolis in New York and full of fiery coals. Twenty-four hours later with the temperature contained in the pit at 1,400 levels Fahrenheit, Kuda Bux walked throughout the pit not as soon as, however twice! When examined by Ripley and a crew of docs it was discovered that Bux had completely no accidents.

Throughout different broadcasts Ripley recalled his adventures in unique lands and the curious folks he encountered. His radio present, which began as a weekly present however at instances was aired nightly, was one of the widespread radio exhibits of all time and was on the air for 14 consecutive years (1930-1944).

World Conflict II modified the world of radio and ushered within the age of tv. Ripley, at all times a risk-taking pioneer, was as much as the challenges of the thrilling new medium. In 1948 he created a tv pilot primarily based on certainly one of his hottest radio exhibits, the story of Grimaldi the melancholy clown. The pilot was a terrific success and led in 1949 to Ripley being given one of many very first usually scheduled weekly tv collection.

The present featured Ripley interviewing celebrities and topics of Imagine It or Not! cartoons. It additionally confirmed him drawing his cartoons and discussing his favourite uncommon artifacts. Some segments have been filmed in his palatial BION Island mansion and others have been filmed in his downtown Manhattan studio residence. The grind of a weekly TV present quickly took its toll, nonetheless, and Ripley had a coronary heart assault on air throughout Episode 13. He died in a hospital three days later. Mockingly his final broadcast involved the origins of the army demise tune “Faucets.”

The present continued after his demise with visitor MCs for 2 full seasons. Imagine It or Not! has returned to tv in three completely different codecs since, together with the newest incarnation starting in January 2000 starring Dean Cain and Kelly Packard, a collection that ran for 4 seasons and produced 88 completely different episodes.

Ripley the Collector

Ripley was married briefly early in his profession to a Ziegfeld Follies woman, however by the 1930s he was residing as much as his fame as America’s most eligible bachelor, a person about city who thrived on exercise and relished all issues unusual. His persona in some ways was as uncommon because the tales and objects he collected.

A colleague as soon as mentioned that “probably the most curious object within the [Ripley] assortment might be Mr. Ripley himself.” He drew his cartoon day by day between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. – usually drawing it the wrong way up! He wearing mismatching vivid colours and patterns (his greatest buddy Bugs Baer as soon as described his wardrobe as wanting like a paint manufacturing unit had exploded in his closet), wore bow ties and two-toned spat sneakers.

Ripley was a contradiction. He collected vehicles, however by no means discovered to drive and although he usually used sophisticated sound and recording tools for his broadcasts, associates famous that he was afraid to make use of the phone for concern he could be electrocuted! He was a non-swimmer, however he lived on an island and had an odd assortment of boats, together with dugout canoes from Panama, a gondola from Venice and an genuine Chinese language junk, that he named Mon Lei.

His museum-like properties, one in Florida and two in New York, have been full of artifacts he introduced again from his travels. At his palatial 34 room BION (Imagine It or Not!) Island dwelling in Mamaroneck, New York, there have been lots of of Chinese language statues and wall hangings, Indian totem poles, an enormous assortment of beer steins, weapons of torture from Germany, colossus Oriental bronze guardian statues, a 20-foot pet python and even Cyclops, his beloved one-eyed canine.

The 1930s and 40s have been the Golden Age of Ripley. The phrases “Imagine It or Not!” and “That is one for Rip” had develop into part of on a regular basis speech. In small cities and large cities throughout North America folks stuffed film theaters and vaudeville halls to listen to his lectures and to see his movies. Beginning in 1931, Ripley created 23 of the earliest sound film shorts for Vitaphone Photos, later owned by RKO.

Just about self-educated, he was the creator of three greatest promoting books, the holder of three honorary PhD titles from esteemed schools, and a millionaire as well! The shy younger man born of poor farmers in a small city in California had develop into a celebrated public determine – a rock star of his period.

In 1933 almost two million folks visited Ripley’s first “Odditorium” on the World’s Honest in Chicago. Contained in the museum have been dozens of Ripley’s well-known cartoons and lots of of unusual artifacts from each nook of the globe, like human bone outfits from Tibet, medieval chastity belts from Europe, and the featured exhibit, a tremendous life-size self-portrait of Japanese artist Hananuma Masakichi who created his personal picture for his fiancée after studying he was sick with tuberculosis. The sculpture, consisting of lots of of tiny interlocking items of wooden so skillfully dovetailed and joined as to keep away from detection, is anatomically right all the way down to the smallest element and contains the artist’s personal hair and fingernails.

Amongst the rarest curiosities within the assortment of unbelievable artifacts was a pair of shrunken heads from Ecuador, certainly one of which Ripley obtained within the mail with a observe saying:

“Please take excellent care of this. I believe it’s certainly one of my relations!”

What was as soon as a typical follow amongst the Jivaro Indians of Ecuador, the shrinking of human heads was a ritual that had been handed down from one technology to a different. The heads of slain enemies have been valued as conflict trophies and symbols of bravery. When a fighter killed his enemy, the sufferer’s head was lower off. The pores and skin was then peeled away from the cranium and scorching stones and sand have been poured into the cavity. The top was sewn shut and boiled in herbs till it shrunk to the dimensions of a fist. It was then smoked over an open hearth to darken and harden it whereas ceremonial dances, songs, and feasts have been performed-often for so long as three days.

Along with artifacts, the primary odditorium additionally featured a large assortment of the strangest reside performers ever gathered underneath one roof, characters like Alfred Langevin who may blow up balloons together with his eyes, Joe Laurello, “the Human Owl,” who may twist his head 180 levels, and Sam Simpson who may put a baseball in his mouth and sing on the similar time!

The primary “odditorium” was so successful that all through the 1930s touring trailer exhibits would seem in Detroit, St. Louis and Washington D.C. and everlasting exhibits could be the hits of world’s festivals and expositions at San Diego, Dallas, Cleveland, San Francisco and finally on Broadway in New York Metropolis in 1939. The primary everlasting Ripley museum opened in St. Augustine, Fla. in 1950, a 12 months after Ripley died.

When he died, 1000’s lined the streets of New York to observe as his physique was despatched by rail again to his native California. However Ripley’s legacy continues to be alive and properly at the moment in newspapers, books, museums, TV exhibits, movie, on the internet AND in one of the widespread and oft repeated phrases within the English language: Imagine It or Not!

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