Orlando has its own Ripley’s Believe or Not “museum” along with 30 other locations worldwide. An admission price of $20 for adults (check for coupons in store handouts and ask about discounts) makes it a nice way to kill about two hours. If nothing else, it’s interesting and a good side trip for a vacation day away from theme parks.
Located on International Drive near the Orlando convention center, Ripley’s is about 10 minutes from Universal and 20 minutes from Disney. It’s located in a building that appears to be tilted, as if a Florida sinkhole started to swallow it. It’s about six blocks from Wonder Works, which is located in a building that looks ompletely upside down. Yeah, the bizarre can be confusing in Orlando.
Exhibits fall into three general categories: A) That’s really folk art, B) Who would even think to do that? And C) Oh Jeez, that’s gross.
The House of Blues at Downtown Disney features folk art by modern artists, which tends to be bright-colored paintings and sculptures that many times relies on materials ignored by classical artists. Ripley’s has similar items, though its folk art crosses some magical line into the unbelievable because it’s over the top, such as a Volkswagen adorned with boom boxes, string, and other castoffs an artist found after her cleaned out his closet. It’s undeniably creative.
Who would even think to do that?
Grease soaks into paper. Consequently, if you put grease on paper in a methodical way, it could create a picture, right? But who would do that? (Someone did.) Jellybeans mixed to create a single color (pointillism) could also create an image if you step back far enough. Someone did that too. You can also save all your dryer lint, separate it by color, and create a room-sized version of DaVinci’s Last Supper. These Ripley’s items don’t wow audiences because the result is high or even low art. They wow guests because something strange clicked inside the creator when he or she saw art in everyday items.
Oh Jeez, that’s gross
Gross exhibits can be further subdivided. The first is real – culturally strange things – such as shrunken heads from South America or pictures of African tribes that extend necks or stretch lower lips. If some group of human beings manipulates their bodies, Ripley’s shows you how. Other exhibits, while strange, are more historical, such as vampire-killing kits from the 19th Century.
The second subdivision revolves around torture. Man has not always been kind to his fellow man, and if hooks were imbedded in chest skin, torsos stretched to the point of breaking, or Iron Maiden spikes driven into body parts, Ripley’s shows you how the mean people did it.
Words of warning: For the money, Ripley’s is worth the trip. But consider the following before committing your time:
- It’s not real. Ripley’s heavily advertises humans who can pop their eyes; who have tattooed and pieced themselves to look like a lizard; who have two irises; who are the tallest/shortest people who ever lived. But in all cases, exhibits are plastic recreations and not the original item.
- You read a lot. This will lose some kids. Each exhibit’s explanation looks a bit like Ripley’s newspaper column, and the bizarreness of an exhibit becomes clear only if you take time to understand the background.
- Kids will rush through looking for the next weird thing. Adults can spend up to two hours; kids will be done in less than half that time.
- If considering either Ripley’s or Wonder Works, consider Ripley’s a study in the human race, biology, and the bizarre things we do. Wonder Works focuses more on science – earthquakes and storms – with a greater number of hands-on exhibits. In general, adults get more brain candy from Ripley’s; kids have more fun at Wonder Works.