There are more than 30 Believe It Or Not “Odditoriums” around the world, displaying artifacts, photos, and stories collected by Robert Ripley as he traveled the world seeking out the unusual. Here are some of the articles displayed at the various Ripley museums:
A ¾ scale model of a 1907 Silver Ghost Rolls Royce with moving engine parts, turning wheels, and lights that work, made out of more than a million matchsticks and 63 pints of glue.
A replica of the Mona Lisa made entirely of toast burnt to various shades.
Lumps of coal recovered from the Titanic.
Replicas of Robert Wadlow, the world’s tallest human, measuring 8-feet 11-inches; and Walter Hudson, one of the world’s heaviest people, reputed to weigh 1,400 pounds, though others contend he weighed only 800-900 pounds (he refused to be weighed)
The “Lord’s Prayer” written on a grain of rice without the aid of a microscope, using an ordinary pen.
The world’s smallest violin, which fits in the palm of a hand.
A 21-foot working Ferris wheel made of Erector set parts.
A six-legged cow that died at the age of 14.
A life-sized portrait of John Wayne constructed entirely out of lint.
A statue of Marilyn Monroe made from $250,000 worth of shredded dollar bills.
Continued next page
TOOTH FAIRY MUSEUM
In Deerfield, Illinois, visit the Tooth Fairy Museum to see a Tooth Fairy treasure trove, including Tooth Fairies made out of everything from paper mache to clay to fabric. There are Tooth Fairy angels, pixies, ballerinas, and even a Tooth Fairy bag lady. Of course, there are a lot of Tooth Fairy boxes designed for children to put their teeth into in order to receive their money. One is shaped like a set of pink gums and is designed so that each tooth lost is placed in the appropriate slot, reproducing the child’s smile. Collecting money for lost teeth is an American habit which became popular around 1900. At that time, the going rate per tooth was about 12 cents. Now, it’s a little over 4 dollars!
In Dallas, visit the Olde Fan Museum. There are more than 600 fans displayed here, all of them operational. One pre-Civil war model is powered by a rocking chair. The 300-pound 5-foot-wide Cyclone was used in movie making and needs to be anchored down when in use to prevent it from going through the wall. In the 1902s, perfume fans were popular, with canisters of scent being sprayed through the blades. One antique fan has a bullet hole in it for unknown reasons.
In Stevenson, Washington, visit the Don Brown Rosary Collection. With over 4,000 rosaries, this is the biggest collection of rosaries in the world. The rosary beads are made from everything, including glass, beads, bone, rubies, opals, olive pits, nuts, leather, and even bullets. One rosary on display was carried by JFK during World War II and is the most valuable specimen on display. Unfortunately, the museum had to turn down one rosary that was offered for donation in honor of the pope’s visit to Florida. It was more than 100 feet long and simply would not fit.
In New York City, visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, a lovingly recreated immigrant slum. This typical tenement building has been restored to show the hardships suffered by the roughly 7,000 tenants from 20 different nations who crowded themselves into the building between 1863 and 1935. Exhibits in the apartments tell the stories of former residents and explain the history of immigration in America.
In Boston, the Museum of Bad Art showcases the work of untalented struggling artists and good artists who were having a bad day. The curator has extremely tough low standards, and only about 10 percent of the pieces offered to the museum are deemed bad enough to be place in the permanent exhibit. According to the museums promotional literature, what they all have in common is “a special quality that sets them apart in one way or another from the merely incompetent … they grab you by the throat and don’t let go.”
One work of bad art by artist Jeanne Kent is called “The Good Year” and is described as “an abstract appeal to the emotions through violent assault on the visual sense. This saturated work speaks of sunshine, tossing together watermelon, baubles, body part, and a blue banana in a fruit-stained cocktail, which possibly references a long-lost summer.”
“Nature’s Ashtrays” is a work entirely constructed out of shells by a chain smoker who was trying to quit.
“The Athlete” is probably the largest crayon on canvas work in the world. It depicts a discus thrower with bulging muscles wearing a pink toga.
One work consists of an ostrich egg etched with repeating patterns of bees, ants, and the Energizer Bunny, along with the repeating text “I Just Can’t Stop.”
Other items on display include “Predator Pumpkins,” “Sunday on the Pot with George,” “Peter the Kitty,” “Two Trees in Love,” and many, many more.
Many of the works are acquired from trash cans, flea markets, and thrift shops, but the Museum of Bad Art is always looking for donations to its collection, They do not accept paint-by-numbers, things painted on velvet, big-eyed kids, or dogs playing cards. Submissions are guaranteed never to be returned to the donor.
Smithsonian Magazine recommends the following if you’re interested in far-out museums:
The Surfing Museum in Santa Cruz, California, which is located right next to some killer surf on the coast. See antique wooden surfboards that are older than the Beach Boys, the shredded wetsuit of a surfer who survived an attack by a shark, and a complete history of the over 100 years of surfing.
The Roller Skating Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, displays actual costumes of real roller skating champions, the history of roller-disco dancing, the world’s largest collection of historical skates, the story of roller derbies, the development of in-line skates, and more than 1,500 books about skating, as well as films and photographs.
Various Elvis museums in and around Tennessee contain such things as his checkbook stubs, his underwear, copies of his grocery lists, and X-rays of his sinuses.