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Believe It or Not

Author Shelley Fraser Mickle
Air Date 12/13/2000

Believe It or Not Transcript

Believe it or not, here’s Shelley Fraser Mickle with a remembering about Robert Ripley:

In 1913, Robert Ripley was hired as a cartoonist for the New York Globe. Five years later, he was worrying about coming up with weekly ideas. So he began traveling around the world looking for strange and wondrous things that he could put in a cartoon. In a sense, Robert Ripley was the model for our later day movie hero Indiana Jones.

He found things as diverse and strange as the Lord’s prayer written on a single grain of rice. He found a picture of the Mona Lisa made completely out of toast. On the other side of the world, he came upon a man who could kneel with one leg out in front of him and the other one behind, so that Ripley wrote under his cartoon, “is this man coming or going?”

When I was a child, a Ripley’s Believe It or Not cartoon could stick in my head throughout the whole day. I would be at school but still haunted by the picture of the man who breathed fire. I had nightmares about the shrunken head sent in from a man in Ecuador who also passed along a note. “Dear Mr. Ripley,” he wrote, “please take good care of this. I think it is one of my relatives.”

Yes, curiosity and fascination are never more well fed in a child’s mind than when it is mixed with a heavy does of what today we call “being freaked out”. In fact, most of what Ripley collected was what might be called freaks. I think this fascination for a child has a lot to do with his need to find out exactly who he is. For inside all of us is the need to be unique, yet not so unique that we might end up in a Ripley’s cartoon.

For years and even now, people from all over the world have been sending into the Ripley’s cartoon amazing things. His collection is housed in over 27 museums in 10 countries, and the cartoon reaches about 80 million people. Since Ripley died in 1949, a number of successors have kept his cartoon alive, and today it consists of more facts than freaks, which in some ways is disappointing, yet in others, a relief. Because when I was a child, my brother teased me that he was going to send me in as a suggestion for Ripley’s cartoon because I could wiggle my ears. Today, the Ripley folks probably wouldn’t be interested. Besides, I can’t wiggle my ears anymore. I’ve forgotten how.


Posted in Comics