Ripley’s has enthralled audiences for more than nine decades with its dedication to revealing odd and unexplainable rarities from around the globe. But it all began with one man: Robert Ripley, a wildly successful and eccentric character who rose to fame during the first half of the 20th century. After selling his first cartoon to Life magazine at age 14, he set out on a quick-paced career of drawing sports cartoons for the New York Globe. During a slow day at the office, he sketched nine unusual sporting events and finished his work with a title: “Believe It or Not!” It became immensely popular, allowing Ripley to travel the world in search of more bizarre stories to put into his comic strips. While visiting relatively unknown areas in locales such as India, China, and the inside of his neighbor’s chimney, he picked up a slew of unbelievable souvenirs that later became fixtures in several of Ripley’s museums, or as they’re affectionately called today, Odditoriums. Ripley’s now encompasses publications, attractions, a television show, and a blog, all of which carry Ripley’s tradition of reporting on the world’s curiosities.
In 1987?75 years after the RMS Titanic sank?John Joslyn helped lead an expedition to the bottom of the sea to photograph the wreck and bring up artifacts. Today, the gigantic museum he founded holds authentic items from the Titanic numbering in the thousands and valued at $4.5 million. Accoutrements of Edwardian life that range from cutlery to deck chairs fill meticulously accurate reproductions of the million-dollar grand staircase, the third-class sleeping rooms, and the cozy second-class space between the floorboards. Families make their way through interactive attractions at their own pace as they sit in a full-size lifeboat, walk up the grand staircase, feel exactly how cold 28-degree water is, touch an iceberg, steer the ship, and learn to send an SOS signal. The walk-through experience lasts approximately two hours.
In addition to spelunking expeditions, Greater Outdoor Adventures’ guides run whitewater-rafting and hiking excursions in the Smokey Mountains area. The instructors are well trained, safety conscious, and capable of handling any diplomatic emergencies that may arise during encounters with the mole people.
Since 1979, generations of the Elvis-enthusiastic Moon family have been filling the Elvis Museum walls with memorabilia of the immortal ruler of rock 'n' roll. Guests can reminisce over the last limousine he owned and the Honeymoon Cadillac, marveling over their sleek exteriors and trying to get a whiff of the king's lingering peanut-butter-scented air freshener. Visitors appraise the original TCB ring of his personal jewelry collection and gawk at a selection of artifacts from his last tour, including personal jackets, a guitar, and a grooming kit. Restless whippersnappers can break from scavenging pay phones for discarded nickels and scavenge exhibits for answers in an Elvis trivia hunt, complete with lanyard and postcard prizes. After their wistful museum wanderings, guests cart home Elvis apparel, accessories, and collectables from the gift shop.