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A juggernaut of a franchise spanning many books, films, cartoons, museums and even games, Ripley's Believe It or Not, which deals in countless events so strange and bizarre, that readers might question the claims, hence the title. Named after the eponymous cartoonist Robert Ripley (1890-1949) .

In 1918, Ripley got his own cartoon feature in the New York Globe. At first calling it "Champs and Chumps", he focused on depicting sport facts and trivia. Within a year, Ripley had expanded the facts covered to little-known scientific facts, unusual occurrences and coincidences, etc. By 1923, his strip was one of those which survived the demise of the Globe. It was successful enough for Ripley to hire someone to do research for him. That someone was linguist Norbert Pearlroth (1893-1983). Assigned to search for unusual material from the foreign-language press and in the books of the New York Public Library. He performed his job "ten hours a day, six days a week" from 1923 to 1975. Covering about 7,000 books each year. Along with Ripley's own research and correspondence from readers, there was always more than enough material to publish.

In 1929, Ripley got a contract with William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) which ensured a syndicated run for the strip in multiple newspapers. Once Ripley himself died, Hearst's King Features Syndicate took over the strip. Pearlroth continued business as usual, Paul Frehm took over the artwork, etc. Ensuring that the strip would survive its original creator. The first book collecting material from the strip was published in 1929. Several publications followed over the decades. The first radio version of Believe it or not appeared in 1930. Various versions followed until 1948. A few theatrical shorts were produced by the Warner Brothers Vitaphone in the 1930s.

There was also a television series of that name, featuring Robert Ripley himself as its host. It started in March, 1949. Ripley died of a heart attack in May, 1949, before the completion of the first season. Various friends of his then served as substitute hosts. In the second season, Robert St. John served as the permanent host of the second season. Which was completed in October, 1950.

The television series was revived from 1982 to 1986. Featuring a larger number of hosts: Jack Palance (1982-1986), Catherine Shiriff (1982-1983), Holly Palance (1983-1984), and Marie Osmond. A third incarnation of the series lasted from 2000 to 2003. Featuring co-hosts Dean Cain and Kelly Packard.

Tropes related to this franchise:

  • Cash Cow Franchise - Each year, a book is pumped out, and their museums around the world are still visited daily.
  • Collector of the Strange - The museum's oddities include diseased skeletons, weird art, torture implements, sideshow hoaxes and plenty of other randomness. Ripley himself hoarded these - owning everything from Barnum and Bailey's hoaxes to an authentic Chinese Junk.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin
  • Schmuck Bait - Every museum has a mirror with a video and information on the rare few individuals that can twist their tongue. Problem is, it's a one-way mirror, so you can look like an idiot trying to twist yours, or you can watch others look like idiots!
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