I’ve been to central London and, in particular, the Picadilly Circus/Leicester Square area countless times over the years, but Believe It Or Not I’d never ventured into Ripley’s.
The attraction has the world’s tallest man Robert Wadlow standing proud outside its front door to entice visitors in and that’s just a prelude to the many tall (but ultimately true) stories which are unveiled as you meander through the many rooms and corridors once inside.
Billing itself as “the UK’s most extraordinary attraction”, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not London’s website www.ripleyslondon.com gives examples of the wacky exhibits you can look forward to seeing, such as the brand new giant thumb created by artist Larry Behnke – made from 44 years’ worth of nail clippings!
So when my I rolled up with my wife and two young children to have a snoop around the place last week, I knew it was going to be a strange experience.
You arrive in the foyer to be greeted by a daunting Optimus Prime Transformer figure and then there are a few other oddities dotted around, such as the horses made out of plastic kitchen utensils, before you hop in the lift to start your adventure.
There are more than 700 exhibits from across the world across the six floors – and many of these artefacts were collected by the ultimate explorer Robert Ripley himself.
With plenty of interactivity provided to complement the weirdness on offer, my two children were in their element. This is no stuffy museum and it was great that mum and dad could look leisurely at what was on display and read the information boards without being hurried along by impatient youngsters.
There are far too many odd items to mention and I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun of discovering them all for yourselves if you decide to visit...however here are a few of the hideous, outlandish, or just bizarre attractions you’ll find.
If you like artwork, how about a Brad Pitt portrait created purely from cigarette ash, a plate of sushi created from tumble drier fluff, or sculptor Enrique Ramos’s model of the Beatles created out of chewing gum?
Then there was Abraham Lincoln made from the keys of a computer keyboard, and a matchstick model of the Titanic (you can even dip you hand in water said to recreate the temperature of the icy ocean where the ship hit the iceberg).
Then you can admire a painting which on face value appears normal until you read its caption... “Michael Angelo took four years to paint the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel. Connie Gordon had better things to do so she completed this entire sea scape in less than one minute.”.
All aspects of the human body are covered from the man with two pupils in each eye, the talking head of the man with crocodile teeth dentures, Amazonian shrunken heads, Queen Victoria’s death mask and hair from Duke of Wellington who died in 1852.
My kids were fascinated to see how they measured up to the world’s tallest man, and then, as a family, we hopped on the scales to discover our combined weight was still only a fraction of the world’s heaviest man.
With dinosaurs, sharks, toilet roll wedding dresses, Olympic torches to pose with, rocks from Mars and the moon, a knitted Ferrari, and a table which made your legs vanish, there was so much to hold your interest.
Things got a bit gruesome in the dungeon, but there were signs up warning parents to take the diversion if they had sensitive children – a good idea if an exhibit where you pull the lever to set off a man convulsing for 20 seconds on an electric chair isn’t your idea of fun!
What was hugely popular with my children was the Mirror Maze where you can easily be disorientated by all the reflections and lighting effects and thankful to finally make your escape.
Then at the end of your visit there’s the chance to try out the laser challenge which has you first crawling around on the floor and then hopping about to avoid red beams – it was almost as if I was breaking into the Tower of London to steal the crown jewels!
To sum up, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, London certainly was an unbelievable experience and one I’d thoroughly recommend.