Ripley's Believe It Or Not reopens on the wharf


At the Ripley's Believe It Or Not odditorium, you can see things like moving figures of the world's tallest man, a women with multiple neck rings, and a musician who has three legs. Its roots go back to the 1920s before travel was so common.

Robert Ripley searched the world looking for the bizarre, strange, and unusual and put them into his syndicated cartoon strip.

"People didn't believe him, like, 'That can't be real. There's no way that's real.' So he said, 'You know what? I'm going to put them up on display' and so he put them up in the world's first Ripley's Believe It Or Not odditorium," said Louis Aguila from Ripley's.

He did that at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. Now, it has grown to more than 80 attractions and 30 museums worldwide. San Francisco's location has one of the world's largest sea lions at 4,500 pounds and a camel bone sculpture in exquisite detail, the car in which Buck Helm was trapped for five days after the Loma Prieta earthquake. Shrunken heads are a mainstay and every Ripley's museum has at least one. They also have a delicately sculpted egg, carved with a nail file and a bridal gown made out of toilet paper.

And there are the hoaxes.

P.T. Barnum charged 25 cents to see this phony Fiji mermaid in 1842. A Bay Area artist created the Golden Gate Bridge out of one toothpick. You can see it close up with an HD camera.

They spent $5 million renovating this place, making the exhibits more accessible.

"You get to play with them, interact with it. We actually have 72 interactivies in this museum," said Aguila.

We're still fascinated. Globally, Ripley get 12 million visitors a year.

"We just like to look for the unbelievable," said Aguila.

In a high tech area and in a city that is, this is a throwback to another time. Yet Ripley's has kept pace, embracing 2010 -- believe it or not.

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