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Not for pointing and laughing, but for understanding: The science behind Ripley’s oddities

At 8 feet, 11 inches, Robert Wadlow, of Alton, was the tallest man on record to walk the earth. He was also friends with Robert Ripley, who was widely known for his comic strip, radio show, television show and collection of 32 “odditoriums,”which display rare, and strange, artifacts from around the world. Those collections are known as “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!”

Some of those oddities are now on display at the St. Louis Science Center. The traveling exhibit has been on the road since 2013, with plans to continue through 2019, but its purpose is less to point out oddities merely for people to laugh or gawk at them, but rather to explore the science behind them. 

“Robert Ripley was known for having unusual or odd characters around him,” said Doug Rutledge, the man in charge of traveling shows for Ripley Entertainment. “So it wasn’t just collecting artifacts, but he had a group of people around him who he considered family.”

“People were not displayed as a circus-style thing, but actually went out to meet and greet people and people developed a better understanding of them as individuals, not just some freak or odd person,” he continued.

Credit Margie Walsh, Saint Louis Science Center
Justin Bieber's face, made out of candy.

Ripley Entertainment partnered with Science North, a Canadian museum that produces exhibits, to create the traveling science version of the show.

One part of the exhibit features the sculpting of Willard Wigan, who makes sculptures so small that they are invisible to the naked eye—an owl inside the eye of a needle, for example.There’s also an impressive array of strange portraits: an homage to Justin Bieber made of candy and a visage of Albert Einstein in toast.

Related Event

The Science of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
October 1, 2015 - January 3, 2016
Saint Louis Science Center, 5050 Oakland Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110
More information.

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer, and Kelly Moffitt. The show is sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.    

Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.

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