Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is an American franchise, founded by Robert Ripley, which deals in bizarre events and items so strange and unusual that readers might question the claims. The Believe It or Not panel proved popular and was later adapted into a wide variety of formats, including radio, television, comic books, a chain of museums and a book series.
The Ripley collection includes 20,000 photographs, 30,000 artifacts and more than 100,000 cartoon panels. With 80-plus attractions, the Orlando-based Ripley Entertainment, Inc., a division of the Jim Pattison Group, is a global company with an annual attendance of more than 12 million guests. Ripley Entertainment’s publishing and broadcast divisions oversee numerous projects, including the syndicated TV series, the newspaper cartoon panel, books, posters and games.
Ripley first called his cartoon feature, originally involving sports feats, Champs and Chumps, and it premiered on December 19, 1918, in the New York Globe. Ripley began adding items unrelated to sports, and in October 1919, he changed the title to Believe It or Not. When the Globe folded in 1923, Ripley moved to the New York Evening Post. That same year, Ripley hired Norbert Pearlroth as his researcher, and Pearlroth spent the next 52 years of his life in the New York Public Library, working ten hours a day and six days a week in order to find unusual facts for Ripley.
Other writers and researchers included Lester Byck. In 1930, Ripley moved to the New York American and picked up by the King Features Syndicate, being quickly syndicated in an international basis.
Those working on the syndicated newspaper panel after Ripley included Joe Campbell (1946–1956), Art Sloggatt (1917–1975), Clem Gretter (1941–1949), Carl Dorese, Bob Clarke (1943–1944), Stan Randall, Paul Frehm (1938–1978; he became the full-time artist in 1949) and his brother Walter Frehm (1948–1989); Walter worked part-time with his brother Paul and became a full-time Ripley artist from 1978–1989. Paul Frehm won the National Cartoonists Society’s Newspaper Panel Cartoon Award for 1976 for his work on the series. Clarke later created parodies of Believe It or Not! for Mad, as did Wally Wood and Ernie Kovacs, who also did a recurring satire called “Strangely Believe It!” on his TV programs. The current artist is John Graziano and current researcher is Sabrina Sieck.
At the peak of its popularity, the syndicated feature was read daily by about 80 million readers, and during the first three weeks of May 1932 alone, Ripley received over two million pieces of fan mail. Dozens of paperback editions reprinting the newspaper panels have been published over the decades. Other pages/strips and books borrowed the Ripley design and format, such as Ralph Graczak’s Our Own Oddities, John Hix’s Strange as it Seems, and Gordon Johnston’s It Happened in Canada. Recent Ripley’s Believe It or Not! books containing new material have supplemented illustrations with photographs.
Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz’s first publication of artwork was published by Ripley. It was a cartoon claiming his dog was “a hunting dog who eats pins, tacks, screws, nails and razor blades.” Schulz’s dog Spike later became the model for Peanuts’ Snoopy.
77 pages/strips Believe it or not Various