Edward T. Meyer is the Vice President of Exhibits and Archives for Ripley Entertainment. He’s worked for the company since 1978, and has personally acquired more than 20,000 exhibits. He took some time to answer a few of Londonist’s questions about the new London location of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, which opens today.
Why did Ripley’s Believe It Or Not decide to open a London location?
London is one of the greatest cities in the world. We have been in Blackpool for nearly 40 years, but have always wanted to be in London too. The perfect location in 1 Piccadilly Circus became available and we jumped on it. London will also serve as a stepping stone for future Ripley expansion in Europe. We are very excited about being in London!
Why do you think Ripley’s Believe It Or Not will stand out amongst all the other London tourist attractions?
Because we are unique — 500 exhibits you can’t see anywhere else. And importantly, they are all true and genuine!
What should Londoners know about the history of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not that they may not already know?
We have been “proudly freaking out families for 90 years” and have been in the museum business over 75 years. We know how to amuse and amaze. We have 30 Believe It or Not! Odditoriums, but London will be the biggest and best! If they like our books, or our tv show, they are going to love this Odditorium.
What in the London location are you most proud of?
The crystal covered “American Icon” Mini Cooper with its 1 million Swarovski crystal mosaic is possibly the most spectacular piece, but I am “proud” of them all. I personally love the Ray Charles “Post-it Note” mosaic.
How much time should readers expect to spend at the museum? An hour? A day?
At least an hour to do it justice, but I would allow 90 minutes to be safe. Some people will probably stay for several hours!
Is there a gift shop, and if so, what’s the best thing to buy?
Yes there is a wonderful gift shop with several “Ripley-centric” items unavailable anywhere else in London. I recommend anything with our iconic shrunken human head image.
What would we find hard to believe?
How about: a portrait of Princess Di made from laundry lint?! Or preserved ants painted to look like a number of famous British royals – a real must see. Truly unbelievable!
What’s the most unusual exhibit?
Everyone will have a different favourite, but the shrunken heads are usually very popular. In this museum how the exhibits are displayed will sometimes be as wonderful as the exhibit itself….look for a few real surprises! Children will especially love all the interactive, hands-on experiences, and the Jeremy Bentham mummy is pretty cool too!
What is your favourite exhibit?
I love them all! As a would-be historian I do really like the “older” pieces, like the 15th century Iron Maiden torture device and the 18th century “Devil & The Damsel” wood carving, both items acquired by Mr. Ripley himself in Germany in the 1920s.
Are there any special London themed exhibits our readers should look out for?
Several! There is an entire gallery of British-themed artefacts, including the laundry lint and preserved ants I mentioned earlier, a 16’ long working replica of the Tower Bridge made completely of matchsticks by a gentleman from Manchester…and there is of course Mr. Bentham’s mummy too.
Will we learn anything shocking about London?
I am not sure how well known, or how obscure the local story of Jeremy Bentham’s mummy is to Londoners, but we Americans certainly feel it is “shocking”! In addition several of the artifacts in the torture gallery have English backgrounds, so these might be shocking to people who look on England as somewhat gentile and “polite”.
Is there an exhibit you’d recommend seeing first or saving for last?
The way the museum is designed, with a few exhibits right in the lobby (even before you pay), and a suggested path of procession, the first things everyone will see are a rather unique odd 5-legged, 6-footed cow and a life- size gorilla made entirely from car bumpers. After those, the crystal car comes up pretty quick. But, a few of the very best items (like the Mars rock and the shrunken heads) come pretty late in the show, so everyone needs to see all 5 floors to really get the full Ripley experience.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, 1 Picadilly Circus, is open from today, 365 days a year, from 10am to midnight. Tickets are £17.95/£15.95 (£13.95 for children 4+) and are available online or at the door.