For FanExpo Canada 2019, I was invited inside the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! mini-museum posted up in the middle of the convention floor. Ripley’s has a hundred-year-old reputation of showing off the odd and the unbelievable.
So, when I was asked to come to check out the fun items they brought to FanExpo, I could not resist. With them, they had an array of oddities, art pieces, and movie props, and I got an inside look!
Among the oddities were the skulls of two-headed animals and those to be expected from Ripley’s bag of tricks. There was also a wall of “dog art,” portraits of dogs made from their dog hair. Above them were stunning prints of the original 1930’s posters Ripley used on tour.
For fans of art, displayed were some other items including these rad paintings by an artist who likes to reference pop culture items on literal representations. My favorite is the painting of that murderous headgear on a saw. Beside them were some beautiful matchbook sketches that incorporate the matches into the image, something that would have made Edward James Olmos proud. Speaking of, you should check out the clips of his Bladerunner panel.
In what looked like just your average apothecary kit of sorts was a real-life vampire kit. Van Helsing might have been proud. The Ripley’s collection boasts 30-40 vampire kits; no two were alike. There’s garlic, crosses, holy water, and silver bullets should you come across a werewolf hidden within the compartments. These were sold to gullible eastern European tourists in the 1800s who were meant to fear having their blood sucked.
Their most prized oddity appeared to be the gigantic hairball perched up in the center of the floor. The hairball was created by a barber who collected clippings and began building the mass. He called up Ripley’s to check on their interest, and Ripley’s was absolutely interested. The ball is a mass of locks and hairspray, ranging from natural colors to the unnatural. It’s been touring conventions this year and has gained 25 pounds of hair from that alone. Though absolutely terrified of this meatball, I donated some of my bluest locks to the project.
For us film fans, there was a gamut of unbelievable film props. The first thing I noticed was the hot pink hoverboard. On display were a pair of screen-used Nike pumps from Marty McFly’s trip to the “future” version of 2015 in Back to The Future Part II. These were sitting beside the toy we’re all still waiting for – his hoverboard.
Next to it was the first of two items handled by Harrison Ford. Remember that scene in The Last Crusade where Indie, having to save his father from Nazis, uses a bullwhip to swing from window to window? Well, that very whip was only separated from me by a thin piece of glass.
However, the absolute piece de resistance, which is difficult to fathom amongst these gems, was the lightsaber. Among their little shop of props was sitting Luke Skywalker’s actual lightsaber. The saber was purchased at auction for about $450,000 from and authenticated by producer Gary Kurtz. Star Wars fans then worked together to identify the prop as the one used in The Empire Strikes Back that Luke force lifts in the ice cave on Hoth. Displayed beside the famous weapon was an old camera. Look closely and you’ll see that below the flash and beside the body sits a familiar-looking metal part. This part was used as the base of the prop.
Remembering that old internet video of the guy who nervously handles a priceless record and ends up shattering it in his shaky hands, I was handed the lightsaber. I had to wear special gloves and was supervised by staff members who absolutely indulged me in a full-blown photo session. Dear reader, I feel taller, smarter, and more powerful than ever, and I might have accidentally called the handler “Yoda,” I’m not sure, I think I blacked out.
The exhibit also displayed Han Solo’s film used blaster from Return of the Jedi. That one remained behind glass.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is back on TV with host Bruce Campbell. The first season aired on the Travel Channel and showcased humans who have gone above and beyond the expected capabilities of a person.