Very often, my husband and I find ourselves wondering what to do with our time off. Too much time stuck in the house is profitable for neither of us – I get grumpy and he gets antsy. Most of the time we debate the pros and cons of various destinations for about two hours before finally giving up for the day and deciding to marathon Bob’s Burgers, or we just end up doing the same old things – going to one of the various town centers around us and looking in the same shops and getting a coffee. While this isn’t bad, it gets boring after a while. We leave near one of the world’s leading destinations – it should be more exciting!
Our savior? Southwest Trains has had a promotion on for the past year – 2 for 1 entry on attractions if you travel by rail, which we do. This has been amazing – especially as both of us are penny pinchers. We’ve been able to visit Kew Gardens, the London Zoo, and the London Dungeons, all for the price of one entry. Other places one can visit are some of the royal palaces (Kensington, the Tower of London, and Hampton Court Palace), Madame Tussauds, Westminster Abbey, Thorpe Park, various walks and tours, and there are even some 2 for 1 restaurant offers!
Today we cracked open their promotional pamphlet and my eye was immediately drawn to Ripley’s. I loved the Ripley’s comics growing up – the Sunday comics were one of the highlights of my week, and Ripley’s was one I always had to read. My husband was receptive and we were off! Straight to Waterloo and then the 139 bus to Piccadilly Circus, and it’s right next to all of the large screens.
You’re immediately drawn in. A figure of Robert Wadlow, the world’s tallest man, greets you at the door. The lobby hosts an Optimus Prime made of junk, a Peel Car, and a Crystal Car (featuring over a million Swarovski crystals). To the left of the queuing area is a taxidermied cow with a mutation. You’re advised to take the elevator up to the fifth floor and begin there.
As you exit, you’re immediately greeted by a hodgepodge of collectables in an area called “Ripley’s Studio” – it contains a taste of what you will see throughout the next four floors. Animatronics, oddities, collectables from history, works of art. As you enter, there are examples of the Ripley cartoons accompanied by people’s actual letters of submission to Ripley explaining their “believe it or not”. You’re met by a “hologram” of Ripley, who explains his collection, and then you’re ushered into the Gallery, which hosts pieces such as Michelle Obama made of bottlecaps, a Gene Simmons made of dung, toast art, smoke art – anything you can think of! My personal favorite was the life of Christ etched into a human skeleton. A little bit macabre, but the etching looks similar to what you would see on a stained glass window.
The Ripley’s Studio area — a hodge podge of items
An animatronic T-Rex and several taxidermied mutated animals
There are several areas – the Graffiti Wall, just at the end of the gallery, where you can make your own work of art. Then there’s the “Upper Crust” area where you can read about people who had various deformities and worked as side show entertainers. Scattered throughout are small things that you just wouldn’t see anywhere else – for example, hanging next to a bust of a man with a horn growing out of the back of his head was a seal for President Lincoln’s funeral. This is also the section where you’ll get your picture taken for a souvenir book you’ll be asked to purchase at the end of your tour.
Part of the Upper Crust area — an upside down tea room with one of Henry VIII’s shoes and a Victorian hair wreath!
Next is a section that families with small children can bypass – the Dungeon area, which hosts medieval torture devices such as chastity belts and a scold’s bridle. There are various scenes set up to show how people are tortured, and we stayed well away from a few as it appeared they had motion sensors to trigger animatronics. Followed is an area about “Beauty” which explains different country’s standards of beauty and how they have changed in western civilization over time.
Hey, I found some of those wooden nickels everyone warned me about!
If you need a break, there’s an appropriate one placed in the middle of the museum – the “Remarkable Café” where you can get a tea or coffee and sit yourself down, surrounded by a figure of Robert Wadlow or where you can weigh yourself up against one of the world’s heaviest men. We didn’t stop for refreshment as we had had coffees on the bus on the way to Piccadilly, so I can’t comment on the quality.
Part of the Remarkable Cafe, where you can measure yourself up against Robert Wadlow
After this is an ocean and “cosmic” parts featuring a matchstick replica of the Titanic, dinosaur eggs, meteorite, and a story of a man who was attacked by a Great White Shark, followed by the “exotica” – shrunken heads and carved skulls and ceremonial headdresses. It wasn’t until I got to this part that I was struck by how much of this was still a mystery to the world 100 years ago.
Along with your ticket you get the opportunity to go through a mirror maze – not quite as large as you would imagine it to be, and somewhat misleading. The exit is five feet from the entrance, and you pretty much go down one long hallway and come back up another, but it gave us a few minutes of entertainment. There is also a spinning tunnel which is SO disorienting and made me feel ill. I had to close my eyes and cross the bridge to make it through, but my husband loves these things and went back and forth across the bridge a few times. It was funny to watch him stumble, though! After this, you’re greeted with your souvenir book which you can purchase if you wish (if you hesitate, the salesperson will offer you other options, but they really want you to purchase the £20 book), and you’re dumped into a rather unexciting gift shop. Seriously – it’s a Ripley’s Museum gift shop, it should be so much more exciting than it is! Sigh. I hate disappointing gift shops. Then you’re given the opportunity to go through a Laserace (also included in your ticket), but we declined to do this.
My favorite part of the museum (and I can’t quite remember where it’s placed other than right near the end) was a room that was full of quirky items. Oddities. A man who made dioramas out of ants and modelled them to look like royalty. A man who painted scenes from the Old and New Testaments on pumpkin seeds. The Last Supper painted on a grain of rice with a single human hair. A two inch working pool table. I love stuff like this. It’s insane what people are able to do when they decide they want to do something unique!
Apparently the London Ripley’s Museum is the largest one in the world, and is famed for having several of Marilyn Monroe’s personal belongings, but I don’t remember seeing these (however, there were several items in the studio area that I couldn’t find the description for). I don’t know if I would spend £26 a ticket, but because we had the 2 for 1 offer, it was well worth the price.
Definitely worth checking out if you not only love odd things, but if you have an interest in science as it definitely has a science lean to it.
I hope this has been entertaining! Please feel free to comment with any questions.