A juggernaut of a franchise spanning books, films, cartoons, themed museums and even games, Ripley's Believe It or Not! was the brainchild of cartoonist Robert Ripley (1890-1949). Its raison d'etre is chronicling people, places and events so bizarre that readers might well question the claims, hence the title.In 1918, Ripley got his own cartoon feature in the New York Globe. At first calling it "Champs and Chumps", he focused on depicting sport facts and trivia. Within a year, Ripley had expanded the facts covered to little-known scientific facts, unusual occurrences and coincidences, etc. By 1923, his strip had survived the demise of the Globe and was successful enough for Ripley to hire a researcher, linguist Norbert Pearlroth (1893-1983). Assigned to search for unusual material from the foreign-language press and in the books of the New York Public Library, he performed his job "ten hours a day, six days a week" from 1923 to 1975, covering about 7,000 books each year. Along with Ripley's own tireless research and submissions from readers, there was always more than enough material to publish.In 1929, Ripley got a contract with William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) which ensured a syndicated run for the strip in multiple newspapers. When Ripley died, Hearst's King Features Syndicate took over the strip. Pearlroth continued business as usual, Paul Frehm took over the artwork, etc. The first book collecting material from the strip was published in 1929, and several publications followed over the decades. The first radio version appeared in 1930 and ran in various formats until 1948. A few theatrical shorts were produced by the Warner Brothers Vitaphone in the 1930s.There was also a television series of that name, featuring Robert Ripley himself as its host. It started in March, 1949, however Ripley died of a heart attack in May 1949, before the completion of the first season. Various friends of his then served as emergency substitute hosts. In the second season, Robert St. John served as the permanent host.The television series was revived from 1982 to 1986, featuring a rotating stable of regular hosts: Jack Palance (1982-1986), Catherine Shiriff (1982-1983), Holly Palance (1983-1984), and Marie Osmond. A third incarnation of the series lasted from 2000 to 2003, featuring co-hosts Dean Cain and Kelly Packard.
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