Title: Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Strikingly True
Publisher: Ripley Publishing
Release Date: September 13, 2011
I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was to find this year’s Ripley’s book in my mailbox. It wasn’t just me either. My husband and eight year old daughter were thrilled too. We all loved last year’s edition, and this year’s Strikingly True does not disappoint.
Be prepared for another long review as I share with you some of my favorite parts from each section of this 256 page book. Then, when you’re done and find it necessary to rush out and buy your own copy, I hope you’ll share some of your favorites with me!
The first and shortest section of the book is “Ripley’s World”. Oh, to work for Ripley’s! That sounds like a job that could never get boring. They just opened a new museum (p 6) in South Korea and the building looks as interesting as the exhibits! They say it’s robot shaped, but it’s more than that. With little cottage shapes sticking out here and there, it truly is an architectural work of art. You also have to check out the lists on page 9, the top twelve strangest and the top twelve favorite items bought at auctions this year, as compile by Ripley’s archivist Edward Meyer. Very interesting stuff!
The second section of the book is called “Believe It!” and it is filled with unbelievable facts, including “The Great Inferno” (pages 18-19). This guy is not only a fire eater; he holds lead so hot it’s liquid in his mouth until it solidifies. What makes this one of my favorites, besides the incredible images, is that doing this isn’t even his day job! I’m a big fan of Friday the 13th. It’s one of my favorite days of the year. I bet the 13 year old boy (page 20 “Bad Timing”) struck by lightning at 13:13 on Friday, August 13th doesn’t share my feelings. “Swing the Lizard” (page 21) has a great picture of an elephant who decided to make a monitor lizard its new toy. Page 32 has two favorites on it, “Model Father”, where a widow keeps her husband’s memory alive for her children with a life-sized cardboard cutout (Creepy, anyone?) and “Long Dead” where Tokyo officials discover that the man known as the city’s oldest man had been dead in his home for 30 years! “Fake Workers” (page 16) astounds me. A security upgrade led to the discovery that the city of Delhi, India had 22,853 fake workers on its payroll. I bet it’s a lot easier to balance the city’s budget now!
The third section is titled “World” and one of my favorites is on the very first page. The driftwood sculpture on page 35 is an incredible work of art by Floridian artist Paul Baliker. “Sole Survivor” (page 37) tells of a man whose prison cell saved his life when an entire city was flattened by the eruption of a volcano. Another volcanic eruption caused a huge rift to open in the Ethiopian desert (page 39 “New Ocean”). It is predicted to slowly become a new ocean as Africa splits in two. The picture on page 40 “Taking a Liberty” is an absolutely breathtaking shot of lightning striking the Statue of Liberty. I love the idea of “Snow Patrol” (page 48). The Russian Air Force blasts snow clouds from the sky over Moscow to keep bad weather from spoiling important holidays. I wish someone would do that for me! My last favorite bit from this section is “Boy Power” (page 53). China is going to have a serious problem on their hands, as they have 32 million more boys under the age of twenty than they have girls. At least the ladies will have a lot to choose from when looking for a husband!
Section four, “Animals”, is full of amazing stories about…duh, animals! It was hard to pick just a few favorites from this one. The entire snake section on page 61 is full of intriguing stories about the appetites of snakes and has an amazing picture of a python trying to pull a wallaroo through a rock wall! On the same page is “Chimp Chefs” that astounded me. Apparently chimpanzees have been seen making their own cutlery and eating with it! There is a type of pitcher plant in Malaysia (“Potty Plant” page 62) that treeshrews use as a toilet while they snack on nectar and the plant uses it as food! This one is a scary thought: five pregnant female German cockroaches (“Population Boom” page 62) can turn into 45 million in one year! It’s hard to believe that the picture on page 65 is just a spider (‘Alien Monster?’) but anything looks odd if you zoom in enough! How cool would it be to have your car washed by elephants? (“Car Wash” page 64) Alpine ibexes are amazing climbers and the picture on page 71 (“Herd for Heights”) proves that manmade or natural, it they want to, they’ll climb it! You have to check out the creepy little squid on page 73 (“Open Wide”). Words simply can’t describe it. The same goes for the giant isopod on page 83 (“Monster Bug”). *shudder* The animal world really is incredible.
The “Sports” section is next and it starts with four pages on the Olympics (pages 88-91) that had quite a few bits I couldn’t help but read aloud. “Delayed Game” (page 92) shows devotion to your sport. A high school hockey championship game cancelled 21 years ago because of a measles outbreak was finally held with the players now in their late thirties! The image on page 95 (“Cold Climb”), a frozen waterfall, is a sight to behold, and the fact that people have climbed it shows just how brave and determined people can be. I’d love to see it in person, but there is no way I’d give climbing it a try. 650 feet of ice? No thank you! “Free Throws” (page 97) reminds me of the half a season of basketball I played in middle school. If only I’d have been able to make 1968 successful free throws in an hour like Perry Dissmore I just might have kept playing! Pages 98-101 will make you cringe with sympathetic pain at the pictures of serious sports related boo boos. “Dangerous Ring” (page 99) is probably my favorite, where a celebrating soccer player jumped a fence and got his wedding ring caught at the top. He jumped down and left his ring AND half his finger at the top. Ouch!
The sixth section is “Body” and it starts with what seems like it would be impossible. A Chinese micro-artist, Jin Y. Hua, painted the face of every US president (“Heads of State” page 104) through George W. Bush, 42 portraits, on a single human hair. What would make someone want to even try that, I wonder. I also wonder what in the world would make someone swallow silverware (“Swallowed Cutlery” page 107), let alone 78 pieces?! The human brain is an amazing thing. Need proof? How about a 13 year old Croatian girl who woke from a coma suddenly unable to speak Croatian (“New Language” page 108) but could now speak fluent German when she’d only just started studying it? On page 109 there is a very cool x-ray of feet with eight toes each. I’d love to see the matching hands, which had a total of fifteen fingers between them! “Self Styled” (page 111) has a picture of Etienne Dumont from Switzerland. He is not only tattooed head to toe, but has amazing body modifications you have to see to believe!
Section seven is “Transport”. In last year’s book, one of my favorites was a motorcycle that looked like a rotting corpse. This year there’s one made out of the body of a real alligator! (“Gator Bike” page 134) The thing is amazing, with the full skin and skull of the gator integrated. Page 137 (“Off the Rails”) has a picture of a train engine hanging out of the side of the station, the crash happening when the brakes failed. “Extended Journey” makes me laugh. Never give a 12 year old permission to drive, not even to the end of the driveway (page 141) because they might not stop! I love the “Fake Porsche” on page 142. It is a life-size model built with plastic pipes, tape, and cardboard and is covered in aluminum foil. It’s even powered by a hidden bicycle! “Inflatable Weapons” on page 143 is ingenious. They are giant balloons that look like tanks and fighter planes, used to trick enemies into thinking you’re better armed than you are!
The next section is “Feats” and is filled with amazing and baffling things people have done. Let’s start with one about my new favorite means of communication. “Text Exchange” (page 149) tells about two friends in PA that exchanged 217,033 text messages during one month, resulting in a $26,000 bill for one of them. Talk about a good reason to have the unlimited plan! Pages 150-151 is a spread about the “Wall of Death”, where motorcycles and cars are driven around circular tracks until they are at right angles with the ground. Very cool! “Human Sparkler” on page 152 is an unforgettable image of a man sitting under a homemade Tesla coil with more than 200,000 volts of electricity running through his body.
Pages 161-168 is a huge foldout on the “Chicago Worlds Fair” that you have to see. Let’s end this section on an odd one, “Underpants Man”, (page 170) where a man managed to put on 211 pairs of underpants at once. I have one word. Why?!
Section Nine is “Mysteries”. My first favorite is “Floating Heads” on page 174, where a Spanish artist uses projectors to beam images, like the one in the picture of Alfred Hitchcock, onto natural settings around his home. It looks very real and ghostly. The two page spread on pages 176-177, “Ectoplasm”, really intrigues me. The little inset, “Ripley Research” makes it all the more interesting, about how some were proven fakes, while others could not. Page 179 contains another interesting phenomenon. “Burning Mystery” is about spontaneous human combustion, something I can never hear or read enough about. These stories are unforgettable and will leave you wondering.
The next section is food, and contains the interesting, the odd, and the downright gross. “Long Fry” (page 186) will be one of my daughter’s favorites. She is always in search of the longest French fry but she’s never come close to 34 inches! “Fat Dragon” on page 188 shows an amazing sculpture of a dragon made of margarine. It’s 29 inches high and weighs 35 pounds! “Status Symbols” on the same page is the perfect example of odd. In 17th century Britain, pineapples were status symbols and people would rent them by the day to impress their friends. White Castle makes a candle that smells like their burgers? (“Burger Candle” page 190) If I had one I’d be hungry all the time! Page 191 (“Spoon Fed”) has a cool x-ray of a stomach full of silverware. How do you even swallow a fork or spoon? Last for this section, check out “Alternative Dining” (page 194). It’s a collection of weird restaurant locations, and they are definitely abnormal!
Section eleven is “Arts”, and the first page is a spread (page 198) on “Inflated Animals”. Yes, it is what it sounds like, animal skins inflated to look like balloons. The art world both amazes and confuses me sometimes. In 2010, a video game collector bought an “Original Nintendo” and five games (page 200) for $13,105. I have a Super Nintendo if he wants to make an offer! “Some Yarn” tells about a woman who covered an entire city bus with knitted yarn. I can’t even finish a baby blanket! George Washington still has two books checked out of the New York Society Library (“Washington’s Fine” page 203) and has $300,000 in fines! I wish I had a painting stuffed behind my couch that turns out to be a lost work by Michelangelo worth $300 million! (“Hidden Treasure” p 219). The photo on page 223 (“Mini Me”) is definitely cool. The photographer uses a timer to take pictures of himself in different positions and edits them to make it look like he is interacting with himself.
Section twelve is “Science”. The first bit I want to share with you is “Self Operation” (page 226) where a doctor had to perform surgery on himself to remove his appendix. I can’t even imagine attempting such a thing, but I guess when your life is on the line you’ll do whatever it takes to save yourself. You definitely should check out the details of such an amazing story. Next on my list is scientists who have successfully extracted DNA from the frozen mummified 5,300 year old body (“Iceman’s Relatives” page 229). They want to track down his living descendents. Imagine getting that phone call! The picture on page 230, “Invisible Man”, reminds me of my favorite movie. This coat uses a camera and a projector to make the wearer appear transparent. Very cool!
The final section is “Beyond Belief”. The first tidbit is just one more reason my husband will never ride a motorcycle. In “Too Close for Comfort” (page 235), two people thrown from a motorcycle ended up stuck in a drainpipe and had to be rescued. “Facebook Phenomenon” on page 236 has incredible statistics about Facebook, including that people around the world spend more that 700 billion minutes per month on the site. At least I know it’s not just me getting sucked in! I’ve heard about weird vending machines, but live crabs? Check out “Crab Dispenser” (page 242) to see just that. I am so not a seafood person, but this one made me even less likely to eat any. My final bit to share with you this year is “Lively Landings” (page 245). I’ve seen one of these on TV before, but you have to see all five of these strange airplane landing strips! I can’t even imagine having to stop at a plane crossing like you would a train track.
On a fairly unrelated and a bit obsessive note, Ripley’s really should hire me to check over their book before publishing. I apparently pay far too much attention while reading because I spotted several typos that were a tad irritating. It’s not terribly difficult to use spell-check these days! I also noticed one tidbit repeated word for word only one page apart, and a few others repeated in multiple sections. If you guys are reading this, I’m available and I’d love to proofread for you!
Ignoring a few little issues — and what book doesn’t have a few these days, even though they shouldn’t? — Ripley’s Believe It or Not: Strikingly True is an amazing read. It’s hard to put down and it’s even harder not to read every other passage aloud to whoever is around to hear. (I made my husband nuts because he’s waiting for his turn to read it himself.) The pictures make it all the better. I love the glossy pages and background images that make each page different. With this book, turning the page is never boring!
Rated: 5 / 5 Stars