Ripley's Believe It Or Not! review
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This is a tourist trap. Don't get trapped. End of review.
It exists for one purpose only: to suck the money out of your wallet. Your kids will see it, want to go, want to visit, yeah yeah yeah, take us mum! take us dad! They'll badger you until you relent... and two hours later they'll come out sighing 'that was rubbish' and you'll be ninety quid worse off and still have half a day of sightseeing ahead of you. And I'm not exaggerating about that price, either -- if you buy your tickets on the door then you'll be going home broke.
The idea behind Ripley's Believe It Or Not! is quite appealing: it's a museum of weird and wonderful objects from all around the world. Some are magical and mysterious, some miraculous, spectacular and dangerous, odd, freaky, and just downright bizarre. You walk in expecting to see an Indiana Jones-style treasure trove of fantastic finds but let me describe a selection of the stuff on show, so you can understand what you're actually letting yourself in for...
In the first room there's an eclectic collection of curiosities that run the whole gamut from opium pipes and Victorian prams to a Boris Johnson caricature. Someone has knitted a car. There's a suit made from duct tape.
Other exhibits are more suited to an actual museum. They own a genuine piece of the Berlin Wall, for example, and Charles I's 17th-century gloves. They've got a replica of the Imperial State Crown on show and some typed up pages from Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. I don't understand what's so amazing and bizarre about those -- it just seems as if they're trying to fill up the cabinets with lots of random stuff.
Later on they've got some waxwork models of historical freaks: a werewolf man, a mule-faced woman (their description, not mine!), a bug-eyed Cuban, a legless acrobat, and a rather unfortunate Tom Thumb character who got locked up like a parrot. You can see a model of the world's tallest man, the world's fattest man, the world's cuddliest woman; and they're all shown life-size so you can compare yourself against them and see if you require a diet. They've put some chocolate vending machines next to the fat guy as well, which I thought was a nice touch.
I particularly like all the coin-operated games they've got dotted around the place to tempt you into spending any leftover money. That's what passes for entertainment in this place: chucking your money into a wishing well. Another game suggests whirling a few pound coins down a plughole ( "let's pretend it's a black hole!").
The most interesting section is obviously the torture chamber (I love torture). They've got an Iron Maiden in there (the medieval cage, I mean, not the 1980s heavy metal band -- although they can also be classed as torture, I suppose). They've got a bed of nails, ball and chain, mace and chastity belt, stocks, chopping blocks, electric chair... all the fun stuff.
By the time you get to the space section they have totally given up on displaying weird and wonderful objects, and just got hold of a few meteorites and astronaut autographs. It's like the world's worst Science Museum.
There's a little exhibition at the end with a few shrunken heads, alongside a movie showing you how to do it if you fancy giving it a go.
After that comes the Mirror Maze which is basically just a maze, made of mirrors. The walls are mirrors. So you walk around for two minutes looking at yourself and then eventually you'll find the exit and go home.
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