Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum is an important piece of Gatlinburg history. The last time Believe It or Not! had a major renovation was after it’s 1992 fire in Gatlinburg that many locals here still remember. The version that we’d had access to since 1994 came from that and I bet I visited there, on average, about once every 6 months since then. Hundreds and hundreds of exhibits and historical anecdotes of achievements, inventions, mutations, tortures, anomalies that are simply too unreal to fathom scattered across a labyrinth of themed sections – sections that concentrated on indigenous people and tribal societies, slightly more modern and local societies, prison and punishment, Asian cultures and societies, the macabre and haunted, performance artists, the primordial jungle and more. There were photos and recreations of people with very unusual properties such as horns where humans should have none, double irises, extreme resistance to hammering nails into themselves, necks and noses that boggle the brain. There were works of art assembled entirely out of trash, animals born with one too many heads, legs or ears, videos of a man who can swallow a lock, then swallow a key, and then somehow summon it back up out of his stomach unlocked, and, just when you thought you couldn’t handle any more weirdness: a bridgeway spiraling between dimensions.
As a Sevier County native of 30 years, half of which I’ve spent working and writing in tourism, one of my personal favorite and most impacting attractions has been the awesome, reality-breaking museum known as the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum in downtown Gatlinburg. This multi-story madhouse with its themed sections is one of the most wonderfully weird places I’ve had the pleasure to visit over, over and over again. Starting with its iconic corner attraction with the perfectly spherical marble boulder that can be brought up off a few millimeters off the ground with just a jet of water and the many animated exhibits you get a sneak peak of just from the outside, everything about the Believe It or Not! Museum is fascinating and worth the price of admission.
And now that quintessential establishment has had its first major renovation in over 20 years!
So what is the 2018 Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium about? Here’s what they have going on now:
- 12,500 square feet of museum space on three floors.
- 16 galleries.
- 500 exhibits and artifacts.
- Majorly redesigned and redecorated.
- Albino giraffe.
- Two-trunk elephant.
- Animatronic humanoid figure that gets pulled apart and put back together in stunning fashion.
- Shrunken heads and other remains.
- The “Lock-Nose” woman.
- The “Shark-toothed” man.
- More than one person missing half their body or more while still making a living as a professional performer.
- The Bird Cage Dwarf.
- An actual vampire Killing Kit.
- The Moon Bible.
- Hogwarts School of Magic Made of 1,000,000+ matchsticks.
And then returning favorites like Robert Wadlow, the Unicorn Man, the Lighthouse Man with the candle in his head and more return as exhibit material as well!