Ripley's Odditorium - Wisconsin Dells

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Shrunken Head and Cannibal Skulls at Ripleys in Wisconsin Dells
Shrunken Head and Cannibal Skulls at Ripleys in Wisconsin Dells
There is no shortage of bizarre attractions in Wisconsin. From the Clown Hall of Fame in Milwaukee to the sensory assault of The House on the Rock - the era of the creepy carnival or the unexplained roadside attraction is alive and well in Wisconsin. Rippley's Beleive it or Not Museum in Wisconsin Dells is just one of these destinations. If you are an obsessive collector, a weekly rummager, a fetishist, have a secret dark side .... or are just a regular Joe with an ever-unsatisfied-curiosity then this is a destination you cannot pass.

Ripley's Odditorium displays exhibits that may be too far on the fringe for a mainstream museum; yet they are nonetheless impressive. Priceless treasures from shrunken heads to a gigantic jade carving of Buddha are nested in a theme park like museum located in the heart of the "old" Wisconsin Dells where it has held its ground next to the Dairy Queen for a couple of generations.




Skeleton of a two headed calf - Ripley's Wisconsin Dells
Skeleton of a two headed calf - Ripley's Wisconsin Dells
The Dells is a destination that caters to families. Most attractions target young children. Of course, this is the case at Ripley's Odditorium. But, after visiting on my 35th birthday, I can say that I certainly got a lot more out of my experience as an adult than I did as a child. There aren't flashy interactive touchscreen displays. You have to read hand painted descriptive signs and ponder the absurdity of the artifacts on display to really get it.

It also helps if you have a nostalgia for Americana. Each of the artifacts displayed was at some time in history the subject of national intrigue. You can imagine the local newspaper stories about the famed two headed calf on Joe Smith's farm. Headline grabbing news of the weird is what Ripley's is all about. After All, Robert Ripley (1890-1949) was a newspaper man.

Ripley began as a sports writer documenting amazing feats of human athleticism. He branched out to travel writing and published a few guides. His breakthrough as a reporter of the weird was when William Randolph Hearst established a column by Ripley called "Beleive it or Not". His travels around the world were funded by Hearst, the enormously wealthy baron of a media syndicate. So, Ripley had license and the money to travel to the four corners of the world in search of treasures which would make us squeem and gasp in wonderful awe.

Visiting a cabinet of curiosities is a dated pastime. Now that we can beam anything in the world into our smartphones, we are not as impressed by the weird collections of stuff or junk that odditoriums offer. At the turn of the twentieth century however, the exotic treasures brought back to America by Robert Ripley were an important tool for common folk to explore the diversity of the greater world with. Going with friends or family to the freak show at the county fair or to an odditorium like Ripley's may have been a more authentic way of connecting with the world and history than browsing your Facebook feed. With Photoshoped images we can never really know the veracity of what we are looking at.


Directions and Map




Address for your GPS: 115 Broadway Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965
43.627755, -89.776136

From Milwaukee2 Hours
From Madison1 Hour
From Green Bay2.5 Hours
From Wausau2 Hours
From Minneapolis3.5 Hours
From Chicago3 Hours


Photos




Ripley's Believe it or Not - Wisconsin Dells
Ripley's Believe it or Not - Wisconsin Dells

Me entering the dark side of Ripleys through a secret passge - Ripley's Believe it or Not - Wisconsin Dells
Me entering the dark side of Ripleys through a secret passge - Ripley's Believe it or Not - Wisconsin Dells

Ripley's Believe it or Not - Wisconsin Dells
Ripley's Believe it or Not - Wisconsin Dells

My Friend in Jail at Ripley's Believe it or Not - Wisconsin Dells
My Friend in Jail at Ripley's Believe it or Not - Wisconsin Dells

Ripley's Believe it or Not - Wisconsin Dells
Ripley's Believe it or Not - Wisconsin Dells
Cannibal Skulls at Ripley's Believe it or Not - Wisconsin Dells
Cannibal Skulls at Ripley's Believe it or Not - Wisconsin Dells


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