Casa Flamingo

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Book Cover

Introduction

What in the world does Ripley’s Believe It or Not! have to do with amphibians and their conservation?  Why in the world would we publish a book dedicated to amphibians?  To fully understand all this, a brief primer on Robert L. Ripley, the creator of Ripley’s Believe it or Not! is necessary.

In the early 1900s, Robert Ripley began his career as a sports illustrator, creating a new graphic for the sports page every day.  This evolved into a sports trivia cartoon which came to be known as Ripley’s Believe It or Not!  The first, published Dec. 19, 1918 in the New York Globe, was an instant success and put Ripley on the road – literally – to fame and fortune.  It wasn’t long before the cartoons reached out beyond sports to include everything bizarre.

Ripley was always fascinated with the odd and the unusual and – luckily for him – the animal world was – and is – full of strange and remarkable animal species – often displaying bizarre adaptations for survival.  Ripley studied these intensely and during his career, created 106,238 cartoons featuring animals, close to 17% of all he created!  Nearly 500 were dedicated to amphibians.  By the 1930s, his daily cartoon was syndicated throughout the world with a readership of more than 80 million people a day!

In addition to drawing the most famous newspaper cartoon of all time, Robert Ripley accomplished many unbelievable things during his life.  He was an ardent adventurer and traveled to 201 countries, often traveling the back roads in search of bizarre findings.  He traveled so much he was given the nickname “The Modern Marco Polo” by the Duke of Windsor. Ripley could be considered the original Renaissance man!  He published best selling books, ran museums, made more than 20 movies, starred in 13 television shows, hosted a successful radio program for 14 consecutive years over 77 affiliate stations, and was New York City’s handball champion several years in a row.

He was so popular in his day that school children in New York City and Boy Scouts in Boston, when polled, ranked him the man with the job they would most like to have – well above every sports hero of the time, the head of the FBI and even the President of the United States!

A national newspaper poll ranked him as the most admired man in America.  Roosevelt came in second!  Though deceased now for nearly 60 years, Ripley’s impact on society is still prevalent, and many literary figures, including Stephen King, openly acknowledge his dramatic influence on their lives and work.  The phrase Ripley created and made famous, Believe It or Not!, has become a common household phrase used daily by millions of people around the world.  It has been reported that Believe It or Not! is the most used phrase in the English language.

What better way, then, to help spread the news about amphibians and their critical status to different cultures and age groups worldwide than through an established cartoon which already has worldwide appeal and has been known for its factual accuracy?

Tim O’Brien, the author and researcher for this book, culled the archives for the best facts and spent countless additional hours looking under rocks and logs for more.  John Graziano, Ripley’s official illustrator, created 50-plus original drawings for the book and we mixed in several illustrations drawn by Ripley himself, cartoons we have labeled as “Classics.”

We created this quirky book because we wanted you to see how cool amphibians really are and how regrettable it is that they are disappearing.  We want you to learn about them in a fun way, including their not-so-fun conservation status.  Then we want you to help – and you have already started by purchasing this book, as all proceeds will go to a world-wide amphibian conservation fund!

Joseph M. Choromanski
Vice President, Husbandry
Ripley Aquariums / Ripley Entertainment Inc.
May 2008