My son Toby is obsessed with record breakers. Apropos of absolutely nothing, he will often ask “Do you know how small the smallest bird is?” or “Guess how tall the tallest man in the world is.” So when we were invited to try out Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! London, I knew he’d be desperate to go.
For want of a better description, I described it to Toby, 9 and Olivia, 7, as “a kind of museum of weird stuff” and that’s pretty much what it is. The exhibition is set over five floors in Piccadilly Circus and while some of the 700-plus exhibits are grouped (for example, a small room with several shrunken heads, or a model of the tallest man alongside the fattest man), in other rooms you might have a huge shark jaw right next to a Mini covered with one million crystals. It can sometimes be a little overwhelming, but it’s certainly never boring.
I was slightly (perhaps, somewhat naively) disappointed to discover that many of the exhibits are simple models of curiosities, although those that weren’t models included a 27 inch hairball found inside a cow’s stomach, a 3,000 lb piece of the Berlin Wall and a mummified man. However, the kids didn’t really care what was real and what was simply model and were utterly thrilled by all the weirdness. Highlights for them included the “dungeon” which includes several instruments of torture a somewhat gruesome mock-up of a man in an electric chair, who starts shaking and screaming when you “switch it on” and the spinning tunnel – a bridge encircled by dizzying, spinning lights. Best of all though was the Mirror Maze – it’s probably actually a very small space but the mirrored walls make it look like a huge Lord of the Rings-esque labyrinth. It looked far too claustrophobia-inducing for me, but the kids loved it – Toby went round twice. Personally I liked the miniaturised things such as The Last Supper painted on a grain of rice, displayed alongside other tiny things in a case complete with magnifying glass.
There’s lots of interesting stuff to see, but at £81.95 for a family ticket (including the Mirror Maze, which is charged separately), it’s a pretty pricey way to spend a couple of hours. However, cheaper tickets are available by booking online and money-off vouchers are often being handed out nearby.
For more info visit www.ripleyslondon.com or call +44 20 3238 0022