2007_06_arts_ripley.jpgTimes Square has always offered a nice dose of "weird," whether it be in the pre-Giuliani days or its now more Disney-fied incarnation. Now some more strange will be saturating the area, in the form a famous Odditorium. Yes, tourists will be able to see things like locks of Abe Lincoln's hair after having a nice meal at the Olive Garden.

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! is back, for a third time, in Times Square. AMNY reports on its return after a 35-year absence. Offering "over 500 unusual artifacts from all over the world, representing the places and cultures visited by Robert Ripley during his travels," the self-guided tours will give glimpses at things like: 24 shrunken heads from Ecuador, a Buddha statue stuffed with $1 million in shredded bills, a vampire survival kit made for 19th century European travelers, a roomful of medieval torture instruments and some "pranks of nature" (think: albino giraffe).

Bob Masterson, president of Ripley Entertainment, mentions "New York was Mr. Ripley's home, and it is wonderful to be back," while VP of Ripley, Tim O'Brien, reminds us of his popularity at the time, "He was truly A-list here in New York, a real man about town. In 1936 he was voted the most popular American, just ahead of Franklin Roosevelt." Ripley moved here in 1912, writing his first comic for the New York Globe in January of 1913. He tried out for the New York Giants that year as well, but an injury ended his sports career - and took him on a more unusual path (which by 1940 landed him in his second home, a 13-room apartment in Manhattan). AMNY traces the museum of curiosities life in the city:

The first Ripley's opened on Broadway and 48th Street in 1938. It closed a year later. The next try lasted longer, from 1957 to 1972, and closed only when Times Square took a dramatic shift away from family entertainment (the museum was replaced by a XXX movie theater).

As a tip of the hat to Ripley's love of the nightlife, the Odditorium will stay open until 1am on weekends (not really that late by current New York standards).

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