Wack & Cheese
Walk around the 15,000-square-foot set of TBS’ Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and you might get a little skeeved. In the cool corridors — it’s kept at 68 degrees for museum-quality preservation — you can scrutinize an assortment of garish and ghoulish artifacts, from the world’s largest cow hair ball to a maggot necklace from New Guinea, an official Baywatch one-piece, or a five-foot petrified whale dork (that’d be ”penis” to you and me). ”I’ve become the purveyor of the strange and unusual,” says host and producer Dean Cain, who admits that for him the shock value of the wacky knickknacks has worn off. The Ripley Organization scours the world and shells out millions to find the bizarre collection of curiosities, which are then held to stringent authentication standards. Because the Sylmar, Calif., set is a working warehouse, the producers get first dibs on new acquisitions before they’re shipped to Ripley museums around the globe. And believe it or not, they do nix some objects. ”They had mummified bodies that were [hanging from] nooses,” says producer Dan Jbara. ”It was just too disturbing.” We’d say the same thing about the whale genitalia, but that’s just us.