Ryan Clark and Brent Donaldson grew up watching Ripley's Believe It Or Not! TV shows and reading the Ripley's books and comics celebrating bizarre or unusual events, animals or items. Now they're part of the team.
The journalists and Northern Kentucky University graduates launch their Ripley's Believe It Or Notcast podcast Tuesday, June 11, after the new Ripley's Believe It Or Not TV series hosted by Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead, Burn Notice) premieres 9 p.m. Sunday, June 9, on the Travel Channel.
Clark and Donaldson will talk about the podcast with Michael Monks and me on Cincinnati Edition at noon Monday, June 3.
Clark, a Xavier University senior digital content strategist and instructor, has parlayed his interest in the 100-year-old Ripley obsession for oddities into a freelance gig writing for the Ripley's website.
"Whenever I traveled anywhere, I wrote about weird stuff for their website – Oregon, Seattle, Nebraska and Salem, Mass. It was the most fun I’d ever had as a journalist," says Clark, a former freelance sportswriter. Donaldson, who worked with Clark at NKU, is a career magazine journalist. He says he was the last reporter to interview motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel. (Believe it or not!)
"I think he may be a bigger fan than me, and I never thought I would find that," Clark says. "But our passion for these kinds of interesting stories takes us to a lot of weird places, and I just love it. Still, we never thought Ripley’s would trust their podcast and brand to just two guys from Cincinnati. But they did."
Believe It Or Notcast will be released every Tuesday. It's available on iTunes, Spotfiy and other podcast platforms.
Described as a "cartoonist, entrepreneur and amateur anthropologist," LeRoy Robert Ripley started a cartoon about sports oddities called "Champs and Chumps" in the New York Globe on Dec. 19, 1918. He changed the named to "Believe It Or Not" the next year. By 1932, his syndicated feature was read by 80 million readers. He also did books, a NBC radio show, movie shorts and an "Odditorium" at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. Ripley died in 1949 while working on his weekly TV show. He was 58.
Today the Ripley's empire boasts 30 Ripley's Believe It Or Not Odditoriums; 10 Ripley's Marvelous Mirror Mazes; nine Ripley's Moving Theaters; five Louis Tussaud's Waxworks; three Ripley's Aquariums; and four Ripley's Haunted Adventures. The Ripley collection includes 20,000 photos, 30,000 artifacts and 100,000 cartoon panels.
Clark and Donaldson considered reading old Ripley's stories, but opted for using their journalism skills to find unusual people and let them tell their stories.
"One episode is about people who consider themselves vampires, for instance, and we would interview people who could explain to us why these folks feel they have a need to drink human blood," Clark says. "So we have a Ph.D. professor from a major university who did his dissertation on modern-day so-called vampires. And of course, we also interview someone who believes they are a vampire, too. We interview these people, then respond and react to the interviews.
"Once people hear you work for the Ripley’s brand, they want to tell their story. We think it’s really entertaining and informing. People are going to dig it," he adds.
Here's the description for their June 11 debut:
"The first episode of Ripley’s Believe It or Notcast dives into the world of cryptids—mythological creatures that are believed to exist by some, but have not been recognized by the scientific community. Whether you believe in them or not, there are laws in place right now to protect cryptids—Believe It or Not! In this episode, our hosts go coast to coast to bring you interviews with two people who are advocating for laws protecting unrecognized species. We first go into the depths of the Florida Everglades, home of Dave Shealy—a man who has dedicated his life to bringing awareness to the existence of the elusive Skunk Ape. Then, we travel across the country to Skamania County, Washington, where biodiversity and seclusion make the ideal home for Bigfoot and commissioners, like our friend Bob Hamlin, have created a law to protect these poor creatures from being hunted."
The June 9 Travel Channel premiere features Cleveland magician Rick Smith:
"In the premiere episode, Campbell shines the spotlight on six individuals who possess such uncanny ability, outrageous talent and fearlessness that they are known as 'Natural Born Thrillers.' Ohio native Rick Smith tosses playing cards at 92 miles per hour making them as dangerous as daggers, while Dai Andrews, 'master of pain,' terrifies crowds by swallowing curved swords that can kill with the smallest wrong move. Tyler Scheuer thrills stadium crowds with a bizarre gift for balancing any object – of any size – on his chin. In Toronto, Twisty Troy, the 'human pretzel,' was born with extraordinary flexibility and can run upside down, while a California couple risks their lives to walk down a thin net 'aisle' strung 800 feet above a canyon - and into their marriage ceremony."
Orlando-based Ripley Entertainment Inc. is a division of the Jim Pattison Group of Vancouver which also owns the Guinness World Records; auto dealerships and body shops; TV and radio stations; the Save-On Foods grocery chain in western Canada; newspaper and magazine distributors; and advertising, real estate development and financial services companies.
Hear Ryan Clark and Brent Donaldson talk about their new podcast on Cincinnati Edition at noon Monday, June 3, on WVXU-FM, WMUB-FM and wvxu.com.