Sat, 23 Sep 1995

'Believe It or Not Museum' to make its debut in Jakarta

By Ahmed Kurnia Soeriawidjaja

JAKARTA (JP): Believe it or not, these are dinosaur eggs.

Yes, the eggs are for real. Want to know what they look like? Take a peek at the Fun Auditorium of Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum at Pondok Indah Mall, South Jakarta.

There are five fossilized dinosaur eggs, each the size of an adult fist. The eggs, estimated to be 144 million years old, were found in China's Hunan province in 1993.

Aside from the dinosaur eggs, the museum is also displaying strange objects, animals and human beings. The latter include Liu Sh'ung, who was born with two eyes, though each has two eyeballs. But more important is the fact that he became governor of Shansi and spent a brief period as China's minister of foreign affairs in 1995.

You can also find a skull of an Ecuador Indian which has been shrunk to the size of a fist. Yes, believe it or not, but it was customary for the Jivaro tribe in Ecuador to behead their enemies as a symbol of courage and display them shrunken as a sign of victory.

To shrink the heads, the Jivaro skinned the head, put in hot sand and pebbles, sewed it back up, including the eyes and mouth, and then boiled it in a secret formula.

Many Jakartans have been exposed to such bizarre stories through the cartoons of Robert Ripley's Believe It or Not column in the Suara Pembaruan afternoon daily. Starting Sept. 28, they will be able to see the strange objects, some in their original forms, others in replicas.

All these are the works of Robert Ripley, an American journalist who has traveled to 198 countries for 30 years to collect the items. His findings are not only rare, but have historic value. All reflect the elements of life, fate and God's greatness.

"We have over 400 items in this museum," said Kurnaidi Aman, 35, the franchise holder of Ripley's Fun Odditorium.

Aman's partner in the Rp 15 billion (US$6.6 million), two- story odditorium is Melvin Salim, 35, a relative of tycoon Sadono Salim.

The investment included the odditorium's construction and security for the franchise. Aman refused to reveal the franchise fee.

"Company secret," he said.

The 2,000-square-meter odditorium is complete with high-tech antics, including the thunderous sound of the Niagara Falls and a revolving tunnel which can make visitors feel like the world is spinning.

"This is the world largest Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium," said Sylvia Matiko, vice president of Ripley's Franchise Operations, which is based in Orlando, Florida.

Other Ripley odditoriums are located in Canada, Mexico, Australia, England, Denmark, South Korea, the Philippines and of course the U.S. Worldwide there are 23 odditoriums whose sizes range from 1,000 to 1,500 square meters.

"And they are all insured," said Matiko.

Aman said he is optimistic that this type of strange entertainment will become a hot attraction for Jakartans.

"I notice Jakarta still lacks entertainment facilities for its citizens to kill their spare time," he added.

Aman's optimism is reflected in the company's target to have one million visitors in the first year and to reap profits in the fourth year.

The odditorium will open Sept. 28. Tickets are Rp 10,000 on weekdays and Rp 12,500 on weekends. Children under one are free.