PANAMA CITY BEACH — Modeled after the R.M.S. Titanic, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! on Front Beach Road recently opened an interactive Titanic exhibit inside of its Odditorium.
“We have a lot of interactive facts on the type of passengers and famous passengers,” said Drew Morales, general manager of the Panama City Beach Ripley’s.
The 2,000-square-foot exhibit, which took almost two weeks to set up, opened March 6 in place of the pirate exhibit. It is filled with interactive learning experiences, such as getting behind the wheel for a game of Titanic Trivia! and lifting panels inside R.M.S. Titanic life floats to reveal answers to questions. Look inside two different windows to see views from the Titanic on April 14, 1912. From the crow’s view, only stars and darkness are on the horizon, but in the deck view, the iceberg is visible.
A 4-foot scale model of the Titanic, made from thousands of matchsticks, is encased in glass attached to an iceberg, which plays footage on the other side.
“These are some of my favorite: the replicas out of matchsticks or toothpicks,” Morales said.
The R.M.S. Titanic was 882 feet, 9 inches long, 94 feet wide and 180 feet tall. At 11:50 p.m., 10 minutes after impact, 4,000 tons of water entered the Titanic’s five watertight compartments. See water pour out of the walls in the exhibit, then spin the Wheel of Misfortune to see if you will survive. A case shows Titanic coal later recovered from the engine room.
There are tales of heroism as a video plays in the background, as well as darker truths. Women and children were ordered off the ship first, but there also are accounts of men grabbing children and claiming to be the sole parent. See Michel and Edmond Navratil, ages 4 and 2, the only two children rescued without a parent or guardian. Their father, who died, had kidnapped them after their mother was awarded full custody. Marcelle of Nice, France, was reunited with her children in New York City after seeing their picture in the newspaper.
Walls are filled with plaques featuring quotes from Titanic survivors, such as Ruth Becker: “There fell upon the ear the most terrible noise that human beings ever listened to — the cries of hundreds of people struggling in the icy cold water, crying for help with a cry we knew could not be answered.”
“I always had an interest in history, but I like all the freaky and weird stuff,” said Morales, who recently transferred from the Baltimore, Md., location.
He grew up watching the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! television series in the ’80s in his hometown of Grand Prairie, Texas. The town later got its own Ripley’s Odditorium.
“I thought it would be cool to work there, so I worked my way up from an operations employee,” said Morales, now in his 15th year with the company.
Orlando-based Ripley’s has more than 80 different attractions, including 32 Believe It or Not! Odditoriums, in 10 countries, with the beach location’s museum and theater accounting for two of those attractions.
“Most of the artifacts are kept in a warehouse in Orlando,” said Morales, who likes to rotate different artifacts into the Odditorium.
While in Baltimore, he got a call that two shrunken heads were being dropped off for the museum.
“They smell weird,” Morales said. “I also had to replace an Egyptian mummified hand. It was creepy and has a weird smell, too; not gross, just weird.”
But he has seen some gross things, such as vomit art.
“They had hamburger grease art in Baltimore, where they take it and squeeze it out and make art with it,” he said.
The beach Ripley’s has a portrait by Mexican artist Enrique Ramos of Spider-Man painted on a collection of 10 kilos of spider webs.
RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT!
What: Odditorium with interactive Titanic exhibit; 4-D Moving Theater; Laser Race
Where: 9907 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through March
Spring Break Special: College students can buy one ticket, get one 50 percent off through April 13; show student photo ID
Museum: $14.99 for adults; $9.99 for children ages 6 to 12; children 5 and under are free.
Moving Theatre: $10 for adults, $9.99 for children; must be 40 inches tall to ride
Museumand 4-D Theatre: $19.99 for adults, $15.99 for children
Details: (850) 230-6113 or Ripleys.com/PanamaCityBeach