Veteran actor Bruce Campbell, who plays Ash Williams in Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead franchise and Autolycus, the King of Thieves, in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, never tires of being an odd man out. He will be leading with his chin as he brings the world’s oddities to Travel Channel’s reboot of the iconic series Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Campbell will host “awe-inspiring talents, unusual objects, strange phenomena and mind-boggling feats” on the 10-episode, hour-long series.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, which premieres Sunday, June 9 at 9 p.m., is inspired by Robert Ripley’s “obsession with the awesome and his keen eye for what keeps viewers mesmerized.” One hundred years ago, Ripley went on a quest to the farthest reaches of the globe in search of the extraordinary and unusual. Seventy years after Ripley hosted the first eponymous series, we still can’t resist his challenge to, “Believe it, or not!”
Campbell, who also executive produces the series, will host the show from the famed Ripley’s Warehouse in Orlando, Florida. “Shooting this iconic series in the Ripley’s warehouse was actually unbelievable,” Campbell said in a statement. “I was blown away by the treasures that unveil a fascinating time capsule into the past and present. Fans are not going to be disappointed when they see the scope of wonderful and weird stories we reveal every week.”
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.
Campbell appeared in the films Sky High (2005), Escape from L.A. (1996), Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) and the indie cult classic, Bubba Ho-Tep (2002). He starred on the TV series The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993-94), Jack of all Trades (2000), Burn Notice (2007-13), AMC’s Lodge 49 and reprised his role of Ash Williams on Ash vs. Evil Dead on Starz.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not episode breakdown:
We rely on our vision for up to 80 percent of the information we take in, and yet there are “Invisible Worlds” around us, hidden in plain sight. Host Bruce Campbell takes us on a wild trip into the unseen where we meet Vic Invades, a New York photographer and urban explorer, who climbs skyscrapers to walk in the clouds – and capture a bird’s eye view of the city. In Louisiana, a family of stuntmen create an illusion using explosives that requires split-second timing to avert death. In California, the rock band “OK Go” films their latest music video in only 4.3 seconds, but has it slowed down 20,000 percent to make the video last over three minutes, revealing moments invisible to the naked eye. In Colorado, Michael Grab can feel vibrations within rocks, allowing him to balance the rocks in impossible towers and sculptures with “gravity glue.” The episode premieres Sunday, June 16 at 9 p.m.
Host Bruce Campbell celebrates the “Showstoppers” – the folks who produce unbelievable spectacles through their daring skill and years of practice. The Lords of Lightning, three British lads channeling electricity through tesla coils, fling millions of volts of electricity at each other as they duel. Domino master Lily Hevish creates a thank you to her million-plus social media followers with her most difficult challenge ever – 39,000 dominoes that must all fall perfectly to succeed. In California, Michael Gump is many things – father, prop manager and a man of many faces – employing his prop-making background to create over a thousand unique and fascinating facial disguises. In Illinois, we meet April Choi, a woman who uses her engineering background in fluid dynamics to master the art of whipping. In the episode she’ll attempt her most daring feat yet – wrapping herself in her own whip – while it’s set on fire. The episode premieres Sunday, June 23 at 9 p.m.
“Forces of Nature”
Host Bruce Campbell introduces us to people “Beyond Nature” – individuals who live lives that seem unreal or accomplish feats so crazy they seem like fiction. In Boston, we meet John “Hammerhead” Ferraro, whose head doubles as a hammer. Ferraro can break wood planks and hammer nails … all with his forehead. In Texas, Luis Slayton connects with honeybees on an emotional level. He’s able to tend to his hives without even wearing a suit. In the episode, he takes his obsession even further as he completely covers his face with bees. In Mexico, Chuy the “Wolfman” and his family are some of only a handful of people on the planet who live with hypertrichosis – a condition that causes hair to grow everywhere, covering even their face. Back in America, we visit Ayanna Williams in Houston, who holds the world-record for being the woman with the longest nails on earth. With nails over 25 inches long, Williams shows us her unique and challenging daily life. The episode premieres Sunday, June 30 at 9 p.m.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! premieres Sunday, June 9 at 9 p.m. on Travel Channel.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.