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David Moye

Unbelievably Strange Pictures Still The Norm At Ripley's -- Believe It Or Not!

First Posted: 09/12/11 01:32 PM ET Updated: 11/02/11 06:12 AM ET

After 34 years as the head archivist for Ripley's Entertainment, Edward Meyer has a job like no one else -- and a desk like no one's either.

"I have a shruken head, of course, but also a life mask of Muhummad Ali, two birds made from CDs, a giant spider made of scissors and a letter from a guy in Hong Kong who sent me his belly button lint," said Meyer, whose job is supplying weird artifacts for Ripley's Believe It Or Not! and its various museums, attractions, TV shows and books, including the newest volume, "Strikingly True," which hits stores Sept. 13.

"Oh, I also have a portrait of Michael Jackson made from cockroaches," he's quick to add.

The Jackson-Roach picture isn't in the new book, but there are some unbelievably strange photos, such as the guy who let himself be electrocuted with 200,000 volts of electricity -- and lived -- and the guy who put on 211 pieces of underwear one on top of the others.

Ripley's has been immortalizing the bizarre and unusual since 1919 and invented the weird news genre in the process. Of course, the great thing is, even as things change, they still stay weird.

Meyer has actually been doing Ripley's job longer than Ripley, who died in 1949. When not collecting souvenirs for his office in Orlando, Florida, he spends his time finding bits of the bizarre that can be showcased in the various museums around the world.

PHOTOS: (Article Continues Below)

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Things like "Self Portrait With Gun," a picture made by San Francisco artist Chris Trueman from 200,000 dead ants.

Meyer bought the portrait as soon as he heard about it and it appears prominently in the new book.

"It's made out of ants," he explained. "I don't claim to be an art expert, but here was a painting made out of ants. I still wanted to see the picture before we bought it, but knowing it was made out of ants made it appealing to us."

Being the guy who is entrusted to stand in for brand creator Robert Ripley has its challenges.

Meyer says there are two major things that determine if something is worthy of being in a Ripley's museum or one of the books.

"Anything that we put in a book or on display has to be true," he revealed. "There also has to be a 'wow factor.' We want the whole family to be amazed."

There were lots of times Meyer said "Wow!" in the past year, such as when he saw a picture of a group of Alpine ibexes, a type of goat, climbing a dam in the Italian Alps.

"You see the picture and they're almost at a 90-degree angle," he said, still amazed. "How do they do this? And why? There's no vegetation on the rocks."

Meyer was also wowed by an artist who made portraits of all 42 presidents on a single hair.

However, Meyer admits that some things that were considered incredible when cartoonist Robert Ripley started his Believe It Or Not! column in 1919 would never make the cut today.

"In the 1930s, we did a thing about transistor radios being in ballpoint pens," Meyer laughed. "That was amazing back then, but now it's 'Who cares?' "