Roger Dean Miller, Sr. was an American singer, songwriter, musician and actor, best known for his honky-tonk-influenced novelty songs. His most recognized tunes included the chart-topping country/pop hits "King of the Road", "Dang Me" and "England Swings", all from the mid-1960s Nashville sound era. After growing up in Oklahoma and serving in the United States Army, Miller began his musical career as a songwriter in the late 1950s, penning such hits as "Billy Bayou" and "Home" for Jim Reeves and "Invitation to the Blues" for Ray Price. He later began a recording career and reached the peak of his fame in the mid-1960s, continuing to record and tour into the 1990s, charting his final top 20 country hit "Old Friends" with Willie Nelson in 1982. Later in his life, he wrote the music and lyrics for the 1985 Tony-award winning Broadway musical Big River, in which he acted. Miller died from lung cancer in 1992, and was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame three years later.
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I manage the team responsible for the creation of all Ripley books, including this year’s Eye Popping Oddities. My team and I research thousands of unbelievable stories every year for our books. Some of my favorites from Eye-Poppng Oddities include the human cannonballs, Jorge Ivan Latorre Robles and his stretchy skin, the goldfish operation, snake massage, the dog wedding, and more!
Prior to joining Ripley’s I worked for two decades in the publishing and consumer product industries, including seven years at World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). I have also written or co-written seven books. I studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receiving a degree in Expository Writing and Biology.
AMA about Ripley’s, the publishing industry, or anything that skews towards the weird and bizarre! Someone from my team will be typing my answers for me.
UPDATE- That's all for today, believe it or not. We're always answering questions on Twitter @ripleys
How much/what sort of evidence is needed for a story to be counted as true?
We have a team of researchers that verifies every fact and story. We vet multiple sources, and look for reliable sources like news outlets, interviews, and videos to verify BIONS (Believe It or Nots!)
How has this position changed since the proliferation of the internet? It seems like people are exposed to so many weird things now that you probably have to dig a lot deeper.
You already answered part of the question -- yes, we are having to dig deeper, but on the other side, more avenues of research have opened up to us, especially on a global scale.
If it weren’t for the internet, we would have never found this story about pizza rat: http://imgur.com/ZhxkCwP
Do you ever get people trying to hoax you? If so, is there any one instance worth noting?
Yes, all the time, but historically, hoaxes have played a role in the realm of oddities. For example, the Fiji mermaid, a sideshow hoax combining the torso and head of a monkey sewn to the tail of a fish. Fiji mermaids are now found in almost all of our attractions thanks to their unique history.
For the researcher, we look for someone who has a genuine passion and curiosity for all the weird and odd things in life -- and a willingness to learn and go outside one's comfort zone. Everyone on the team has stories they find off-putting or "not for them," but these are still stories that need to be told. A good researcher can get past that and find the the interesting.
As far as life advice, don't be a afraid to fail. I've failed many times and look where I ended up -- Ripley's!
I love your work. My dad bought me a Ripley's for Boys book when I was 11. Its my most reread book I own. As a guy who has documented first hand some of the most unbelievable occurances ever, what's your opinion on the paranormal?
Thank you for that--and here’s some good news, we keep making more books! Shameless plug, here’s our brand new one: http://imgur.com/CSMBAcP
The paranormal is a very interesting line we walk, as we do trade in truth, but we will report on other people's beliefs. In St. Augustine, we have a Ghost Train Adventure (http://www.ghosttrainadventure.com/) that tours you through the streets of the oldest city in America and narrates historical haunted lore. In the immortal words of Ray Parker Jr -- "I ain't afraid of no ghosts.”
My wife and I have an Emmy Award video production company and we LOOOOOOOVE weird stuff! We used to produce for the Travel Channel. Who would we contact to pitch a TV/webisode series to at Ripley's for kids (or adults)?
That's great! Please go to http://www.ripleys.com/contact/ and fill it out under "licensing." I promise it won't get lost; we read every submission.
Do you think that I am getting better on the drums?
http://imgur.com/a4kmznP ... You're not a real doctor, but you are a real worm.
What's the coolest thing you've ever seen?
(I LOVE Ripley's!)
I preface this with my wife would like me to say "the birth of my children." However, at Ripley's, it was cool when I first got to see a hunk of the Berlin Wall. Ripley's owns the most pieces of the Berlin Wall in the world, including Germany! If Germany ever wants to separate again, they know where they can get a piece of their wall back. http://i.imgur.com/qtxKtmo.jpg
what's your favorite Ripley's story?
My first day at Ripley’s, I read a story online about a Long Island woman who had taken her wedding dress in to a dry cleaners that was destroyed during Superstorm sandy, but the dress was actually the ONLY thing that survived --and when the dry cleaners opened up in a new location across town, she saw it in the window there, 18 months later, and was able to get it back. I told this story to Edward Meyer here at Ripley’s--and the NEXT DAY he sent me an email that said, “I reached out to her, and I bought the dress for Ripley’s!”
I'm right across the river from MIT doing Science Journalism at BU!
How many people does Ripley's have in the writing/publishing/TV part of its employ? Is it organized by topic, ie, is there an arts editor, human feats editor, and an animal editor?
In terms of research, we have the world! From back when Ripley himself was creating his cartoons, he relied on people sending him unbelievable stories for inclusion, and we still do that today! http://www.ripleys.com/submit-bions/
In house, we have an amazing team that's constantly researching stories, and no one is designated to just one topic. Every editor and researcher gets equal amounts of art, body, and animal BIONs (Believe It or Nots!).
What is the most common thing that people submit to be published, thinking it's an idiosyncrasy, but really is quite believable?
We get a lot of body oddity submissions and many are similar--but keep those eye-popping videos coming! Kids write us too and even if we can't publish their submission, we always take the time to write them back.
What is the discovery that has made the biggest impression upon you personally?
Well, I learned that Swiss cheese has holes in it because there's flecks of hay that's collected in the milk (they used to think it was bacteria or mice)... Somehow bacteria didn't bother me as much as hay.
Should I believe this post or NOT?
Our researchers are trying to find three reliable sources (or a cool cat video) to verify your post.
What are some of your favourite stories or rumors that weren't published from a lack of verifying sources?
Thanks for sharing!
Jennifer Lawrence had a Tumblr devoted to me, but that turned out not to be true, so unfortunately, that didn't make it in the book.
Besides JLaw, we found an incredible story about a collection of tattooed human skins. The collection contains 105 human skins tattooed in the traditional Japanese style, including a number of full body suits. We are hopeful we can get rights to these fantastic photos, but if we can't we will have to omit it from the book. -_-
Here is a cool cat video of my cat. Please let me know, if this works
RenobMan, although this is a very entertaining cat video, it is not a BION. I believe a cat enjoys playing with a ball, do you? Perhaps consider the science behind putting tape on a cat for your next submission. It lends itself to a lovely “Ripley’s Explains” feature in our book. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug5UeeV2Nj0
I'm sure you guys get a lot of submissions, but how do you decide which ones to put in the book? Is there a criteria of some sort?
We have a weekly meeting where people from different departments get together and bring in stories they’ve researched. We go through them to make sure that they’re new and haven’t appeared in a book before. We look for a photo element--is there an image we can use to really show readers how amazing this story is? Mostly, the thing we consider is "is it a real BION"--because it takes something really extraordinary to be a real Believe It or Not!
That's what I was wondering about. I have fond memories of Ripley's from my childhood but haven't seen the name around much for quite a few years. Growing up in South Carolina I vividly remember seeing Robert Wadlow to scale in the museum. As a "weird" kid that off-kilter building was very dear to me.
How do I get a job with you? :)
Firstly, we love the “weird”, so whether you’re a “weird” kid or adult, you’re totally Ripley’s and that will never change! By the way, the Odditorium in South Carolina is one of the best, so go check it out and see all our new amazing stuff there!
What are happy hour conversations like with your colleagues?
Well, you know, you never really “turn it off” with this job--between researching the cartoons, the books, and everything, we make small talk like you wouldn’t believe (it or not!) and are possibly the most popular people at dinner parties!
Btw, a "ham sundae" sounds delicious.
Is the username u/DeanRipley a hint at your real alias?
In the last decade or so, the acting gigs have really dried up and as a result, I've let myself go, developed "meat sweats." http://imgur.com/Iih7Tuy
Do you help at all with writing stuff or gathering exhibits for the Odditoriums?
We’re big fans of the Odditoriums, and our archivist, Edward Meyer, attends our research meetings. If we find things that he can use, he absolutely picks up the ball and runs with it.
Pizza rat is just a gif you can see on one of a million content aggregator sites around the internet, though. It's not a story. Stuff like that spreads like wildfire and in a few days everyone has seen it. Shouldn't believe it or not! have higher standards than just reposting stuff from reddit? If your content isn't based on original research, how are you different from content aggregator websites? Is it that you reach a print-based audience that doesn't use these sites?
Yeah, pizza rat probably isn't going in a book and it was more a joke.
We do original research, we often talk about the science behind the story, immerse ourselves in unbelievable cultures, and interview people to get the full story. For example, right now we’re working on a story about the history of Coney Island, and we have literally spent weeks not only pulling together all sorts of archival documents, images, and information, but also painstakingly verifying it to make sure that what we print is the real deal.
We're not just sitting at our desks; we're going places to learn as much as possible about the story behind the story.