Strange but True House Stories from ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not!’

Ripley's Graffiti Building

For just one month before it was demolished in early 2014, an unremarkable derelict Paris apartment block was transformed into an incredible ten-story art installation by 100 of the world’s finest street artists. The artists were invited by gallery owner Mehdi Ben Cheikh to create whatever they wanted on every available surface of Tour 13, which stands close to the River Seine in the French capital’s 13th district. The result was a rich mosaic of faces, animals, mythical creatures, patterns and scriptures— some warm and welcoming, others more serious and thought-provoking— that decorated all 36 apartments as well as the stairwells and the exterior brickwork. Some artists brought their own props to extend the fantasy, while others created clever optical illusions featuring boxes that appeared to float and walls that seemed to bend.

Long before there was so-called reality TV, there were the shocking but true stories from “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” The latest offering, “Reality Shock!” includes a few house stories. Check these out:

Gingerbread Mansion — pg. 26 — Residents of Bryan, Texas, built a full-sized gingerbread house that was big enough to accommodate a family of five. The house, which measured 60 x 42, used 1,800 pounds of butter, 7,200 eggs, 7,200 pounds of flour, 2,925 pounds of brown sugar and was decorated with 22,304 pieces of candy, bringing its calorie count to 36 million.

Tree House — pg. 60 — Horace Burgess from Crossville, Tennessee, spent 11 years building a 97-ft.-tall tree house. Covering an area of 10,000 sq. ft., the house encompasses seven trees and was built entirely from scrap lumber and donated materials, held together by an estimated 258,000 nails.

Slim House

Slim House — Photo Credit:

Slim House Before — Photo Credit:

Slim House Before — Photo Credit:

Slim House — pg. 56 — A house in Warsaw, Poland, is just 5 feet wide at its broadest points and 3 feet at its narrowest. Squeezed by architect Jakub Szczesny into an alley between another house and an apartment block, Keret House is fully functioning, despite only having 46 square feet of floor space. It is so squashed that the upstairs bedroom has to be reached via a metal ladder bolted onto a wall. The bathroom comprises a toilet and a shower, and the kitchen fridge is so tiny that is has space for
just two drinks.

Hidden House — pg. 49 — Following 60-mph winds in the region, Josh Pitman of Midland, Texas, found that his house was almost completely obscured by hundreds of tumbleweeds stacked on top of each other.

Human Snail — pg. 242 — For more than five years, Lui Lingchao from Liuzhou, China, has carried his house on his back, like a human snail. His portable home is 5 feet wide, 7 feet tall and consists of plastic sheets attached to a bamboo frame — and because it weighs just 132 pounds, it is easy for him to carry it around with him while he travels the country earning a living by collecting discarded bottles.

Guard Crocs — pg. 85 — Instead of guard dogs, Awirut Nathip uses two adult crocodiles to protect his house in Thailand — and unsurprisingly he has not been burgled in 15 years. He keeps Nguen under the house in a ditch because he is so aggressive, while Thong patrols patrols the yard, often lying in front of the door as an extra deterrent.

Skunk Heaven — pg. 72 — Deborah Cipriani shares her home in North Ridgeville, Ohio, with 50 skunks. The animals are free to wander around her five-bedroom house — called Skunk Haven — and even sleep on her bed.