8 Bizarre Crime Museums Around the World Guaranteed to Freak You Out
You too can stay in a home where a family of eight were murdered in their sleep.
It’s August, and while the contemporary art world is on hiatus with many galleries closed on weekends and museums quietly gearing up for the fall, why not take in slightly more unusual fare: a crime museum. There are plenty out there, and they’re not dictated by the seasons. If you’re so inclined, here are the can’t miss crime museums you should add to your itinerary.
1. Mob Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada, US
We first encountered the Mob Museum when we read they would have an exhibition dedicated to the FIFA scandal. This Las Vegas museum is a bonafide pit-stop if you want your nuptials in an off-the-beaten-path place. Yes, you heard right, you can get married at the museum and even throw an all-night bash with a film screening, scavenger hunt, and slumber party.
2. Jack the Ripper Museum and East End Women’s Museum, London, UK
Everyone was looking forward to this new museum that promised to become the first London East End museum dedicated to women’s history. However, the past week Londoners have been up in arms as the museum finally opened, revealing another Jack the Ripper tourist trap. Historians have created an online campaign to protest the museum, “When a proposed women’s history museum on Cable Street in East London turned out to be an excuse to cash in on the popularity of a misogynist serial killer, we decided to make the missing museum a reality.”
3. National Museum of Crime & Punishment, Washington, D.C., US
Founded in 2008 by an entrepreneur and attorney, John Morgan, the Crime Museum is dedicated to the history of criminology, penology, and criminal investigation. Although they could not predict the internet uproar of #CeciltheLion, the museum currently has a temporary exhibit titled “Ivory, Tortoise Shell & Fur: The Ugly Truth of Wildlife Trafficking,” which highlights endangered animals, the cruelty of poaching, and the black market through ephemera and photographs. Also on view is “Attacks on America: The Fight Against Terrorism & Hate Crimes” in which objects and visuals will highlight events such as the Boston marathon bombing.
4. Bonnie & Clyde Ambush Museum, Gibsland, Louisiana, USA
The American outlaws were cemented into pop culture by Arthur Penn’s 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde, starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. The famous Dallas duo robbed small stores and rural gas stations across the country during the Great Depression. The museum is located in the exact spot where the pair had their last meal before they were ambushed in Gibsland, Louisiana. Objects found in the museum include Clyde’s Remington shotguns, Bonnie’s red hat, and a replica of the pair’s bullet-ridden car.
5. Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
This former Philadelphia prison was erected in 1829 in Francisville—at the time it was the largest public structure in the country. It is credited with being the world’s first true penitentiary, in which it initiated solitary confinement. By 1970 the prison closed and was labeled a National Historic Landmark. Bank robber Willie Sutton and mob boss Al Capone are among its famous inmates. Currently, the prison serves as a museum, with live guided tours and self-guided headphone tours narrated by actor Steve Buscemi.
6. Villisca Ax Murder House, Villisca, Iowa, USA
The haunted house once owned by Josiah B. and Sara Moore in Iowa is the site of a brutal 1912 murder of the couple, including six children, four of whom belonged to the couple. All eight were bludgeoned to death in their sleep with an axe. It’s been almost a century since the murders, but the case remains a cold. In 1994, Iowa couple Darwin and Martha Linn purchased the house and renovated it to its original 1903 condition. It was then listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places and opened for day time tours. For the truly adventurous, overnight stays are offered at $428 a night for up to six people. But visitors beware; a paranormal investigator reportedly stabbed himself while spending the night at the house.
7. Museum of the American Gangster, New York, New York, USA
The museum, the size of a one-bedroom apartment, sits on top of a speakeasy and theater on New York’s St. Mark’s Place. Its owner, Lorcan Otway, 55, is a self-proclaimed theater operator, lawyer, harp player, model-boat builder, war photographer, and museum curator, according to the New York Times. Among the many curios at his “American Gangster” exhibition are seven .45-caliber bullets from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the bullet that killed Pretty Boy Floyd, and two death masks from John Dillinger.
8. Medieval Crime and Justice Museum, Rothenberg, Germany
The historic building, built between 1393 and 1410, is a former Commandery and administration building for the Royal Bavarian District Authority. It is one of Germany’s leading museums of medieval crime. It houses medieval and early modern torture instruments, shame punishments, and instruments used to carry out corporal punishment. It also has a vast collection of seals and law books from the 13th to the 19th centuries. In 1972, the building was bought by the museum’s founders, Christoph Hinckeldey and his wife Hildegard. The couple inherited the museum collection in the 1950s from Christoph’s parents, Ernst Paul Hinckeldey and Marta Hinckeldey-Wittke.
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