As I exited the National Museum of Crime & Punishment in Washington, DC, I was imagining the focus group that put it together. I pictured the group’s leader saying, “Let’s make a list of every, and I mean EVERY, crime and criminal and include them somewhere in our museum.”
As I, big fan of the Spy Museum, had entered 3 hours before, I admit to being fairly intrigued by Ted Bundy’s beat up Volkswagen Beetle in the lobby. America’s most notorious serial killer was inside it when stopped by police and arrested for the 1st time. But I was also sensing a little guilt, the way I feel when creeping past an accident and glimpsing a victim being hauled out of a wrecked car.
Ruth & I took the elevator to the 2nd floor, as suggested, and entered The History of Crime Exhibit–medieval gibbet chains, a cage used to hold the head steady while putting someone’s eyes out, a portable pillory, also called a neck violin, etc. I was quickly tired of the sounds of mayhem constantly assaulting my ears.
But then I saw a tribute to Fyodor Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky? Oh, Crime & Punishment. The focus group. I moved on to a French iron muzzle gag for keeping people from babbling satanic incantations while burning.
It was then that I noticed that many around me were children. Children? Here? I didn’t find the displays especially appropriate for them. But later I found a Kids and Families page on the Crime Museum’s website which promised commitment “to offering an experience that the whole family can enjoy.” Enjoy? Oh, that focus group. They must be the ones who made sure there were several Kid Stops and frequent images of McGruff, the Crime Dog.
After reading about pirates like Jean Lafitte who burned Galveston before disappearing for good and the Dalton Gang, 3 boys who started out in law enforcement, I moved on to America’s First Criminals. None were missing.
Bonnie & Clyde’s car! Some children were posing for their mother so she could take their picture in front of it. Could this really be the bullet-splattered car they died in? Well, Ted Bundy’s VW was downstairs. But then I spied a tiny disclaimer on the back wall. This was the 1934 Ford featured in the 1967 movie about them.
I was now feeling, well, wary? Yes. Eager to proceed? Sort of. Dirty? Maybe a bit.
Mickey Cohen? Check.
Art theft & forgeries? Check.
DB Cooper? Check, with a Pink Panther like jazz background.
John Wayne Gacy? Check. Did you know that his last words were, “Kiss my ass!” Did you want or need to know that?
Oh, there was lots of arresting information (pun intended). I didn’t know, for example, that 22-year-old Bill Gates had no driver’s license in 1977 when he was brought in for a traffic violation in Albuquerque. Did you want or need to know that?
History of Prisons. Check.
Forensic Science Education Labs with arson and decomposition workshops? Check.
A flood of CSI tie-ins? Check.
Top Detective Challenge games? Check.
Killer Birthday Parties available with Shooting Gallery privileges? Check.
Not-currently-in-use America’s Most Wanted film studio? Check.
Electric chair? Check. Check out.