No kidding, this museum has the feel of a haunted house, complete with dark passages, faux stone walls, a crawl space, and scary figures -- mannequins dressed up as dangerous characters -- placed here and there. Personally, I find it lame, but I am definitely in the minority, as you'll likely observe if you visit on a Saturday when the single-file line to get in extends out the door. Located in the heart of the Penn Quarter, the museum occupies three floors of a renovated town house, which limits the numbers of people who can shuffle through its five main chambers at any one time. Most of the museum offers a history of crime and punishment, along with tales of famous criminals, from the Middle Ages to the present.
Interactive exhibits allow visitors to place head and hands through a pillory, crack a safe, compare shooting skills to those of Old West outlaws, take a lie detector test, and simulate a police motorcycle chase. Exhibits display a hodgepodge of weapons, including hand irons and spiked chairs used to torture baddies during the Middle Ages. A replica of Wild Bill Hickock's revolver joins other sundry artifacts and objects such as sample prison garb, a re-creation of Al Capone's jail cell, John Dillinger's brilliant red 1933 Essex Terraplane car, and the getaway car used in the 1964 film, Bonnie and Clyde.
The last section of the museum explores crime fighting and solving, encouraging one to channel his or her inner detective to solve a case using interactive kiosks within a replica crime-scene lab. On the lower level of the museum is the America's Most Wanted TV studio, from which John Walsh occasionally broadcasts the show. (John Walsh is a partner in the privately owned museum.) The museum operates a gift shop, the Cop Shop.
- © Frommer's 2013
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