Our bellies were full after eating at the Spy City Cafe, so we headed over to the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, just a few blocks away. While the Spy Museum covers espionage, this museum explores the history of crime, criminal investigation, and, most fascinating, punishment!
I always wanted to be a spy or a detective (and it seems to run in the family) – so stories of notorious serial killers and infamous murders and how they were captured and punished seemed to be the next logical visit after the Spy Museum.
Still relatively new on the Washington D.C. museum scene, the National Museum of Crime & Punishment opened in 2008 and is a for-profit museum – another $50 for the three of us (definitely buy your tickets on-line to save a few bucks). Yikes!
As you enter the museum, there is the VW bug. Curious, I wanted to explore more about the car and who owned it.
It turns out that it belonged to Ted Bundy. Here was the car that he used to savagely commit rape and murder right in front of me. Very eerie! But, that was only the beginning…
After flashing our tickets and going through a turnstile (kind of reminded me of the N.Y. subways), the museum begins by treating the visitor as a potential criminal in the opening gallery.
“Ask yourself this simple question,” prompts the warning voice. “Is what you plan to do worth a month or a year or even the rest of your life behind bars? It’s not! Not for you, for the victim or for your family. Just ask the millions of prisoners who thought they were smarter than the law.”
Its 28,000 square feet contains a “Who’s Who” of bad guys — pirates, gangsters, bank robbers, and serial killers.
Interactive exhibits allow visitors to place head and hands through a pillory (a great photo op for adventurous heads and hands), crack a safe, hack a computer site, compare shooting skills with the outlaws of the Old West, take a lie detector test, and simulate a police motorcycle chase.
A hodgepodge of weapons, including a replica of Wild Bill Hickock’s revolver and spiked chairs used to torture in the Middle Ages are displayed.
You can see a re-creation of Al Capone’s jail cell, and the getaway car used in the 1964 film, “Bonnie and Clyde”.
Some of the “more fun” interactive attractions can be found in the “Crime Fighting” exhibit – you can step into pulse-pounding action of a high-speed police pursuit simulator (I am happy to say that I didn’t run anyone over or crash my car… my nephew however wasn’t so lucky) or take aim at the virtual FBI shooting range (my nephew’s favorite — oh, o.k. I liked it too!)
In the “CSI Experience”, you are encouraged to don your inner detective at the scene of a grizzly murder to solve a case using interactive kiosks in the crime lab and morgue. Will you solve the case? I guess you’ll have to find out.
In the final exhibit, “America’s Most Wanted” fans get a special thrill – getting to see where the show is actually filmed. Since its premiere in 1988, John Walsh along with viewer tips has helped police capture of more than 1,000 fugitives.
Like any good museum, the National Museum of Crime & Punishment is entertaining, quite large and fairly extensive in what it covers. I was really impressed with the depth of the exhibits and the eerie objects on display. I highly recommend the museum, although I would skip the gift shop, the Cop Shop. I thought was pretty lame, especially compared to the Spy Museum.