When I was dating the girl in DC earlier this year, I made a trip to the National Museum of Crime and Punishment. Was it a rip-off at $21.95 compared to the great low cost (free!) of the Smithsonian museums? Certainly it was. But were there interesting things on display here? Yes, there certainly are, including Gacy’s Pogo the Clown outfit. So then isn’t it worth it? Well, kind of, I suppose.
But the point is: It’s closing at the end of the month! So, get out there now or wonder if it will ever open anywhere else for the rest of your life!
I’ll hurry up and put out my travelogue this week (if work allows) so that you can see what you’re missing if you choose not to make a trip.
Crime Museum Is Closing At The End of September
(Thanks to Ear for the heads up!)
Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)
S-21 was a secret prison operated by the Pol Pot regime in the capital city of Phnom Penh from mid-1975 through the end of 1978. Individuals accused of treason, along with their families, were brought to S-21 where they were photographed upon arrival. They were tortured until they confessed to whatever crime their captors charged them with, and then executed. The prisoners’ photographs and completed confessions formed dossiers that were submitted to Khmer Rouge authorities, so that proof of the elimination of “traitors” was established. Of the 14,200 people imprisoned at S-21, which held between 1,000 and 1,500 at any one time, only 7 are know to have survived. After Phnom Penh was liberated by the Vietnamese Army in 1979, S-21 was transformed into The Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide.
Alf also has a travelogue of the horrifying museum: “All of these are from the torture chamber run by Pol Pot in Cambodia. It was formerly a high school. I first visited it in 1991 and have a large number of photographs of the place that are no longer on public view. When we went there the place was still mined and we needed an armed guard. We were on our way to North Korea at the time. I will post some of the North Korean photos later….”
Torture Museum (San Gimignano, Italy)
Alf provides an excellent pictorial exploration of this most tremendous Italian museum – which collects torture and execution equipment used throughout history. I happened to catch a travelling exhibition of only a few selections from this museum – and believe me, the wince-factor is HIGH!
mattsochoki writes to recommend this site: “I found an article about this place which is a museum in Budapest to the communist secret police, it was also their former headquarters. The real treat is that I did some searching and found the official website for the place. [There are] some really interesting photos of the inside of this place. I highly recommend checking it out. I found it incredibly interesting that they not only acknowledged the communist secret police but made a whole museum.”
Rick Steves has an excellent article about this site, which includes the following fascinating info: “Budapest has recently opened one of the most powerful museums in Europe. Featuring the grim decades of Nazi and Communist repression, the museum is the former headquarters for the secret police of both the Nazi and Communist governments. The building’s awning has the word TERROR cut out of it, and when the sun projects through these letters, it symbolizes the terror which was projected onto the Hungarian people for fifty years. After allying themselves with Hitler to save their own skins (and their Jewish population), Hungary was overtaken by the Nazi-affiliated Arrowcross in the waning days of World War II. Arrowcross members did their best to exterminate Budapest’s Jews. They killed Jews one-by-one in the streets, and were known to tie several victims together, shoot one of them, and throw him into the freezing Danube—dragging the others in with him. They executed hundreds in the basement of this building.”
Medieval Crime Museum (Rothenburg, Germany)
TandoMando highly recommends this site: “If anyone gets to the medieval walled town of Rotenburg ob der Tauber, in the Rhine valley, I highly recommend the museum of torture and death! It’s located at the far end of the entrance to the city. They have all the standard medieval torture devices like iron maidens, stretching racks, large metal hoods worn for various transgressions, for all manner of punishment meted out way back in the day. Some were positively bizarre, including one that was basically a table to which the victim was tied, and had a spike that went in the anus, forced into the body so far it resulted in death.” Sounds like my cup o’ tea!
Tyburn Convent (London, England)
Situated near the site of the infamous Tyburn Tree, the King’s gallows between 1196-1786, Tyburn Convent is dedicated to the memory of 105 Catholic martyrs who were executed here between 1535 and 1681. The actual Tree is no longer in existence, of course, but the convent is worth a quick stop to visit the crypt beneath the monastic church called Shrine of the Martyrs which has relics and mementoes of the martyrs, as well as a replica of the Tyburn Tree. Among the mementoes reportedly on display are bloodstained pieces of clothing, locks of hair, bone fragments, and even lengths of rope from the nooses! Twisted sisters, indeed!
Tower of London (London, England)
Vickie recommends this infamous site: “I recently had the chance to visit London and the infamous Tower of London, where the Yeoman Warder tour guides have some pretty interesting (and morbid) tales of executions. I highly recommend it.”
The London Dungeon (London, England)
Sara writes to rave about The London Dungeon: “If you’re ever in London, England, the ‘London Dungeon’ is an absolutely amazing museum portraying the former brutality and astounding history of England and surrounding area. As soon as you enter you’re greeted with a group of talented actors that escort you into the building, then you proceed through the museum where there are tons of incredible exhibits of murders, tortures, and pretty much everything else macabre that has happened in this country’s past. Then you go into London’s famous prison system from the past centuries (including a trial, where you are charged and sentenced to death). Once you enter the prison, there you are shown real survivng torture intruments and structures. After that you are taken on mini boat ride and are shown more ways to perform an execution, The London Towers infamous ‘Traitors Gate’, and so on and so forth. Then the best part of the tour, the recreation of Whitechapel in the 1880’s where Jack The Ripper played. London’s claim to fame. You walk along dirty streets and beside you are the bodies of the prostitutes he killed strewn about. Then you go through a speculation to who Jack The Ripper really was. Then you witness the hanging of the man, from underneath the gallows. It looked and sounded so real, I thought I actually heard a neck snapping. And then comes the grand finally of the tour. ‘Theatre Of The Guillotine’, where you are a witness to a public execution. When the blade comes down a warm liquid is sprayed lightly over the crowd. When you start the exit, you’re hostly proudly proclaims to you, “Don’t worry, what you were sprayed with was not blood, it was urine.” The air even changes when you go into different parts of the tour, just for effectiveness. For example when you enter the prison, the air changes to a damp, stank, very cold air. The little details are what makes this museum so great. I highly recommend this museum as one of the top in the world.”
Ottawa Jail Hostel (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
Okay, who can possibly resist spending the night in an old jailhouse? Not I! Here’s the description from the website: “Centrally located in Canada’s capital, HI – Ottawa Jail is sure to deliver a unique overnight experience. Formerly a prison and the site of Canada’s last public hanging, this historical landmark retains much of its original character. Sleep in a former jail cell, and visit death row and the gallows during a Jail Tour. Check out The Hostel Shop, the one-stop shop for all of your travelling needs.” Thanks to Heather for sending the link!
Wyoming Frontier Prison (Rawlings, Wyoming)
This is another tip from Frankie: “Another tourist attraction in Rawlins is the Wyoming Frontier Prison. Tours are pretty informative about prisoners who were killed by other prisoners, guards murdered by prisoners, reports of the prison being haunted, etc. One of the best things is that they open up the gas chamber and you can climb inside and sit on the very same chair used on doomed prisoners.”