“Bad boys, bad boys whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?” Most everyone is familiar with the iconic song, “Bad Boys,” by the Jamaican reggae group, Inner Circle. It carried as the opening them on the hit television series, Cops, for 29 seasons. So why are we opening this week’s article with song lyrics from a 1987 song you ask? We want to introduce you to a new museum, a crime museum that is, called Alcatraz East in Pigeon Forge, TN.
Alcatraz East features five different galleries that guests can tour to get a thorough introduction to the criminal side of society. From the first floor you will go up the stairs and start out in the gallery called History of Crime. Here you will find everything from authentic head cages to leg irons and a real Shrew’s Violin and 15th century prison locks and handcuffs. You can read interactive exhibits on the Salem witch trials and even try on a set of arm and head stocks for those wanting a souvenir picture.
Wannabe pirates will be in for a real treat with a variety of flintlock pirate pistols and other pirate weapons on display. For those lovers of the wild, wild west, be sure to check out the western gallery with vintage circa 1880’s US Marshall badges, guns, and photos of famous shootouts. There are even real shots of gangsters such as the Dalton Brothers and John Dillinger. Dillinger’s likeness is also preserved here in the form of a death mask, only one of four ever made. As you proceed further through history, the outlaws transition into the gangsters of the prohibition era. Actual clothes worn by mobsters such as John Gotti and Carlo Gambino can be found along with a countless array of guns. What mobster collection would be complete without real pieces of Al Capone’s “Room of Doom” and a set of his souvenirs from his Chicago offices?
The next gallery that you’ll find yourself in is the Crime Scene Investigation. Here, we find relics from our nightmares such as the real clown suits of “Pogo” and “Patches” worn by clown killer, John Wayne Gacy, and the real black leather jacket he was wearing at the time of his arrest. This gallery also holds some of the saddest reminders of American crime such as an original ‘missing persons’ poster of Adam Walsh, son of America’s Most Wanted tv series founder, John Walsh. It was the tragic loss of Adam that prompted his father in pushing to create the well-known code, “Code Adam” that is used still today for missing children. Further along, you will also find items from infamous mass shootings such as the Pulse, Columbine, and Aurora incidents. Sections of twisted steel and metal from the World Trade Center disaster also serve as grim reminders of the deadliest attack in history. Before leaving, be sure to check out the crime scene evidence processing lab and learn all about the techniques used to catch the criminals here too.
How would you like to trade in your current bed and living conditions for a 6 feet by 8 feet living space? In this next gallery, you can try out a furnished jail cell with all the accommodations of a stainless steel bed, toilet and table. In the Consequences of Crime gallery, you’ll see firsthand what the end result is for many of the crimes you see and read about throughout your tour, ranging from a recreation of actual prison inmate cells to the real “Old Smokey” electric chair in person. Old Smokey was Tennessee’s first electric chair and was housed at the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville. It claims the fame for 125 executions between 1916 and 1960. You’ll also find leather arm and leg straps from a famous Illinois electric chair, an electric chair head helmet from Massachusetts and the the real noose from the Don Jail among other items.
From here, you will descend back down to the lower level. Walking down the stairs, you’ll soon see a white Ford Bronco that will immediately bring back memories for you (if you were alive and watching TV in 1994 that is). On June 17, 1994, television networks and cable news channels aired two hours of nonstop coverage of perhaps the most famous car chase to have ever taken place on the Los Angeles freeways; O.J. Simpson in a white Ford Bronco as more than a dozen California Highway Patrol units and Los Angeles squad cars tailed behind. Most remember it as, “the day Los Angeles stopped. Later, the “trial of the century” became a nation-wide obsession. From the, “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” gloves to the countless weapons, it was filled with tabloid coverage and dramatic, often unbelievable moments in court only to end with O.J.’s acquittal in 1995. Here you can see the real ‘infamous’ white Ford Bronco that made motorists stop on the side of the freeway and cheer for the former football superstar turned celebrity. Along with O.J.’s Bronco, you can also see the 1967 Bonnie and Clyde Death Car, John Dillinger’s 1933 Essex Terraplane and the Bundy’s 1968 Volkswagen Beetle in the Cars of Crime collection.
The last two galleries you will visit are the Crime Fighting and Pop Culture areas. Here you can sit in real police cars and work the lights and sirens, or maybe a police motorcycle if that fits you style better. Either way, you can see how riding in the front, or less ideal, in the back of one of the crime fighting vehicles feels. Before exiting the museum, you will have a chance to tour the Pop Culture area which is packed with real and counterfeit items. You will have an opportunity to use the skills you have learned to spot the real or the fake items, some actually confiscated from real counterfeiting mills.
Photo: Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge TN, showcases hundreds of authentic “crime artifacts” from all over.