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Very Real

5 Museums for True Crime Enthusiasts to Visit

An Oxygen writer highlights real-life exhibits that will absorb any true crime fan.

By Tamara Palmer

Looking for a little bit of intrigue with your travels? These American museums offer educational (and, in some cases, transportive) experiences for those interested in true crime:

[listicle number="1" title=“Villisca Axe Murder House, Villisca, IA"][/listicle]

Visitors of the Villisca Axe Murder House, where Josiah Moore, his family and two guests were murdered in 1912, have two choices as to how they want to take in the site. Daytime tours are the most popular way to visit the house, which is thought to have lingering paranormal activity, or indulging in an overnight reservation that includes staying onsite in your own sleeping bag. The place has made some people feel things very strongly; according to New York Daily News, a paranormal investigator stabbed himself in the chest during a visit there in 2014.

2. Crime Tours Museum, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, FL

Chris Mancini, an attorney in nearby Fort Lauderdale, maintains a brick and mortar space called Crime Tours Museum that features both state and national artifacts from law enforcement and infamous criminals. He also offers tours based on South Florida crime history, black history and local history. “They don’t put this stuff in your basic museum,” he told SunSentinel. “We don’t extend our reach beyond South Florida. There is enough crime here to last us for the rest of eternity.”

3. The Mob Museum, Las Vegas, NV

Here’s a quintessentially Las Vegas vacation idea: Get married at The Mob Museum, located in downtown’s restored former Federal courthouse. The website makes a point to mention in rainbow letters that all couples are welcome to celebrate their love here, where the history of Made Men and organized crime is told in dense historical detail. When it opened in 2012, The Washington Post found the Mob Museum to be a well thought-out educational project “that flirts with mob glamour, but it’s also clear that the exhibits aim at telling the larger history of the mob and its influence in Las Vegas, a tricky subject given the prominent role of organized crime in creating and sustaining America’s love affair with losing money.”

4. Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA

Bundle up, jump on a boat and float out on the San Francisco Bay to Alcatraz Island, home of a former Federal penitentiary which closed to prisoners 55 years ago. You’ll get an intimate sense of what it was like to be an inmate by wandering through actual cells, and if you’re lucky, you might catch a visiting exhibit by an important world artist. It’s a place best visited by adults; one TripAdvisor reviewer was keen to point out that their experience was not child or stroller-friendly.

5. Alcatraz East, Pigeon Forge, TN

As its West Coast namesake would suggest, Alcatraz East is a crime museum that has design elements that were inspired by San Francisco’s Alcatraz in California and Tennessee State Prison in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (home of Dollywood), such as the guarded watch towers. The programming, which contains artifacts from the defunct National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C. takes historic looks at crime and law enforcement and also encompasses modern interests, such as a current call for graffiti artists, the display of O.J. Simpson’s “getaway vehicle” and an exhibit on wildlife trafficking that runs through next month. San Francisco Chronicle reported that it contains mementos from infamous American gangsters, including a rosary that belonged to Al Capone and the death mask worn by John Dillinger.

[Photo: Alcatraz Island. By Yiming Chen/Getty Images]