Roadtrip 2020 Day 9: Alcatraz East

Rain in eastern Tennessee didn’t hamper our travel as we made our way to the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains at Pigeon Forge, TN.

We received good news about our blog, Clever Journeys. June 30th we broke records with over 4,000 hits (4,070 to be exact), the most ‘Likes,’ and now we have followers from 22 different countries.

One of our first stops was the Alcatraz East Crime Museum. Dedicated to the history of crime and crime fighting in America, we explored a number of interactive exhibits and saw rare artifacts that belonged to some of the nation’s most notorious criminals.

Alcatraz East is modeled after the real islanded prison in the San Francisco Bay and a Tennessee penitentiary.

Alcatraz East is the successor to the National Museum of Crime & Punishment, which was located in Washington D.C. Established in 2008.  This popular museum once served as the studio for the TV show America’s Most Wanted. When the National Museum of Crime & Punishment closed in 2015, its owner John Morgan decided to open an even more ambitious attraction in Pigeon Forge.

One of the most popular exhibits is the white Ford Bronco from the O.J. Simpson case. It was vehicle involved in infamous low-speed car chase in 1994 when Simpson failed to turn himself in to the police after being named a person of interest in the murder of his ex-wife Nichole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.

I was at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas when I sensed a wave (opposite of a wave of applause at a sporting event) of silence flowing across the casino. The entire casino became quiet as gamblers were drawn to the gigantic sports screens. We joined an estimated 95 million people Who watched the car chase live on TV. O.J. Simpson’s former agent Mike Gilbert has said that “After the limo that JFK was shot in, this is the second-most-viewed car in American history.”

Another notable item is a guitar that belonged to Charles Manson. In addition to being a murderous cult leader, Manson was also an aspiring musician who had a brief friendship with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. The famous California band even recorded a reworded version of a song penned by Manson, which they called “Never Learn Not to Love.” He was very angry for not getting credit.

The guitar was seized from the Manson Family’s home at the Barker Ranch in Inyo County, California.

The artifacts that gave me the biggest creep factor were the clown costumes of John Wayne Gacy. In the 1970s, he was known as Killer Clown who assaulted and murdered at least 33 young men and boys. Gacy regularly performed at children’s hospitals and charitable events as “Pogo the Clown” or “Patches the Clown”, personas he had devised.

Serial killer Ted Bundy was represented with the Volkswagen he kidnapped victims in, his typewriter, radio and other items.

Dodie and I visited the actual ambush site of Bonnie and Clyde last week so it was interesting to see their items here. The car, nestled between gangster Bugsy Siegel’s automobile and the OJ Simpson Bronco, is actually the one used in the Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway movie, “Bonnie and Clyde” from 1967.

Other displays I thought were particularly interesting included the machine gun of “Scarface,” John Dillinger’s death mask, and Jeffrey Dahmer’s handcuffs.

The museum was particularly interesting for not only displaying over 500 artifacts, but for the interactive exhibitions covering primitive torture devices, pirates and piracy, Old West, serial killers, famous crimes, forensic science and more.

Dodie trying out Salem Witch Trial artifact.

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