Alcatraz East Crime Museum
Alcatraz East is a relatively new institution in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, but the museum existed in another form before its 2016 opening. Previously the museum was known as the National Museum of Crime & Punishment and was located in Washington, D.C. The location may have changed but the artifacts, exhibitions, and quality of the visitor experience have remained as great as ever.
The architecture of the building that houses the museum is inspired by Tennessee's first prison, Tennessee State Prison, which was built in the late 1800s. It also draws inspiration from its namesake, the infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary which operated between 1934 and 1963 off the coast of San Francisco, California.
When you visit, you’ll have the chance to stroll through the exhibits and interactive experiences that are located throughout the nearly 25,000 square foot space.
You can also purchase an additional ticket to experience some incredible interactive experiences. One option is The Heist, a laser maze challenge where you can pretend you’re participating in a museum burglary. The Top Detective Challenge is another option in which guests can follow a series of clues throughout the museum to see if they have what it takes to be a detective! These games elevate the experience for guests of all ages and are great options for young kids who may not be interested in the gritty details of other exhibits.
Punishment is another interactive exhibition where guests can learn about the real side of crime that is hidden under the glossy veneer of Hollywood films. This exhibit may not be as suitable for children, as it covers all of the possible consequences of committing a serious crime. You can get your mugshot taken, and participate in a lineup where someone is on the other side of a pane of one-way glass. You can also see what it’s like to take a lie detector test.
One of the most fascinating exhibitions is called A Notorious History of American Crime. Here you can learn about many different aspects of crime and punishment from the outlaws of the Wild West to the true-crime community of today. True crime is a popular genre and there is certain notoriety to some of the most popular cases and some of the artifacts that play a pivotal role in them. For example, you can see O.J. Simpson’s white Ford Bronco that he used in the infamous car chase. There are several other vehicles on display such as the 1968 Volkswagen Beetle that Ted Bundy drove and used during the crimes he committed.
Several traveling exhibitions are on display at Alcatraz East at any given time. For example, between now and October of 2022, you can see an exhibit that covers the final days before Ted Bundy’s arrest and subsequent conviction, prison escapes, and death. While his 1968 Volkswagen Beetle is on permanent display, this exhibit brings more artifacts to the museum and goes into depth about how he was caught.
The Alcatraz East museum is a great way to spend three or four hours, and if you’re a big fan of true crime you may want to spend even longer here and participate in all of the extra activities.