7 Crime and Punishment Museums Around the World

Jeremy Thompson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Jeremy Thompson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The only thing in the world as ubiquitous as crime is our fascination with it. From novels to TV shows to podcasts, we can’t seem to get enough of humanity’s worst side. And there’s no better way to dive into the underworld than through one of the many museums dedicated to it. Here are seven museums dedicated to the violent, morbid, and occasionally heroic on display at home and around the world.

1. VANCOUVER POLICE MUSEUM & ARCHIVES // VANCOUVER, B.C., CANADA

Kenny Louie, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Located in a former coroner’s office and morgue, the Vancouver Police Museum & Archives offers an unblinking look at over 100 years of crime and its consequences in the Canadian city. Beyond the autopsy table and chalkboard for organ weights, the museum comprises several in-depth exhibits showcasing weapons, sketches, and actual forensic evidence from some of the area’s most infamous crimes, including the Babes in the Woods case and the Milkshake Murders. You can also go mobile with one of the museum’s Sins of the City walking tours, which explore the seedier sides of Vancouver's historic districts through the lens of corruption, prostitution, and bootlegging. All walking tours come with free admission to the museum.

2. THE MOB MUSEUM // LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, UNITED STATES

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

“All the dirt. All in one place.” Where else but Las Vegas would you find a museum with such a titillating tagline? The Mob Museum, housed in a former post office and courthouse, offers four floors of wise-guy-related history. From a basement distillery that produces moonshine in real time to a gallery of spy tech to a look at the current state of mafioso affairs, this museum takes visitors on a grand tour of the organized underworld. Special events like panel discussions and book signings are held fairly regularly, and guided tours are available for groups.

3. MEDIEVAL CRIME AND JUSTICE MUSEUM // ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER, GERMANY

MarcelBuehner, Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0

Located in a 600-year-old building in the Bavarian town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum is a monument to 1000 years of European jurisprudence—and some of it’s not so pretty. About 50,000 artifacts, including legal texts, illustrations, torture devices, and a few truly unsettling dioramas, guide visitors through the myriad ways in which the legal system infiltrated daily life. From witch trials to execution devices to public humiliation (look for the Schandflöte, or "shame flute," inflicted upon offensive musicians), there’s plenty to educate and disturb. Guided tours are available in German and English and require pre-booking.

4. CIA MUSEUM // MCLEAN, VIRGINIA, UNITED STATES

Unfortunately, the CIA Museum, located at CIA headquarters, is not open to the public, but if you happen to have a contact on the inside, or catch one of their fairly regular external exhibitions, or peruse their extensive online collection, you’ll be treated to several decades’ worth of espionage, history, and spycraft. Among the 200-plus items included in the online collection are false ears used in disguises, unmanned vehicles the size and shape of dragonflies, propaganda leaflets, hollow coins, and pigeon cameras. Less sexy but equally interesting exhibits include presidential communications and photos of CIA aircraft. Each item comes with a story and many are linked to related artifacts, for a more holistic spy experience.

5. JUSTICE AND POLICE MUSEUM // SYDNEY, NSW, AUSTRALIA

The most family-friendly museum on this list, the Justice and Police Museum in Sydney, Australia, offers visitors the chance to be part of mock trials or have their mugshots taken. Young crime-fighters (or villains in training) can also solve crimes or plan prison breaks, have their fingerprints taken, and crack a safe. In case that feels too wholesome, there are adults-only exhibits that examine murder, inner-city crime, and the seedier side of the land down under. Check the museum’s website if you plan to visit, as some exhibits and programs are weekends only.

6. MUSEUM OF RESCUED ART TREASURES // BREST, BELARUS

Opened at the end of the Soviet era, the Museum of Rescued Art Treasures, also known as the Museum of Confiscated Art, is a testament to human ingenuity—on both the light and dark sides. The building houses more than 300 pieces of art, including Russian iconography dating back to the 16th century, porcelain and jade items, and china. The eclectic collection comes courtesy of art smugglers who used the chaos during the fall of the USSR to move priceless pieces across borders. Brest became a prime transfer point, and smugglers got creative; one of the exhibits is a set of antique furniture that was found hidden in containers of powdered milk. As customs officials got better at sniffing out these hidden treasures, the museum sprang up as a way to restore, house, and display them. According to amateur genealogical research organization the Brest-Belarus Group, this is the only museum of its kind in what was once the USSR.

7. CRIME MUSEUM AT SCOTLAND YARD // LONDON, UK

Jack the Ripper appeal for information poster issued by Metropolitan Police, 1888Museum of London

Perhaps the most fascinating museum on our list, the Crime Museum at Scotland Yard is also the most maddening. Also known as the Black Museum, this vast archive of artifacts from some of London’s most infamous cases is closed to the public. Founded in the mid-1870s by one Inspector Neame of the Metropolitan Police force, the collection of prisoner property was originally intended to be used in the instruction of recruits, but it soon garnered the attention of other members of law enforcement and the public at large. While certain celebrities like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini were granted access, the general masses (and the media) were denied that privilege. In 1890, the Metropolitan Police moved to their new headquarters, New Scotland Yard, and the museum went for the ride. Over the years the collection has grown and now contains murder weapons, explosives, counterfeiting tools, death masks, and personal property or evidence from famous cases such as Jack the Ripper, Dr. Crippen, and the Kray twins, along with details about the impact these cases had on the British criminal justice system. For one brief, shining moment in the fall of 2015, the museum opened up several of its exhibits for public viewing, but has since shut its doors once more, leaving us outside, gently salivating.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

The Time Larry David Saved a Man from the Death Penalty

HBO
HBO

In 2003, 24-year-old machinist Juan Catalan faced the death penalty for allegedly shooting a key witness in a murder case. Catalan told police that he couldn’t have committed the crime, as he was at a Los Angeles Dodgers game at the time. He had the ticket stubs and everything to prove it.

When police didn’t buy his alibi, Catalan contacted the Dodgers, who pointed him to an unlikely hero: misanthropic comedian Larry David. On the day in question, David had been filming an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm at Dodger Stadium. It was a long shot, as there were 56,000 people at the game that day, but maybe Catalan could be seen in the background. So his attorney started watching the outtakes ... and found the evidence he needed. In fact, it took just 20 minutes to find shots of Catalan and his daughter chowing down on ballpark dogs while watching from the stands.

Thanks to the footage, Catalan walked free after five months behind bars. And Larry David found one more thing to be self-deprecating about. “I tell people that I’ve done one decent thing in my life, albeit inadvertently,” David joked.

In 2017, Netflix released a short documentay, Long Shot, about the incident.