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Farewell, My Lovely Crime and Punishment Museum

Some electrifying headgear. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)
Some electrifying headgear. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

The Crime and Punishment Museum had to blow after getting the bum’s rush from its downtown D.C. joint. “Sadly, due to unforseen circumstances,” the sign said.  

Where Roll Call Dares Logo(Thumbnail) Who bumped the CPM? The chin was they didn’t have the cabbage to stay in primo real estate. Without a big butter and egg man, they had to go, pronto, dateline Sept. 30. It was worth one last look before the museum blew its wikiup. For backup, there was no better jane around than Justice.  

Justice Gilpin-Green. Copy editor. Lousy with smarts. That’s what happens when you come from Deadwood. The Bad Lands.  

It was duck soup getting in. You didn’t have to have the bees. Just pay a little dust of dough.  

The gig started with pieces on medieval times and punishments, whips and chains. The dark ages didn’t brighten things too much.  

But the spread started hitting on all eight with the Old West. The gats were all iron, and the hangman’s noose showed up over Deadwood, where Justice recognized her people.  

“You guys, this is where I’m from,” she Snapchatted, pointing to the scrawl: “In 1876, the lawless town of Deadwood, South Dakota averaged a murder a day.” Justice was home.  

Next we moved our getaway sticks to the 20th century. There was the bucket shot up in “Bonnie and Clyde.” Then there was the giggle-juice-soaked Windy City.  

“Killer Clown” John Wayne Gacy’s “Pogo” and “Patches” get-ups stopped us cold, and Justice and I shuddered, walking past the rest of the “crime” part of this flophouse. No wonder people are freaked out by clowns.  

Then the “punishment” set pieces started. For anyone who’s served a bit, the bars at the CPM would be familiar. Everyone’s got a sad tale. No one serves a bing without sounding like a boozehound after.  

Prison art? They got Gacy’s. He liked to paint Freddy Krueger and Dracula and mopes like that. We shuddered again.  

A portrait of the serial killer artist. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)
A portrait of the serial killer artist. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

The capital punishment exhibit was all drama. Want to see the leather cap that fried Sacco and Vanzetti? There it is. How about a chamber for Nevada gas? Got that, too.  

We could handle it, but what happens when you drag an urchin in for these sights? “I’m going to throw up,” one little kid said, having an ing bing in the death chamber, squatting and hugging himself among the guillotines, chest rippers and lethal injection needles.  

“You cannot do that here,” the kid’s mommy said. “Wait ’til the bathroom!” she said. And she jerked him toward the can.  

You could feel for the kid. The execution part of the punishment ward wasn’t cheery. Looking for evidence? How about these words on the wall from Gacy: “Kiss my ass!” They were his last before getting stuck with the needle and boxed in a wooden kimono.  

Justice and I moved along, through halls decorated with rods, cop car-chase simulator and a whole room of wallpapered movie and television lines.  

(Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)
(Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

“Who loves you baby,” Kojak said, with his cold-flat cheaters and lollipop.  

“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti,” Hannibal Lecter leered with those ice eyes.  

Then it was time for the gift shop. Justice bought a postcard. I went with the coffee mug.  

Then we cleared. The place was gone one day later.  

It’s not all zotzed. The ghosts of CPM still conduct “Assassinations in the Capital Walking Tour,” the “Traveling Forensic Educational Programs” and “Team Building.”  

But what if you want to see the goods, the cat o’ nine tails, the hoosegow, the roscoes, the gift shop. What if you want to see any of that?  

Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown real estate.  

With a weary tip of the cap to William Denton’s Miskatonic University Press “Glossary of Hardboiled Slang.”

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