We received admission into Alcatraz East Pigeon Forge in exchange for this post. All opinions and our obsession with true crime remain our own.
Those who are true crime fans will enjoy Pigeon Forge‘s Alcatraz East, America’s most comprehensive crime museum. It’s 25,000 square feet of all things true crime with five unique galleries, over 100 interactive exhibits and temporary exhibits.
The attraction is located near The Island in Pigeon Forge, on the main strip. The building is modeled after the first prison in the State of Tennessee, which served as the setting of “The Green Mile” also held MLK’s assassin, James Earl Ray for a time, and of course, the watch towers of its namesake, Alcatraz.
I am obsessed with True Crime, and I had to talk my family into going to Alcatraz East, but once inside, there was something for everyone, and we spent a couple of hours inside.
A few of our favorite Alcatraz East exhibits include:
Ted Bundy is making headlines again with the new Netflix documentary and movie starring Zac Efron as Bundy. If I had to narrow down the why I wanted to visit Alcatraz East, I’d say to see the temporary exhibit where Ted Bundy’s 1968 tan Volkswagen bug is on display.
This is the Volkswagon bug that Bundy owned (he later stole a blue Volkswagen in Florida). Bundy purchased this Beetle used and drove this exact car in his murder spree across Utah, Colorado, and Washington between 1974 and 1975.
This very Volkswagon provided shelter for Bundy’s kidnappings and killings, housed his murder tools. It is also the Beetle that led to Bundy’s capture and ultimately his death in the electric chair in Florida on January 24, 1989. Witnesses who saw victims enter the car told police, who began scanning roads for the tan Volkswagen that was harboring a killer.
Ted Bundy’s car is on display as a temporary exhibit now through April at Alcatraz East.
Remember O.J Simpson speeding away in the white Ford Bronco? It’s here at Alcatraz East. The White 1993 Ford Bronco that made its way through 50 miles of Orange Country freeways, while helicopters filmed and police trailed the SUV belonged to Simpson’s longtime friend and former football teammate, Al Cowlings. This is probably the most famous car of the 20th century, and visitors of Alcatraz East can view it and watch an edited loop of its infamous two-hour-long low-speed chase plays on a video monitor as a police officer tries to talk O.J. out of shooting himself on live TV.
Bundy and Simpson’s vehicles are just two of the famous getaway cars to see at Alcatraz East. There is also Bonnie and Clyde’s Death Car replica from the 1967 movie, painted yellow so its bullet holes would be more visible on film. and John Dillinger’s 1933 Essex Terraplane.
Since it’s the 30th anniversary of Ted Bundy’s execution, and the serial killer that started my true crime interest, other pieces in the museum include a typewriter Bundy used in prison and his trial dental mold.
The kiddos took a lie detector test:
Completed a sobriety test.
They were part of a line-up:
and ultimately spent some time hanging out in jail…temporarily.
Step by step Alcatraz East is a timeline of true crime, from the medieval ages through the present.
Some of it is seeing history, like Old Smokey, the electric chair from Tennessee’s state prison (125 inmates were executed in this chair).
There’s a section dedicated to the turn-of-the-century bandits and gangsters. Here we saw a bullet pulled from the body of Pretty Boy Floyd.
The kids were creeped out by the John Dillinger death mask.
MacKenzie liked the Ballistics lab a lot. Here you see how cases are solved. There are interactive labs that my children thought were fascinating from autopsies to dental labs and more.
Behind a wall, out of children’s view, are the clown suits worn by John Wayne Gacy.
And some of it hits you in the cut, like the sweatshirt and handbag worn by a victim during the Aurora movie theater shooting, and the Winnie the Pooh backpack and stuffed animals that belonged to Casey Anthony’s daughter, Caylee. The last one I had to compose myself before moving on through the museum.
My children saw the footage from the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Towers. Neither of them born when it occurred, they have had moments of silence in the classroom to remember the victims, but the room at Alcatraz East was perhaps there first time seeing it, feeling the emotions. My 13-years-old son watched the footage and then asked me questions. It was raw for me all over, as we stood looking at a twisted piece of steel from one of the towers.
There is so much to see here.
They do offer audio tours; we declined because MacKenzie was afraid the voice guiding us would be Peter Thomas from Forensic Files (it isn’t, by the way) and she was already creeped out we were going inside.
We all had a great time and spent the evening talking about the different items and things we saw at Alcatraz East.
As we stepped back out into the daylight, we felt we had left the darkness behind; coming face to face with the darkness of humanity and the monsters that walk among us is best done at Alcatraz East, America’s most comprehensive crime museum.