Then came the event that I was waiting for, the mob museum. Located in old Vegas, the museum is housed in an old courthouse that looks as though it was restored. An older building with parking right beside it, the mob museum is rather unassuming. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d probably miss it. Upon entering the building you are immediately transported back into the 1920s, into what looks like a post office, or a bank vault. There are three floors of informative, interactive displays and movies, all about the birth of the mafia in America, the rise and fall of the legends and the decline in the early 2000s. After purchasing our tickets we go up to the third floor and start the self guided tour.
You walk through each exhibit and read all about the big names in mafia history; Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, John Gotti. You learn about the five families, the commission, the mafia in Chicago and Las Vegas. Each floor is laid out like a winding tour, some exhibits are graphic, some are benign. First up, a guide ushers you into a line-up room where you grab a number and wait your turn to take mugshots. You have the option of doing it alone or with a group. The guide even takes your picture. Holding up the number against your chest, you see your reflection in the glass and it’s hard not to crack up while you try to look serious. Then you turn to the left, hold up the number and take another photo. The whole thing was very amusing. Walking around the top floor, you get to see artifacts from famous mob hits, like the brick wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. I was surprised to learn that a man from my home town purchased the wall and had it installed brick by brick at his nightclub in the washroom. The micro movies show you how the g-men where trying to close the noose around the mob and their hold on the illegal liquor racket. You learn about J. Edgar Hoover and his belief that there was no such thing as the mafia, to him, it simply did not exist. You also learn that Sam Giancana, the boss in Chicago won the 1960 presidential election for JFK. Then when his brother RFK turns on organized crime, they did away with both brothers… allegedly.
Devon clicked on an interactive screen and ended up joined the mafia by going through their secret initiation rite. I listened in on FBI wiretaps trying to trap made men with their illegal activities. You even get to shoot a replica tommy gun and sit in a retired electric chair from Sing Sing prison that zapped over 9000 lost souls into oblivion. The second floor has the courtroom where you sit in on a deposition about mob activity led by Senator Estes Kefauver. Very interesting stuff. After that, you continue on the tour and see a barber chair where Albert Anastasia was gunned down in. Purchased and donated to the museum by the “king of one-liners”, comedian Henny Youngman, the chair had been wiped clean. A part of me wishes that they left it blood stained. You can enter a room with stacks of millions of dollars, literally my dream room. From there, it’s down to the first floor where you are met with more listening devices from the FBI and tons of mug shots. You are shown a series of surveillance photos and you get to try and match those with their mug shots. A much harder task than it sounds.
There is a booth that you can enter and make a confession video and watch the playback. There’s also a long hallway with every famous mobster, their photo and a brief bio. At the end of the hall there is one of John Gotti’s suits that he wore during one of his many trials. From this hall, you enter a lounge type room where you watch Nicholas Pileggi talk about the many movies he has made on the mafia. You’re told some very interesting facts about the movies, including one about the movie Casino where a “consultant” on the film was actually a mob guy. He was helping Martin Scorsese set up a scene when he complained that it was not the actual way that the hit went down. As it turns out, the consultant was a retired mafia hit man. He ended up filming the scene himself and recreating an actual hit he did. How crazy is that?!?
You finally end up in the mob museum’s gift shop where they have tons of posters, books, t-shirts and mugs. An impressive array of all things stamped with mafia logos. I had my eye on a deck of mafia boss playing cards but I settled on a penny that I stamped with Al Capone’s likeness.
After leaving the museum I found out that I missed a room where you could shoot replica guns, which totally bummed me out. I would have loved shooting a replica. Ah well. Gives me a reason to go back, right?
This was by far the best day there, for me anyway. I learned some interesting things and really liked the displays. Everyone seemed to enjoy the museum, even Devon. I think she liked the gore, the electric chair and the tommy gun. Once done with the museum, we walked down the street further into old Vegas, checked out an old pawn shop and hit up the El Cortez casino for some gambling. Incidentally, the El Cortez is one of the oldest establishments in Vegas. One of the original stake holders was none other than Benjamin Siegel.
As I mentioned earlier, I am a huge mafia buff. This trip satiated that itch for me. It will also keep me going back. There is still tons of exploring to do in old Vegas and I could always check out the museum again. I know I missed a bunch of stuff and I’ll never get tired of learning about the mob.
If you’ve been to Vegas before and it’s losing it’s sheen, it’s luster for you, may I suggest old Vegas and the mob museum. Even if you’re not a mafia fan, after visiting the museum, you just might be.
Until next time, keep on keepin’ on. And try not to get caught.