The Las Vegas Mob Museum is located at 300 Stewart Avenue in downtown Las Vegas. In 1950 the Kefauver Committee held televised hearings investigating organized crime in 14 cities across the U.S. Among the cities was Las Vegas, in the Federal Building Courthouse that now houses the Mob Museum. This is the courthouse, all the wood is original to the building and everything else has been restored to its former glory. They show a very engaging film about the trials in the courtroom.
The museum also offers an excellent locals discount as well as student and military/ law enforcement discounts. Even so, I’d say that the full price ticket at $19 is well worth it. Any way you slice it, this is a small price for entertainment in Vegas. It also reminds me of the Crime and Punishment Museum in Washington, D.C. which cost me at least $20 and it was not quite as awesome as The Mob Museum.
In the elevator on the way up to the third floor you are read your rights. When you arrive on the third floor you are ushered into a lineup where you have the opportunity to have your mugshots taken by the police officer standing by. Bring your camera and your “Busted in Vegas!” face.
The “police officer” that took these photos was patiently taking photo’s of all of the guests. It was Saturday so we were bottlenecked a few times, but I was very impressed with the level of interest all of the staff at the museum took in making sure guests had a great experience. Kudos to the Mob Museum for that, because it is rare to find an attraction with so many employees who are so enthusiastic.
After being booked we were kind of released into the museum where we were able to see a recreation of the first Nevada bar, look at vintage photos and see a ton of prohibition memorabilia. I am a political science nerd so I took interest in the Senate documents and other things that are nerdy. There was far too much to go into detail, I’m just hitting the highlights and saying that the items on display at The Mob Museum are diverse enough to interest anyone.
An item of considerable interest was the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre wall. At first I dismissed it as a recreation of some kind, but the fact that it was behind glass caused me to give it a closer look. I actually ended up looking it up on my phone and finding the Las Vegas Review Journal Article that discusses the acquisition of the wall. OMG, it is THE wall!!!
The wall also has a lot of projection lights and flashy stuff going on to highlight it. This makes for a cool real life effect, but it is not so great for photographing. This also brings me to a museum tip: a good indication of authenticity is glass. Authentic things are protected while they generally aren’t as careful about replicas.
Speaking of replicas, I got to sit in the Sing Sing prison electric chair. I say replica pretty confidently because at the museum of Crime and Punishment I saw the real “Old Smokey” electric chair from Tennessee. It was behind glass. We were allowed to sit in this one. 614 people lost their lives in the real Sing Sing electric chair, but I guess the lack of labeling on it makes it a bit more creepy, especially after finding out that the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre wall, only a few feet away , was the real deal.
There was a movie about immigration and the beginning of organized crime and there were a lot of random artifacts from these early days. All very interesting, but too much to go over in detail in this post. I enjoyed authentic things, like the original file cabinets and prohibition bottles. Then again, the recreated things were neat, too. I’m probably making this one my Christmas card:
The second floor was interesting because it started hitting the Las Vegas glory days. It’s everything you ever wanted to know about skimming, cheating at cards and tricking the slots. There are old photos and memorabilia of the old Casinos. Those things are always neat to see, you can’t deny that Las Vegas seemed much more glamourous then. Shiny things and bright colors! My favorite!
There was a brief mention of Havana, Fidel Castro and the assassination of JFK. I personally thought that Cuba was skimmed over quite a lot. But then again, I am very interested in Cuba, Batista, JFK and how all of it is tied to the Las Vegas mob. That was a bit of a let down for me, personally but I think most people will be more than satisfied with what they do have on display. The Kennedy assassination movie sounds cliché, but after you are in the mob mindset you are like YEAH!
Moving on to the gore! Albert Anastasia or the “Lord High Executioner” died in this chair in 1957. It is a barber chair and this is the real deal. I know that because it was behind glass. Also, I confirmed it by looking it up. At the top left of this photo is the actual crime scene photo.
You can actually bypass this entire display if you are “sensitive” to murderabilia. But I’m not. Crime scene photos are where it’s at! You can read about all the different mob hits, casualties and disappeared. After cementing my reputation as a seeker of torture camps and cemetery lover, I don’t think it will surprise anyone that I spent a lot of time in this room.
(There was also a movie. Another great thing about the Mob Museum was that the movies were both interesting and not so long that you got tired of watching them.)
After this, I want down to the 3rd floor where a lot of police surveillance type stuff was on display. Not really my cup of tea. I enjoyed the World of Contraband items shaped like the continents. This mural is made of illegal narcotics, syringes and counterfeit items. It is too big to even photograph, but here is my best shot:
There was also some items about life as a mob family that included fuzzy wallpaper and pretty debutante pictures of mob daughters and the bosses families. It was pretty neat.
If you are a film buff you do not want to miss the last display and movie that basically goes over the history of gangsters and the mob as portrayed in film. There were photos and scripts and items from shows like the Sopranos. This was all very exciting and made me want to rush home and re-watch Casino and Scarface. Luckily, there was a gift shop where I was able to purchase these movies on DVD.
Overall the museum started off very strong but fell a little short for me on the ground floor (near the end). However, I think that the first 2 floors were well worth the visit and I believe the museum will compensate for it’s weakness over time. If you are a local I definitely recommend bringing out of town guests. I personally would not mind an excuse to see The Mob Museum again. I think it has something everyone will enjoy.
I also suspect that there are a lot of things I missed on the first visit and that the museum will be adding artifacts. In fact, a recent tweet from The Mob Museum indicated just that. Al Capone? Bring it on.