Explore America's most intriguing crime scenes.
American crime is as old as the country itself, and American crime scenes remain a fascinating part of the cultural history of the nation. Over the years, American history has been punctuated with horrific news reports of murders, assassinations and massacres, all of which have kept television viewers simultaneously fascinated and disturbed. Visiting a famous crime scene can make for an interesting day out. With locations across the country, there is something for anyone interested in American true crime.
America's first large-scale crime scene, the Jamestown massacre, saw the deaths of 350 colonists as the settlement battled for survival. The Powhatan Indians who attacked the colony killed men, women and children. Their deaths were violent and, in the minds of many, senseless. The Native Americans were thought to have risen up against the British settlers in an attempt to regain their land. Today, Jamestown is a magnet for colonial history buffs, but the massacre of 1622 is not usually the main topic of tour guides.
As stated in the papers of the Library of Congress, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln took place at the Ford Theater on April 14, 1865. Lincoln was watching a play (Our American Cousin) when John Wilkes Booth came up behind him and shot him in the back of the head. The Ford Theater still stands today, holding the accolade of America's most famous theater. Open to the public, the Ford Theater offers tours as well as theatrical performances throughout the year.
Deadwood, South Dakota -- a notorious Wild West town -- was the scene of many murders and other assorted crimes, but none more famous that the killing of Wild Bill Hickok. Soldier, politician and entertainer, Wild Bill was shot from behind while playing poker. Deadwood remains a popular tourist attraction; visitors can watch a reenactment of Hickok's murder and even play poker in the Old Style Saloon #10, where Hickok was killed.
The gun fight at the OK Corral is perhaps America's most famous shootout. The showdown is reenacted in Tombstone, Arizona, every day to the delight of the thousands of tourists who visit the site each year. The fight was Wyatt Earp's attempt to prove that lawlessness would not rule the town of Tombstone. Local cowboys (including the famous Billy the Kid) fought the law, and lost. The killings of three of the five cowboys by Earp and his brothers, Morgan and Virgil, and Doc Holliday were ruled legal at the time. The action took only 30 seconds but has remained a favorite of tourists and history buffs for decades.
Perhaps one of the most famous female murderers in American history, Lizzie Borden even has a child's song written about her terrible crimes. The story goes that Lizzie Borden brutally murdered her father and stepmother with an axe because she hated her stepmother. According to the official Lizzie Borden House Web site, the murders remain unsolved, but Borden has always been the alleged murderer of her parents. Although cleared of all charges, Lizzie Borden and her childhood home remain infamous in the annals of American true crime. Today, the Lizzie Borden house is a bed and breakfast and a trip to Fall River should include a visit to the Fall River Historical Society to view the artifacts in their Lizzie Borden collection.
The Sharon Tate murders, committed by Charles Manson's followers -- collectively known as "the family" -- continue to haunt the Hollywood community today. They took place at Sharon Tate Polanski's home and included the deaths of an eight-month pregnant Sharon, Abigail Folger, Steven Parent, Voiytek Frykowski and Jay Sebring. Tate was a well-known actress at the time, and the horrific crime made headlines across the world. The victims were stabbed and shot and the walls smeared with their blood. Today (2009), the Tate House remains closed to the public.
Although more famous for its ghosts, 112 Ocean Avenue was the site of the disturbing DeFoe murders in the 1970s. Ronald Defoe decided one night to take a shotgun and shoot his family while they slept. Among the dead were his parents and four siblings.
The family that bought the house after the murders claimed it was haunted. This claim produced books and movies as well as a cult fascination with the property. The house remains a private residence today.
As a part-time clown and social butterfly, John Wayne Gacy was the last person anyone suspected of being a serial killer. So the discovery of 28 bodies under his house came as a surprise to many. Time Magazine lists the murders under America's top crimes, and Gacy was put to death in 1994 for his crimes. His house was torn down, and replaced with a new structure with a changed address.
Jeffery Dahmer remains one of the most notorious serial killers of the 20th century. Over a 13-year span, Dahmer killed 17 men. He had a penchant for decapitation and dismemberment, which make his crimes truly shocking, especially because they began when he was just 18 years old. The Oxford apartments, where most of the murders occurred, were demolished in 1992.
The deaths at Jonestown are considered by many to be suicide, but the brainwashing powers of cult leader Jim Jones that led to the cyanide poisoning of 900 American men, women and children are considered by others to be nothing less than mass murder. American senator Jim Leo and his film crew, who were on their way to visit Jonestown, were gunned down by Jones' church members, on his orders. The site is less than accessible to most fans of American true crime, and it remains mostly hidden from the world by jungle vines. There are no physical remains of the encampment, just the memory of one of America's worst crimes.