There’s a running gag that you can tell which news stories take place in Florida by their over-the-top nature alone (see also: the #floridaman hashtag, a glorious collection of d'oh-inducing headlines).
Though social-media era might be drawing more attention to state residents' propensity for troublesome behavior, the phenomenon isn't a new one by any means.
The Sunshine State has been harboring criminal types since Spanish conquistadors landed in the 1500s and began waging war against the Native American population, and it continued through the mobster-led 1920s and ‘30s, the drug-fueled ‘70s and ‘80s, and the corrupt law enforcement underpinning it all. Now there’s a museum in Hollywood, Florida, dedicated to the region’s lawless ways.
Opened in late December, Hollywood Crime Tours and Gallery is a 2000-square-foot space with themed rooms, walls of framed photos and memorabilia, a “wheel of misfortune” hung with mug shots of the state’s most notorious, from O.J. Simpson to Ted Bundy, and a jail cell with a replica of Old Sparky, the electric chair that started a national conversation over whether the death penalty constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Then there’s the recreation of a murder scene at the Biltmore Hotel, the night an associate of Lucky Luciano met his end.
“You know you’re visiting a gallery of South Florida crime when the main attraction is 1920s mobster Thomas ‘Fatty’ Walsh, lying dead beneath a roulette table soaked in blood,” writes Phillip Valys for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
With displays delving into the area’s World War II-era Mafia ties, the long-running corruption in the Broward County sheriff’s office, and an “Evolution of Killing” wall featuring a disarmed AR-15, the museum is the analogue equivalent of clickbait for true-crime buffs. There’s even a Palm Beach County voting booth used in the now-infamous 2000 presidential election, Valys reports.
“South Florida profits from crime in these spurts and cycles, and that dirty money builds skyscrapers in Miami and Fort Lauderdale,” the gallery’s Chris Mancini told the Sun Sentinel. “There’s enough crime in this place to last many lifetimes.”