Museum of Colorado Prisons
Canon City, Colorado
Colorado US 50 cuts through Canon City like an ax-murderer's blade through a hapless victim's throat. On the west side of town, just north of the new prison on 1st Street, stands the old women's prison and accompanying Prison Museum, an attraction worthy of grisly metaphors. An actual gas chamber sits on the lawn in front of museum, a little weather-worn, but nonetheless impressive. Nearby are two vintage cells, apparently used to store gardening tools.
Inside are more tributes to justice. Sit in the cell of Alferd Packer, America's favorite cannibal, who did time here! The wide main hall leads to side rooms featuring artifacts such as the actual hangman's noose of the last man to have his neck stretched in Colorado, prison contraband, a scale model of a gas chamber, and disciplinary paraphernalia used from 1871 to the present.
Take advantage of the gag photo opportunity: striped prison overalls and hats you can wear while standing behind a set of fake bars. Or stand behind a plywood cutout caricature of a convict. Pretend you're one of the prisoners who used to be routinely flogged and tortured here and whose misery is glowingly chronicled for your entertainment.
Thirty-two cells are outfitted with exhibits devoted to all aspects of prison life (substance abuse, rioting, and isolation, among others). One cell features an exhibit on 11-year old Anton Wood, youngest person in Colorado ever convicted of murder.
Another contains a feebly animated "Sheriff Sam" robot, creaking and clunking while it relates the career of warden Roy Best, who wound up in the docket himself, reprimanded for misuse of public funded prisonlumber. He was well liked but tough, known for his "mass flogging" of prisoners, and even ran unsuccessfully for governor of Colorado.
Oh yeah. The tally:
77 executions: 45 by hanging, 32 by gas