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Museu do Crime

Butantã, São Paulo

Crimes also make history

Every city in the world has a museum about shameful things, of things that are marginal, strange, morbid – and this is the case for Museum of Crime, in São Paulo.

I visited it for the first time at 18, approximately, the limit-age, since minors are not allowed in. I can’t recall why I went there, but I know I’ll never forget it! And the museum stayed mostly the same since then.

The name by which it goes is not its real name: it is the Civil Police Museum – and it was built to serve as training for students at the Police Academy, in the University of São Paulo – that’s why it is inside of USP’s campus.

There you’ll find interesting things like prisoner’s tattoos and escalate up to knowing details of historical crimes, such as the Red Light Bandit; automobile accidents from the beginning of the 20th century, wax statues replicating different wounds, such as gunshot or axe… it’s pretty weird!

It’s mostly empty, very few people know it. I go there once a year, more or less. They open and close at alternative times, so it’s nice to give them a call and get informed beforehand.

Viajo highlights

João Acácio Pereira da Costa, A.K.A. Red Light Bandit, was a notorious Brazilian criminal. Born in Santa Catarina, he arrived in São Paulo in his teens, as a fugitive from the thefts he committed in his State of origin.

Living in the coastal city of Santos, acting as a farmer’s son and a “nice guy”, he spent a quiet life – but he would come to São Paulo to commit his robberies, always in the final hours of the night, cutting the power of houses (he preferred mansions), with a scarf covering his face and carrying his distinctive object: a flashlight with a red nozzle.

The notoriety of the case caused the press to give João the title of Red Light Bandit, clearly inspired in the story of famous American criminal Caryl Chessman, executed in 1960. His story also inspired a movie by moviemaker Rogério Sganzerla, in 1968.

It took the police six years in order to identify him and, in 1967, through fingerprints left on a mansion’s window, he was convicted for four murders, seven homicide attempts and 77 robberies, facing a charge of 351 years of incarceration.

Being released after spending 30 years in prison, which is the maximum penalty according to Brazilian laws, in 1997 he returned to his hometown Joinville, where he wandered around dressing red and signing autographs. Four months after being set free, he was murdered by shotgun fire in 1998 during a bar fight.

Museu do Crime
Praça Prof. Reinaldo Porchat, 219,
São Paulo,
S.P. 05508-100
Facundo Guerra Entertainment entreprenuer, 48

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