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International Spy Museum, Washington D.C.: (Where Gumbo Was #265)


Gumbo was visiting the International Spy Museum.  Congratulations to PHeymont and PortMoresby, who solved this week's puzzle!

Being in the intelligence business for most of my career, I wasn’t sure what to expect upon entering this museum.  It wasn’t on my agenda for the day, but I was running a little ahead of schedule and seeing the building on my walking route, I decided to take the plunge and plunked down my military veteran $16.87 reduced entry fee. 

There were many other curiosity seekers and the line of visitors snaked around the stanchions that eventually led to an elevator where only a handful of people were allowed in at one time.  Upon disembarking on an upper floor, I was cast into a room crammed with visitors who were enticed to adopt a fake cover identity, get a fake briefing, and go on a fake mission. 

spy museum front
Building Facade
floor logo

The only items of interest to me where the wall of foreign intelligence service symbols or coat of arms.  I began wondering how I could find the exit immediately, but you are led from one closed room into another where when your time is up, the next door is opened.  Finally, I emerged into a large gallery of historical spy gadgets and technology.  I did do some work in the gadget related area many decades ago. 

There was much to see here, as it was the most educational part of the museum in my opinion, along with the stories of historical spymasters.  Photos in these darkened rooms were allowed without flash so most of my images had reflections of the ceiling lights.

Qatar Intelligence
Czech Republic Symbol
When I visited the museum’s web site at, I noticed a series of thumbnail photos of “recently recruited agents” that had to be recent museum visitors.  As a warning, on the back of my entrance ticket the fine print said visitors agree to be photographed and recorded for use by the museum.  The museum is a private non-profit and is located at 800 F Street NW.  Adults are $22.95 and veterans/law enforcement/military are now $16.95 according to the web site.
Deliveries Sign
james bond car

The museum opened in 2002 and focuses primarily on human intelligence (versus non-human collection methods) and the important roles spies have played throughout history.  The museum boasts that it has the largest collection of international intelligence artifacts on public display.  There is a large exhibit on 50 Years of James Bond Villains and a museum store that I bypassed (except for the James Bond car) since I was behind schedule on my original agenda and they didn’t pique my interest.
There were too many gadgets to list, but here are some of my favorite exhibits.  The cigarette lighter without a flame ... probably like car lighters.  Lots of old devices were concealed in cigarette lighters and packs....
Bic Lighter
A toy truck concealed a microdot reader brought into Canada by an intel operative’s son back in the 1960’s.....
A rectally hidden tool kit really had to show you were committed.  Ouch.....
Rectal Kit
And other special hiding places like Gillette Foamy cans....
gillette foamy
Bic lighter, umbrella shafts....
umbrella concealment
Suitcase radios....
Shoe heel compartments and some deadly gadgets like finger rings that fired bullets....finger ring gunsThe glove pistol....
glove pistol
Pipe and cigarette pistols...
pipe and cigarette pistols
A dart pen....
dart pen
And a KGB lipstick pistol called the Kiss of Death (which I failed to photograph).  And of course, the infamous coat with a button hole camera....
Button Hole Camera Coat
A Swatch Watch also with a hidden camera....
swatch watch
And a fountain pen with a Tropel camera issued by the CIA back in the 1970’s...
fountain pen camera
Other items on display included lock picks and safe cracking devices....
Lock Picks and Safe Cracking Devices
Electronic transmitters hidden in shoe heels....
A communications jammer that would self detonate....
Communication Jammer Detonator
Cyanide pills hidden in eyeglass frames....
Brass Knuckles and Cyanide Glasses
Brass knuckles to encourage reluctant prisoners to talk, and a gratuitous James Bond car.  The German Engima three rotor model machine used by the Luftwaffe was also on display....
Enigma Machine
Also, some displays on spy related personnel such as Felix Dzerzhinsky (aka Iron Felix)  who was involved in the Bolshevik Red Terror reign as was known for the development of the Soviet Secret Police where he served as their director in the early part of the last century. 
feliks dzerzhinsky
sun tzuOne display on Sun Tzu attributes his Art of War as the earliest known text on espionage, which I believe was written on bamboo.  Ancient Egyptians, I  thought, also had extensive espionage methodologies but I didn’t see or maybe missed any display on Egyptian work in the museum. 
Spy Museum Store SignSpy Museum Ticket Stub


Images (33)
  • 199
  • Bic Lighter
  • Brass Knuckles and Cyanide Glasses
  • Building Facade
  • Building Sign
  • Button Hole Camera Coat
  • case
  • Communication Jammer Detonator
  • Czech Republic Symbol
  • dart pen
  • Deliveries Sign
  • Enigma Machine
  • feliks dzerzhinsky
  • finger ring guns
  • floor logo
  • fountain pen camera
  • gillette foamy
  • glove pistol
  • james bond car
  • lighter
  • Lock Picks and Safe Cracking Devices
  • pipe and cigarette pistols
  • Qatar Intelligence
  • Rectal Kit
  • Shoe
  • spy museum front
  • Spy Museum Store Sign
  • Spy Museum Ticket Stub
  • sun tzu
  • swatch watch explanation
  • swatch watch
  • toy truck
  • umbrella concealment

George G

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I made a visit here last time I was in the area. Certainly worth a visit. Most of the Public Buildings were closed due to a protest march in town. So I stumbled upon this place.  I later put my hand through the railings at the White House to retrieve an acorn that had fell to the ground. I soon felt the hand of the law on my shoulder. "What ya doin ?" I explained it was going home with me to England to become a tribute to our friendship - a friendship tree. 

"Off you go !"

Last edited by GarryRF
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