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Puzzling out 'CSI' cases in Las Vegas

"CSI: The Experience" has opened in Las Vegas

"CSI: The Experience" has opened in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand. Credit: Fort Worth Museum of Science an/Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Scores of movies and TV shows have been set in Las Vegas, but none has more thoroughly explored the town's story lines or brought it more exposure than the long-running forensic science whodunit "CSI."

Now, Vegas visitors can immerse themselves in the sometimes gruesome but always fascinating world peopled by fictional lab sleuths Gil Grissom, Sara Sidle and Doc Robbins in an interactive attraction, "CSI: The Experience."


The exhibit, which opened at the MGM Grand's Studio Walk in mid-September, gives would-be criminologists an opportunity to sort out the puzzle of one of three crime scenes, each bearing an ironic title.

"A House Collided" features a car that has apparently crashed through the wall of a suburban residence. Naturally, the driver is dead. In "Who Got Served," a young woman in a waitress outfit is found dead in an alley with a tire tread across her midsection and a handful of personal effects nearby. And "No Bones About It" features skeletal remains found in the desert, including a skull with a bullet hole.

After visitors are greeted by "CSI" supervisor Grissom (actor William Petersen) in a video introduction, they go about the task of figuring out what happened and who did it - just as on the TV show.

"They observe the scene, they take notes, and then they go back to the lab, where they find there are a number of things to do," says Liz Kalodner, an executive with CBS Consumer Products.


The labs have workstations where visitors use databases for fingerprint identification, do DNA analysis of hair samples, and use reactive chemical agents to test for traces of blood. There's even an autopsy area, where special-effects projections show a corpse's organs.

"So it's the real experience of a CSI," Kalodner says. "You are really using all the forensic technology and science to figure out who committed the crime."


The exhibit was developed by the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and produced by EMS Exhibits, an Austrian company. It debuted in Chicago two years ago as a traveling exhibit and has attracted 2.5 million participants. Las Vegas is the first permanent installation, a fitting choice considering that Sin City remains the setting for the popular TV series that started nine years ago and has spawned spin-offs set in New York and Miami.

And while the familiar faces from the TV show may only appear on video, visitors discuss the cases and exchange theories, EMS Exhibits CEO Christoph Rahofer wrote in an e-mail. In the end, you input your data and conclusions into a computer, and Grissom tells you how you fared.

How difficult is it to figure out why that car came to rest in a living room, or what happened to the dead waitress, or how the skull and bones wound up in the desert? "If you pay attention and follow directions and look at all the clues, you'll be able to figure out the crime," Kalodner says. "By design, the experience is meant to be challenging but satisfying."

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