Known for its low prices and terrifying interior design, the motel has become a destination in its own right, not least because there is little else in the town of less than 3000! Probably Nevada’s Clown Motel may seem like the product of a horror writer’s vivid imagination, with its army of glassy-eyed clown dolls and convenient proximity to the most haunted hotel in Nevada and a Wild West cemetery that holds the (maybe unquiet) remains of local miners……however, the dusty little lodging is just a place full of merriment. They swear.
In the middle of the Nevada desert, along highway 95 about halfway between Las Vegas and Reno, there is a small town called Tonopah. At the start of the 20th century the discovery of gold and silver in the area turned Tonopah into a boomtown, with an estimated population of over 50,000 inhabitants. Now, with the rich ore long gone and the mines long closed, the population has dwindled to about 2,500 and the military’s nearby Tonopah Test Range (which has hosted nuclear testing and testing/development of the F-117 Nighthawk) is the town’s primary source of employment.
The Clown Motel sits on the north end of town, near the haunted Mizpah hotel and, catering to bikers, truckers, and other long haul travelers who find themselves off the beaten path, it is the final port of call before yet another stretch of unbroken Nevada desert. In fact the Motel is one of the last man-made structures before the 70 miles of virtually uninterrupted desert between Tonopah and the next (very populated) town, Mina, with a population of 115!
The Clown Motel looks suspiciously bright and cheery and there are two giant wooden clown standing out front you: one points to a sign advertising the nightly rates ($34 for a single person, $36 for two, $37.50 for 3-4 people, or something similar). It must be this location’s oasis-like location that has kept the place in business for so long, as the ever-watchful eyes of the ubiquitous clown figurines seem to serve more as a warning than an invitation!
If you are brave enough to set foot into the motel office you will find yourself being stared at by hundreds of clowns. The entire office is covered in shelves and bookcases full of clown dolls, statues, and accouterment of every kind.
They’re also in paintings, on tables and there’s even a grinning, life-sized clown who sits in his own special chair in the corner, strategically positioned so he can see every inch of the office, with his hat pulled low over his eyes. Cherry on the top, talking to the desk manager means turning your back to this clown!
A bit like being inside a horror movie. Try to imagine: your car stops, the nearest tow truck can’t get to you until tomorrow and you’ll have to find a place to stay for the night. Yes. There are at least three (less creepy) motels in Tonopah, but continue to imagine: If the other motels are full and you decide to take your chances at the Clown Motel, the last thing you will ever see is likely the smiling red and white clown on the door to your room that could tell you: “Thank you for staying at the Clown Motel. You are now going to die!”
Probaly some of you could say I’m being overly imaginative, but leaving the office with key in hand, you might also notice an arch just meters away heralding the “Tonopah Cemetery”. The cemetery was officially shut down around 1915 at the end of the mining craze and now is half abandoned, even if people have on occasion stumbled upon a shovel or an axe while exploring nearby (but this is another story).
Remarkably, there do not seem to be many extant stories, horror or similar, surrounding the Clown Motel. It’s possible that this lack of history is because it simply arose, fully-formed from the dark parts of the American minds, or it could also be because no one has made it out alive and the demonic face of a grinning clown was the last thing they saw before die!
However, If clowns don’t freak you out enough, maybe you would be more frightened by some of America’s other creepy hotels, like The Stanley in Colorado, which inspired Stephen King to write The Shining.
Author’s notes: According to my brother, no check-ins after 11 p.m. However, if you call ahead, it’s probably they’ll leave a key under the mat. The Clown Motel has 30 rooms, free coffee, pets, parking, Free WiFi, Microwaves, Refrigerators, & satellite television. Just a word of advice: don’t book an overnight if you have coulrophobia, in other words…if you’re afraid of clowns!
I’ve never been here. Images from web.