Since it is apparently Clown Wednesday I want to share with you the scariest goddamn place known to man. 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. Now, with the rich ore long gone and the mines long closed the population has dwindled to a mere 2,500 and the military’s nearby Tonopah Test Range (which in its lifetime has hosted nuclear testing and testing/development of the F-117 Nighthawk) is the town’s primary source of employment. Every August Best in the Desert’s “Vegas to Reno” desert race parades through Tonopah, which is how I first discovered the Clown Motel.
Before I go any further I want to make it clear that I have never stayed at the Clown, nor have I so much as set foot in the motel office. All the photos I use here came from the Googles. In 2011 when we rolled into town at 2 AM with a broken race truck and eight people desperate for a place to sleep I stayed my ass in the tow rig while a crew member went inside to check about vacancies. They were all booked up for the night, which is surely why I didn’t end up a dismembered corpse laying out in the desert being picked apart by buzzards.
The Clown Motel sits on the north end of town, one of the last man-made structures before the 70 miles of virtually uninterrupted desert between Tonopah and the next town, Mina (population 115). The Clown Motel looks suspiciously bright and cheery, and if you look into the eyes of two giant wooden clown cutouts standing out front you will see nothing but happy soulless murder staring back at you. One of the clowns, an eight-foot-tall pear-shaped chap, points to a sign advertising the nightly rates ($34 for a single person, $36 for two, $37.50 for 3-4 people). The wise realize this is a warning, not an invitation.
If you are brave (foolish) enough to set foot into the motel office you will find yourself being stared at by hundreds of clowns. They’re on shelves, in paintings, on tables, 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, his hat pulled low over his eyes to hide his intent to make your insides your outsides and turn your gallbladder into a pair of slippers. Talking to the desk manager means turning your back to this clown. If you must enter the office (say to call AAA because your car mysteriously died in front of the motel) be sure to use the buddy system so one of you can watch him at all times.
If AAA tells you the nearest tow truck can’t get to you until tomorrow and you’ll have to find a place to stay for the night, well first of all THERE ARE AT LEAST THREE LESS MURDERY MOTELS IN TONOPAH! If the other motels are full and you decide to take your chances at the Clown then the last thing you will ever see is likely the smiling red and white clown on the door to your room. “Thank you for staying at the Clown Motel. You are now going to die. ^_^” I haven’t found a single photo taken from inside one of the motel rooms, so I’m fairly certain they dispatch guests shortly after entry. Perhaps via trapdoor or killer pendulum.
I can hear some of you saying I’m being overly dramatic, but that’s because I have not yet told you what resides right next to the Clown Motel. If your car broke down after dark you won’t be able to see it, but right next to the Clown and literally feet from the edge of the parking lot is the Old Tonopah cemetery. The cemetery was officially shut down around 1915 at the end of the mining craze and now sits half abandoned, but people have on occasion stumbled upon the odd shovel and pick axe while exploring nearby.
So if you find yourself traveling through Nevada heed my advice: bring a pillow and sleep in the car. It may not be as comfortable as a bed, but at least the demonic face of a grinning clown won’t be the last thing you see before you die.
I fucking hate clowns.