The Clown Motel: America’s Scariest Place To Stay?

Bozo the Clown greets visitors in the lobby of the Clown Motel.Photo by Osie Turner
Bozo the Clown greets visitors in the lobby of the Clown Motel.
Photo by Osie Turner

If you have ever passed through Tonopah, the small Nevada mining town midway between Las Vegas and Reno, there is a good chance you noticed their infamous Clown Motel. While it used to be just an oddly themed economy motel along a lonely highway, The Clown Motel has taken on a life of its own across the interwebs. It appears frequently on list of the scariest places to stay around the country and was even considered one of the scariest in the world by the Britain’s Metro newspaper.

Some of the stories found online are so over the top as to be comical, but the motel has been featured on the paranormal television show Ghost Adventures and is a consistently making the headlines among various publications. Exactly what connection clowns have to ghosts is unclear but coulrophobia, or the fear of clowns, is quite prevalent.

As if the clown theme was not enough to freak people out, the motel is located next to and shares a parking lot with the Old Miner’s Cemetery. This was Tonopah’s first graveyard and was active between 1901 and 1911 when it was replaced by the “new” cemetery located a little further up the street.

View of the Old Miner's Cemetery from the parking lot.Photo by Osie Turner
View of the Old Miner’s Cemetery from the parking lot.
Photo by Osie Turner

There is a reason for the motel’s proximity to the old resting place—the original owner of the Clown Motel, Leroy F. David, chose the spot to open the motel because his father is buried in the cemetery. Leroy was one of the more prominent figures in Tonopah, having opened many businesses in the small town and was involved in county politics as well. The Clown Motel was one of his final business ventures.

The story of how the motel became clown themed is surprisingly mundane. Prior to opening the motel, Leroy came by a collection of clown figurines and dolls and needed somewhere to store them. So he decided to put them in the lobby of his new motel and clowns inadvertently become the theme. The collection continues to grow into the present day.

The current owner, Bob Perchetti, has owned and operated the motel since the early 1990s. He insists the motel is not haunted and nothing out of the ordinary has ever happened to him there. He might joke about the cemetery having ghosts, but he is adamant that the motel does not. His fear was that the motel’s internet notoriety will hurt the business, namely that it may lead to people wanting to see the motel but scare them away from actually staying with them.

Outside the first floor rooms.Photo by Osie Turner
Outside the first floor rooms.
Photo by Osie Turner

“I’ve lived on-site for seventeen years, so if something was going to happen I think it would have by now,” says the motel’s manager, Joe Mizzi, the motel’s manager. He agreed with Bob’s opinion that there is nothing paranormal about the motel.

The town of Tonopah is ripe with history and the motel is an easy walk to the historical downtown area. If Bob is around when you check in, he is definitely the man to ask about local history as he is a lifelong resident with deep roots in the area. His grandparents were among the first settlers in Tonopah and his mother still lives within ten feet of the house she was born in.

The inside of the rooms look pretty normal. Nothin to be afraid of...right?Photo by Osie Turner
The inside of the rooms look pretty normal. Nothin to be afraid of…right?
Photo by Osie Turner

Don’t let the odd décor frighten you away; I’ve stayed there and would stay there again. The motel is one of the best priced choices for lodging in Tonopah. The rooms are simple and comfortable and all come with a microwave, refrigerator, WIFI, and cable TV. Inside the rooms, the clowns are toned down to just two pictures in the room, but if they are too much the manager will have them removed from your room during your stay. Bragging rights come with your stay at no extra charge!

The Clown Motel is located at 521 N Main St, Tonopah, Nevada. They do not have an official website but you can book a room ahead of time by calling them at (775) 482-5920. If you want a place to stay in Tonopah that may really be haunted, The Mizpah Hotel is just down the street!

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