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Road Trip to the Notorious Clown Motel

The only thing scarier than ghosts? Clowns. Hundreds of 'em.

by Roadtrippers - July 12th 2016

  • 10
  • 00:32
  • $3
  • 28 mi.
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Just off Highway 95, about halfway between Las Vegas and Reno, lies the sleepy desert town of Tonopah. For many, the town is just another oasis to fuel up in the middle of the desert, but one building at the edge of town offers more than just gasoline... it offers nightmare fuel. Tremble in fear at the most terrifying motel in the world: The Clown Motel.

Once a booming, goldmining hotspot with a population of over 50,000, Tonopah now houses just around 2,500 people, most of whom work for the local military test range. As the town numbers dwindled, Tonopah became less of a must-stop and more of a pit-stop, a place travelers would find themselves in the middle of the night, not wanting to drive another 70 miles to the nearest town. Imagine, if you will, being that weary traveler, rolling into town at midnight to discover that the only vacancy in town is within the confines of the Clown Motel. Dear God.

  • Tonopah, Nevada, United States

Tonopah, NV


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great deal for this hotel

Not only is the lobby of the Clown Motel filled with hundreds of menacing clowns, but each and every room is clown themed as well. On each of the walls are hung portraits of famous clowns, from Bozo to Pagliacci, their soulless eyes intent on watching your every move from their faux-gold frames.

One guest took to reddit to share the horrifying tale of his stay at The Clown Motel. Thought clowns couldn't get much scarier? Just give them a Christmas ham. Fair warning, it's a bit graphic:

At one point early in the evening we were hearing strange sounds and what appeared to be someone screaming followed by lot popping and crunching noises. While in the bathroom my buddy decided to have a peak outside of the bathroom window. My buddy lets out a yell and busts out into the room and I'm like "what?!" He doesn't say anything but goes right to his back and gets his Smith and Wesson 357 out. I'm thinking "what the $%#" and I dig into my bag to get my Sig 232 out. He says we need to get the %@#& out of there right now. I saw he was serious and that made me serious about it, we grabbed our $#!^ for the most part (left a few clothes behind) and looked out the peep sight to make sure it was clear to our car. I threw my gun into my pocket, he put his in his waistband and we hauled ass to the car and got the hell out of there. On the ride away, I asked what he saw in the bathroom. He told me when he looked out the window there was this creepy-ass clown facing away from the window, pants at his ankles, making a weird motion. He told me the clown slowly turned 90 degrees to look at him, my friend said he looked down to see this clown $#@%ing a full-sized dinner ham, when he looked up from the ham $^@!ing the clown was smiling and waving at him.

Sweet dreams.


Tonopah Historic Mining Park

Oh, and as if it couldn't be any more horrifying, The Clown Motel shares a lot with a cemetery full of gold miners who died from a plague. I'm talking right next door. It's like From Dusk 'Til Dawn conspired with Steven King's IT to create a real-life horror film.

Those miners probably worked at one of the four mines encompasses by the Tonopah Historic Mining Park. It features over 100 acres of abandoned mining equipment, empty mines, and all kinds of buildings to explore.

Tonopah Brewing Company

If you need a drink (or ten) to brace yourself for a night with the clowns, then the Tonopah Brewing Company is a must. If you're still feeling brave (and they happen to have it on tap) order a pint of the Ghost Miner. Oh, and they make delicious barbecue... because something about BBQ and beer just work perfectly together.


Tonopah, NV


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If you chicken out on your stay at the Clown Motel, or something goes bump in the night and you want to get out of there, fear not (or fear not as bad, at least) because there are other hotels in town, like the Mizpah Hotel. Back at the turn of the century, it was the crown jewel of Tonopah, with guests lauding it as the 'finest stone hotel in the desert'. It was restored in 2011, and features Victorian, Wild West vibes in a boutique hotel atmosphere, with a saloon onsite.

I'll level with y'all, though... it may or may not be haunted by a ghost known as "The Red Lady." On the bright side, she's probably a lot less scary than a clown.

The Goldfield Hotel

If you want to get even further away from the clowns, or if you're just looking for more ghosts, head to the Goldfield Hotel in nearby Goldfield. When it opened in 1908, it was the most opulent hotel in Nevada, with chandeliers, elevator, mahogany trim, black leather furniture, and gold trim-- champagne is said to have flowed down the grand staircase on opening night. However, this was the Wild West, and things took a turn for the creepy. As the story goes, the hotel was bought by prospector/politician George Wingfield. He had a mistress who became pregnant, and he locked her in the boiler room until she gave birth. He then threw the child into a mining shaft. The mistress was either, as legend holds, killed by Wingfield or she died in childbirth.

It's still undergoing renovations and doesn't accept guests, but it was famously investigated by "Ghost Adventures" and if you know where to look, you might find the keeper of the hotel keys who can open up the building and let you inside.

While you're in Goldfield, at least stop by the International Car Forest of the Last Church. It's an outsider art haven featuring junked cars stuck into the desert and painted with murals. Stretch your legs, take some pictures, and enjoy the mysterious and enchanting feeling surrounding this strange little roadside stop.

Goldfield and Tonopah put the "ghost" in "ghost town"... but there's more to these desert settlements than their Wild West pasts. Outsider art, awesome local hangouts, and, of course, the clowns make Nevada the perfect place to have an incredible one-of-a-kind adventure.


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