Clown Motel – Tonopah, Nevada - Atlas Obscura
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Clown Motel

Oh, just a motel on the edge of the desert decorated with thousands of clowns conveniently located next to an abandoned graveyard. 

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While Nevada’s Clown Motel may seem like the product of a horror writer’s fevered imagination with its army of glassy-eyed clown dolls and convenient proximity to a Wild West cemetery that holds the (possibly unquiet) remains of local miners, the dusty little lodging is just a fan of merriment. They swear. 

Catering to bikers, truckers, and other long-haul travelers who find themselves off the beaten path, the Clown Motel is the final port of call before yet another stretch of unbroken Nevada desert. It must be this location’s oasis-like location that has kept the establishment in business for so long, as the ever-watchful eyes of the ubiquitous clown figurines seem to serve more as a warning than a draw. From the moment travelers enter the adjoining offices they are greeted by a life-size clown figure sitting in a chair, cradling smaller figurines like familiars. In fact, the entire office is covered in shelves and bookcases full of clown dolls, statues, and accouterments of every stripe. Stuffed animals, porcelain statues, wall hangings, and more make up the mirthful menagerie, staring down at guests from every angle.

Leaving the office with key in hand, visitors might also notice an arch just feet away heralding the “Tonopah Cemetery.” Just beyond the gate is a century-old miner’s graveyard made up of a gaggle of wood and stone markers, the very Platonic ideal of a haunted cemetery.

Remarkably, there do not seem to be many extant stories, horror or otherwise, surrounding the Clown Motel. It’s possible that this paucity of history is because it simply arose, fully-formed from the dark parts of the American subconscious, or it could also be because no one has made it out alive.       

The Atlas Obscura Podcast is a short, daily celebration of all the world’s strange and wondrous places. Check out this episode about the Clown Motel.

Know Before You Go

No check-ins after 11 p.m. However, if you call ahead, they'll leave a key under the mat.

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