“While I cannot say that the Clown Motel is filled with murderous clowns, there was definitely something unnerving about it.”
This summer, I decided to embark on a road trip with a close friend from high school. We were going to stop at several locations along the way, but our main destination was also our most bizarre on the itinerary – the Clown Motel of Tonopah, Nevada.
I know what some of you might be thinking – why on earth would you ever want to stay at the Clown Motel? I frankly had not heard of the Clown Motel until a few years ago when I saw an internet meme featuring the infamous location. Now, I have always been fascinated with macabre aesthetics, but I have never really gotten the whole “terrified of clowns” bit. I mean, sure some clowns are freaky and unsettling, like Stephen King’s Pennywise. And those often work as intended. But being scared of the local birthday clown? Rodeo clowns? Homie D. Clown? Never got that and I still don’t.
Yet when I came across this meme, I remember people freaking out over it and I couldn’t help but to find it amusing. Was it really that big of a deal? Could it really be that creepy? If someone stayed there, could their loved ones hope to see them again? After reading up on the Clown Motel here and there over the years, and seeing a hilariously over-the-top episode of Ghost Adventures featuring it a few months ago, my friend and I decided to go see if it lived up to the hype.
The drive was nearly two thousand miles for us. We did and saw a good bit along the way, but I won’t bore you with those details. As we drove into Tonopah, it was what we expected – an old mining town that had remained busy throughout the decades. A small casino resort called the Tonopah Station greeted us as we drove in and it took only a few minutes to reach the other side of the town. As we made the drive through Tonopah, I became excited; in just a few minutes, I would see this Clown Motel that I had been telling family, friends, and colleagues about for months!
And as we reached the edge of town, there it was, in all its semi-dilapidated glory.
As we pulled into the parking lot, I immediately looked over the entire property. There was the motel, as it appeared in pictures, and next to it was the graveyard. Only a few cars were in the parking lot, none of which were near the office, which I suddenly noticed had a “CLOSED” sign on its front door. This immediately created a little anxiety within me – did the motel forget about us or had something occurred to the employee who should have been on shift? I approached the office to see a piece of loose-leaf paper folded and taped to the door with my name written in pencil. I took the piece of paper and opened it – the note explained that the office would reopen at 4:30pm (it was around 3pm when we arrived) and that my key and room number were underneath the mat right in front of me. I looked under the mat and found both key (a metal key at that – something I haven’t seen a motel use since the early 1990s) and room number.
With this discovery, we decided to look around the property a bit before heading to our room. To our right was the cemetery. My friend decided to walk through it, but I stayed back at a distance on the motel’s property. Clowns are one thing, but a cemetery that is supposedly haunted is another. I soon went back to our vehicle to look around a bit more when I finally saw my first sign of life at the motel: a man in his late forties to early fifties walking a large dog in front of the motel’s rooms. Not wanting to be rude, I waved and said hello. While I am sure he saw and heard me, he did not acknowledge me, and continued walking his dog before turning the corner and disappearing. I did not see him again and can only assume that he was staying at the motel.
My friend soon returned from the cemetery and we decided to finally go into our room. A painted clown on the door greeted us as I struggled to unlock the door. The lock finally popped open and we went in. There were two clown paintings hanging directly over our beds, but the best adjective to describe what we initially saw is ‘dated.’ Several appliances were in the room that had to be at least fifteen years old. The furniture was quite old and a musty smell lingered throughout. My friend immediately began searching the room, worried that a clown might pop out at some time (moments before, I had made a comment about the film Vacancy).
I began looking around a bit closer and noticed some things that bothered me. One was a lamp shade that was in tatters. Another were some noticeable dents along the walls. There were what appeared to be numerous scratches on some of the wood furniture. The logical side of my brain told me that this was simply because it was an old motel that probably did not have the funds to renovate.
The other side of my brain, however, started to go wild. Was there really something more to all of this?
After we had unloaded our vehicle, our next course of action was to wait for the office to reopen at 4:30pm. That was where all the clown dolls were kept and we had to see that. In the meantime, we waited in the room, planning our next move. Now, at this point in our trip, we had been away from home for a week. We were both getting homesick and not sure if we wanted to stay the night in the Clown Motel. If we were to leave after seeing the office, we could drive a few hours to another hotel near the Arizona border, giving us a four hour start on our drive back. We had made it to the Clown Motel, saw it with our own eyes, and taken plenty of pictures. The decision was then made not to stay the night, something I still have regrets about.
4:30pm arrived and we went to the Clown Motel’s office. The closed sign had been removed and we entered with no problems. We were immediately overwhelmed with what we saw – it was clearly a motel office but filled with hundreds of clown dolls, some small, some large, others smiling happily, and a few with sadistic grins on their faces. There was even a Ronald McDonald statue. Three men were also present – the youngest, maybe in his late twenties or early thirties, sat on a sofa and never said anything the entire time we were there. The other two were much older, with one man keeping quiet behind the register and the other approaching us with a kindly look on his face. This turned out to be the owner, Bob Perchetti, who I can only say positive things about as he was an absolute gentleman.
Mr. Perchetti immediately asked us if we were paranormal investigators, to which we replied in the negative (apparently, according to Mr. Perchetti, the Clown Motel gets numerous amateur and professional paranormal investigators year round). We talked for a bit about various topics and paid for our room before Perchetti finally showed off some of his wares – Clown Motel coffee mugs, red clown noses, t-shirts, etc. The office was also the gift store! Not wanting to leave some of this behind, I purchased a mug and a few noses to bring to friends back home. But what I really wanted was one of the dolls. I asked Perchetti if any of the clowns were for sale and he said no, but then almost immediately reminded himself that he did have some dolls we could buy. The selection was small, but I found one that I immediately liked – a circus clown dressed in blue with its head partially detached. Nicknaming him “Loppy Head,” I knew he had to come home with me and so I happily paid for him.
We said our goodbyes to Mr. Perchetti and the clowns, and left Tonopah soon after. While I cannot say that the Clown Motel is filled with murderous clowns, there was definitely something unnerving about it. I am glad I went and saw it in person, but have no desire to return there, even with the regret I still have for not staying the night. Maybe if I was in the area, but I can’t imagine myself in a situation like that.
Oh, and as for Loppy Head, he has adjusted to his new home fairly well. I have caught him up to mischief a few times, finding him in odd places that a doll shouldn’t be able to get into, or doing things that one wouldn’t expect for something of his size. Our dogs even bark angrily anytime they see him. Time will tell if it was a good idea or not to bring him back as a memento, but for now I am happy he is here.