If the thought of a bright red nose and a painted smile sends a shiver down your spine, you may be among the nearly ten percent of adults that suffer from coulrophobia.

The fear of clowns has been documented across multiple cultures all around the world, but no one is quite sure what causes it. Some theorize that it’s due to the portrayal of clowns in popular horror media, such as Stephen King’s “IT”.

Others insist that their white skin and unchanging features make them appear inhuman, frightening us on a primal level. Whatever the reason, this fear is alive and well, especially at the Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada.

Clown Motel History

The “scariest motel in America” was opened in 1985 by a pair of siblings in honor of their late father. Many years after Clarence David perished in a mine fire, his children Leona and Leroy opened a motel beside the Old Tonopah Cemetery where he was laid to rest.

David had been a collector of clown figurines, having amassed 150 before his passing, and his children proudly put them on display in the motel lobby.

Ownership of the motel passed to Bob and Deborah Perchetti in 1995. The Perchettis upheld the clown theme, not only exhibiting Clarence David’s original collection, but adding their own.

Clown Motel sign in Tonopah Nevada
Clown Motel sign in Tonopah Nevada, is a kitschy roadside attraction and is said to be haunted.

Over the 22 years that the Perchettis ran the motel, the number of clowns on site exploded to 600. These figures ranged in size, spanning from only a few inches tall to as large as a full-grown adult.

When Bob Perchetti decided to retire in 2017, he listed the property for $900,000 and included the stipulation that the new owners must take care of the collection and keep the motel running.

In 2019, Vijay Mehar purchased the motel and appointed family friend, Hame Anand, as CEO. Anand, a lifelong fan of clowns, has lovingly updated the 31-room lodge and continued to expand the red-nosed menagerie.

The Clown Motel accepts donations of any clown paraphernalia in hopes of breaking the Guinness World Record for largest collection of clown-related items. The record, held by F.M. Kahn of the Netherlands, sits at 4,348.

The Tonopah Cemetery

The motel currently boasts upwards of 2,000 clowns. However, the glassy-eyed stares of thousands of clown figures, puppets and paintings aren’t even the scariest thing about this location.

Old Tonopah Cemetery
From 1901 to 1911, the Old Tonopah Cemetery was the final resting place for nearly 300 people

Many believe that the motel is not only a destination for tourists, but for wandering spirits from the cemetery next door.

Over 300 graves can be found in the Old Tonopah Cemetery, despite the site only being active from 1901 to 1911.

In addition to deaths attributed to classic Wild West problems, such as shootouts, murders, and suicides, the town cemetery was also populated by victims of plague and fire.

In 1905, illness swept the town, claiming the lives of 56 people between January and April. Those afflicted often died within hours of first reporting symptoms.

Newspapers across the west published hysterical headlines about the Tonopah Plague, which was ultimately ruled as an outbreak of pneumonia.

In 1911, the Belmont Mine Fire killed 17 miners. Despite flames being discovered in the mine early on February 23rd, the superintendent of the mining company forced employees to continue working as normal.

Within a few hours, workers were ordered out of the mine after the fire began spreading rapidly. The blaze moved too quickly, however, and many men were not able to escape.

After their bodies were recovered, the victims of this tragedy were among the last to be interred in the Old Tonopah Cemetery.

Paranormal Experiences at the Clown Motel

While they may have been buried, many say they have not been put to rest. Today, apparitions are frequently seen moving between the cemetery and the Clown Motel.

One such apparition even bears an uncanny resemblance to Clarence David, perhaps investigating the legacy he unknowingly left behind.

In the motel, disembodied voices have been heard stating ‘we mined’ and ‘we died that day’, further convincing investigators that the doomed miners are the cause of activity on the property.

Some speculate that the spirits are drawn to the lobby in particular, because of their ability to manipulate the clowns to make their presence known. When the “Ghost Adventures” TV show investigated the Clown Motel, they captured footage of a life-sized doll moving on its own.

The paranormal claims are not limited to the lobby, however. Visitors report hearing ghostly laughter down the corridor and sounds of movement coming from empty rooms.

While nowhere on the site is necessarily immune to activity, the highest concentration of reports seems to come from the same five rooms. One man spent over six years in Room 210 after he claimed that his excruciating back pain was cured by a supernatural force residing there.

Room 111 began seeing regular paranormal activity after a terminally ill man took up residence inside. His intention was to live out his final days in peace, however, he was immediately troubled by the appearance of a dark figure that would come to him each morning.

The Clown Motel Parking Lot, Tonopah, NV
The man begged the spirit to take his life, but it never did. Out of frustration, the man eventually shot himself in the motel parking lot.

Room 214 seems to be host to a mischievous energy. In the 1970s, a man named Melvin Dummar regularly stayed in the room, and according to legend, the spirit therein took a liking to him. After roughly three years, Dummar stopped staying at the motel, but didn’t break the news to his ghostly companion.

Now, guests staying in the room experience lights turning on and off by themselves and their belongings being moved or vanishing altogether. This poltergeist activity is attributed to the spirit’s frustration at not being able to find its old friend.

The story of Room 108 has a slightly darker reputation. The motel’s front desk manager was an elderly man who lived in this room.

One night, he became severely ill and tried to call the front desk for help. The phone rang and rang, but no one ever picked up. The man was able to call his sister, who then dialed 911 on his behalf. He died before he could reach the hospital.

Investigation into the incident revealed that the phone at the front desk never rang, almost as if something was sabotaging the man’s attempts to get help. Items move around on their own in this room as well, and guests are often frightened by strange voices and the sound of footsteps nearby.

Creepy Clown Dolls at the Clown Motel
Some have even awakened to see dark figures standing over their bed in the night. One man claimed to encounter a 7’ tall clown watching him sleep, which then vanished.

The most infamous lodging available at the motel is Room 107, also known as the “Fear Unlimited” room.

107 was closed for roughly four years, following multiple deaths in the room over the course of a decade. It was treated as a storage space, however even unoccupied, guests in neighboring rooms complained of loud noises coming from inside.

Heavy furniture was dragged across the floor. Conversations could be heard when passing by in the corridor, and something banged on the walls at all hours of the night.

The room was recently reopened to the public and is now available to stay in once more.

Staying at The Clown Motel

The Clown Motel
Pricing varies by room and date, ranging from $85 to $199 per night. The motel fully embraces their spirited reputation and even offers EMF meters to rent during your stay.

Tonopah is home to other haunted locations, such as the famous Mizpah Hotel, and is within driving distance of several ghost towns with similar histories. The town is also allegedly a good spot to find UFOs, as a stop along the Extraterrestrial Highway.