The haunted and creepy Clown Motel at dawn
Clown Motel at dawn, Tonopah.
The haunted and creepy Clown Motel at dawn
Clown Motel at dawn, Tonopah.

How Haunted the Creepy Clown Motel Really Is

Featured Image Credit: Gillfoto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and Scaled

Of all the scary places you can stay overnight in the United States, the Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada, is one of the creepiest. The clown-themed decor is as spine-chilling as the ghost stories behind the motel’s reputation. There seems to be something waiting around every corner to give you goosebumps. Between the graveyard next door and the motel’s proximity to one of the worst mining disasters in the state, it’s practically begging to be haunted. That’s probably why the motel has been the subject of numerous paranormal investigations.

The owners of the Clown Motel have embraced the inn’s reputation as much as anyone else, and because of that, they’ve gone “all in” with the haunted motel angle. Guests are now free to rent or purchase items for private ghost hunts on their overnight stays, and now more evidence of the motel’s haunted nature comes out virtually every day. From seeing the terrifying clown poltergeist appear next to your bed to watching clown dolls seemingly move on their own, the creepy Clown Motel is unlikely to disappoint your paranormal cravings.

Tonopah mine near the creepy clown motel
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

How the Clown Motel became haunted

The town of Tonopah wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the old Belmont Mine. The discovery of silver in the Tonopah area had drawn in prospectors, merchants, and those hoping to get rich at the turn of the 20th century. A mine operation like Belmont meant jobs and prosperity. Especially, once the mine began producing tons of silver and gold ore from the depths of a barren Nevada desert. Unfortunately, this prosperous endeavor was filled with undertrained personnel and the effects of absent safety regulations.


On February 23, 1911, a fire started deep in the Tonopah-Belmont Mine. When it was first noticed, the fire was relatively small and could have been easily extinguished with modern protocols. Several workers made attempts to put the fire out, but none of these men were trained firefighters. Shifting air currents quickly turned the manageable smolder into an all-out blaze that rapidly filled the tunnels with deadly smoke.


Oversight had warned workers to evacuate the mine as soon as the fire had been discovered. The only men who were supposed to be down in the shafts were those attempting to quell the flames. Due to the poor communication technology of the time and the scattered nature of mining work, fewer workers than expected were able to escape the mine before the smoke took over. Even with the efforts of William “Big Bill” Murphy running the shaft elevator for evacuation, 17 people died in the incident. Murphy was one of them. He continued rescue efforts until the very end, and it cost him his life. His sacrifice has made him a local hero. The Clown Motel was built near the site of this travesty in 1985, next to the final resting place of the miners. Many believe it’s these miners’ spirits who took up residence within the circus-like walls of the motel.


The Clown Motel is next to one of the most haunted cemeteries in Nevada

As if the creepy Clown Motel wasn’t unsettling enough on its own, it’s attached to what’s believed to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in Nevada: Old Tonopah Cemetery. This cemetery holds the dead from two major local incidents. The first being a wave of pneumonia that killed 56 people in 1905, known as the “Tonopah Plague,” and the second being the aforementioned mining disaster. Others were also buried in the Old Tonopah Cemetery before it closed in 1911 due to headstone degradation from mining debris.


Several ghosts of the buried dead are believed to haunt both the cemetery and surrounding areas. George “Devil” Davis, a political leader and the first Black American in Tonopah, is said to play pranks at the local liquor store. An elegant con artist, named Bina Verrault, who ended up in the Tonopah mining camp while on the run, is believed to hang around the Tonopah Historic Mining Park’s Visitor’s Center. Then there are the victims of the Tonopah Plague and the mine fire, who make their presence known throughout the whole of Tonopah, including the Clown Motel.

Sign for the Clown Motel
Clown Motel - Bikers welcome. Tonopah.

The decor alone is truly unsettling

Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, the Clown Motel might still creep you out. The first owners of the motel were children of one of the miners who died in the 1911 Belmont fire. They decided to open the business next to the cemetery in memory of their father, who’s buried there. They also decided to move his enormous clown collection, numbering around 2,000 pieces, into the building, giving the motel its theme.


The exterior of the motel has building-sized images of clowns riding unicycles, balancing on circus balls, and taking on other clown-like poses. The motley paint job of bright colors matches the motif. The internal decor is equally nightmarish to the coulrophobic (those with a phobia of clowns). The rooms are reminiscent of clown clothing and circuses, hung with paintings of normal and killer clowns. Throughout the motel, including the front office, you’ll find thousands of clown dolls with eyes that follow your every move. Every new owner of the building has added more dolls, and the current tally numbers over 5,000.

As an added bonus, the motel offers a few suites with specific horror movie themes. These include a room based on Stephen King’s It, featuring Pennywise’s malicious grin staring at you from a mural directly next to the bed. Then there’s the Friday the 13th room and The Exorcist room. Specters or not, good luck spending a night in the Clown Motel without catching a case of the heebie-jeebies.

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Bob Perchetti, former owner of the Clown Motel
Travel Channel | Ghost Adventures

The workers know more about the haunted Clown Motel stories than anyone

Bob Perchetti, the second owner of the Clown Motel, spoke with Ghost Adventures before the crew investigated the site. Perchetti believes a ghost makes its way from the graveyard to the motel every now and again. He also says his patrons have told him about the crazy phenomena they experienced during their stays. “I’ve had a guy that woke up in the middle of the night and experienced a clown in his room,” Bob Perchetti explains. The life-sized clown spirit hung around for a few seconds while the guest tried to wake himself up, then disappeared.

The current manager, Hame Anand, didn’t believe in ghosts until he’d worked at the Clown Motel for around six months. That is until during the December offseason when he heard heavy footsteps above him – the sound of the miners’ work boots pounding across the floor. The motel was nearly empty, and he knew this wasn’t a guest. He also says the room in which he lives at the motel is “very haunted” and will make a great attraction for paranormal enthusiasts whenever he decides to move out of it. It’s why he specifically picked this room. He’d felt a calling from the three people who’d died there. 

The footsteps of spectral working men are a common complaint Anand receives, he says during an interview with Travel Nevada. He likes to send guests with a key to check the rooms above them so they can see for themselves that the rooms are vacant. The workboots make sense if you tie the hauntings to the 1911 miner deaths. Anand never says the miners are at fault, but rather believes there are only three spirits who haunt the motel. These could be linked to the three deaths that occurred in his room. However, others think this haunting is a bit bigger than that.

Man dressed as scary clown ghost
Image by Tina Schulz from Pixabay

The seven-foot clown spirit

The clown spirit one of Bob Perchetti’s guests saw isn’t unique. Several people have allegedly seen a similar ghost hanging around their room. Some even claim this ghost is a 7-foot-tall clown poltergeist – a prankster or malevolent spirit – though management states no guests have ever encountered an evil spirit at the motel. There are theories hypothesizing that this clown spirit isn’t a single entity at all, but rather a spiritual amalgamation of those who died in the historic mine fire. It seems mighty convenient that these spirits would take on a clown form in cohesion with the motel theme, doesn’t it? We actually have a theory about that.


This motel was originally built as a tribute to one of the miners who died in the Belmont Mine Fire of 1911 by his children. This miner was laid to rest in the graveyard next door, and he had a powerful love of clowns. He collected them, and that collection was moved to the Clown Motel when it opened. Wouldn’t it reason, then, that this miner – Clarence David – has something to do with the clown spirit? Of course, the realm of the paranormal doesn’t always follow reasonable trains of logic.


Regardless of which miners might be haunting the Clown Motel, it’s generally agreed among paranormal buffs and investigators that at least some miners haunt this building. And, this isn’t the only Tonopah motel they supposedly visit. The Mizpah Hotel down the street lays claim to these spirits as well.

Ghost Adventures at the Clown Motel
Travel Channel | Ghost Adventures

Ghost Adventures captures a moving clown doll

Though paranormal investigators have yet to capture the famous clown apparition on camera, some investigations have turned up chilling evidence of paranormal activity. The most famous of these was documented by the Ghost Adventures crew when they stayed at the motel in 2015.


Zak, the show’s host, has a serious fear of clowns, and it made this investigation all the more entertaining to watch on TV. The most intriguing evidence collected took place in the main lobby – a place filled to the brim with clown dolls. As the investigator asked the spirits questions, a life-sized doll seemingly moved on its own. Well, sort of. The doll was seated with a hand on its doll leg in a chair in the corner, right next to where Zak was standing. The hand simply slid from the lap to a hanging position, and it sent the coulrophobic host into a panic. We don’t know what caused the limb to move on its own, and neither does the crew who filmed it. The scene was grainy and likely played up for the entertainment value, but it was certainly interesting to those who believe in the paranormal.


Other investigators who’ve spent time at the Clown Motel haven’t caught evidence quite so telling, but they have been known to capture what are believed to be the general signs of spirit activity. Things like fluctuations in electromagnetic frequencies, cold spots, orbs of light on night vision cameras, and other such phenomena are common here.

The most haunted rooms in the Clown Motel

There are four rooms at this location believed to be more haunted than the rest. Each has a unique, creepy backstory. Paranormal investigators gravitate to these rooms for one reason: They produce evidence.

The Clown Motel room 108

The Clown Motel’s room 108 was once the room of the former front desk manager. He was an older man, and as is prone to happen with the elderly, he died. Though he didn’t pass away in the room itself, the story of that night is spinetingling.


Supposedly, the manager had gone to bed not feeling the greatest. As he became increasingly unwell throughout the night, he realized he was having a medical emergency. He picked up the motel phone to call the front desk to get help. Supposedly, the phone rang on the manager’s end, but not at the front desk. After repeated attempts, he called for an ambulance. He later died en route to the hospital. Video footage proved the front desk phone never rang, even though the room’s line was live. This room is now the It suite. 


The motel claims this is one of their most haunted rooms, as they do with each of the rooms listed in this section. Guests who’ve stayed in room 108 have allegedly had their personal belongings moved around while they slept. They’ve also heard voices and the notorious miners’ footsteps. Some have even claimed to see dark apparitions in the shadows.

Clown doll hanging on the wall
Image by Jean-Louis SERVAIS from Pixabay

The Clown Motel room 111

Room 111, The Exorcist suite, is the room where a patient on hospice decided to live out the rest of his short time. There was a problem though. His disease didn’t take his life as quickly as he’d been expecting. After some time in room 111, he began seeing apparitions, whom he asked to take him to the other side. Eventually, the man took his own life in the room to speed up the process and end his dread.

Investigators have captured conversations with spirits talking over FM radio spirit boxes, though some of these statements seem nonsensical and require interpretation. Raised EMF levels and electronic voice phenomena are also common here.

If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. They’re here to help.

Clown dolls grinning
Image by Jean-Louis SERVAIS from Pixabay

The Clown Motel room 210

Room 210 at the Clown Motel is an interesting case. It’s not exactly what you’d think of when picturing a haunting, but it certainly seems paranormal enough. In this room, the guest wasn’t scared or tormented by spirits. He was cured.

The story states that an Arizona man stopped at the hotel when his back pain had gotten so bad it began to affect his driving. The man had suffered from this ailment for years, and medical professionals couldn’t find the cause. It seemed like he’d be in pain forever. That is until he stayed in the Clown Motel’s room 210.


Upon his first morning waking in this blessed room, the man was pain-free. How it happened, nobody is sure. Maybe the bed adjusted his spine just right, or maybe the relieving sight of thousands of clowns relaxed his spasmed muscles. Neither of those explanations would be very likely.


The man was convinced it was the motel’s spirits that took away his affliction. We’re sure miners from the early 1900s understood the pain of back injuries better than anyone, so maybe it was a gift from one hardworking soul to another. Regardless, the guest decided moving into the room permanently was the best thing for his health, and he lived there for over six years before passing away. He spent his final night in room 210, crossing over in the place that provided him with so much relief.

Image by 11082974 from Pixabay

The Clown Motel room 214

The Clown Motel room 214 is said to be a favorite hangout of an irritated spirit. The ghost that frequents this room allegedly enjoys playing tricks on guests. He’s thought to flicker the lights and steal people’s personal items. Why this spirit behaves in this manner is – well – interesting.

Supposedly, one man occupied this room for three years in the ‘70s. Something about the guy must’ve spoken to the spirit on a – excuse the pun – spiritual level because the ghost began to enjoy the man’s company. Eventually, the man left, but the specter continued to visit the room in hopes of his return, and that’s the only person he wants to stay there. He isn’t fond of anyone else sleeping in his buddy’s bed. This is one of the most paranormally active rooms in the Clown Motel and makes a great stay for overnight investigations. However, we can’t imagine it’s the best place for a weary traveler to catch a good night’s sleep. But that’s not what paranormal buffs are looking for anyway.

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