You can check-out any time you likeBut you can never leave! — Eagles, Hotel California.
‘Tis the season of monsters, ghosts, and all that’s creepy. Every Halloween, one or two trick or treaters invariably sport a clown costume. Cause clowns are just down-right creepy. Right?
No doubt, as far as creepy-clown tropes go The Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada tops the list. It’s right up there with Stephen King’s IT.
Reverse Chronological of The Clown Motel
2019 The Mehar Family of Los Vegas buys the motel. They are intent on restoring the motel, and preserving and adding to the clown collection.
2017 After 20 years of ownership, Bob Perchetti puts The Clown Motel up for sale, asking $900.000. He tacks on the stipulation the new owners must keep the motel running and look after the clown collection.
1995 Bob and Deborah Perchetti buy The Clown Motel. They devote their energies to safe-guarding the original theme of the motel.
1985 Leona and Leroy, children of deceased Clarence David, built and opened the motel to honor their dad. They inherited all 150 of their father’s clown collection and put them on display at their new motel. The site of the motel? Where else? Next to the town’s cemetery.
1942 Clarence David died in the Belmont Mine Fire. His family buried him in the town cemetery. David had a clown collection.
(Note: One may ask, why do the above in reverse order? Well. Because the clowns I remember seeing at the circus in Austin did things in reverse? Like ride a donkey backwards, which I thought was so funny. I was a little kid and hadn’t seen IT. )
Tonopah’s Haunting History
From my research, I’m unable to determine if David’s collection was to scare folks or if he just adorned clowns. But Tonopah’s history gives us an understanding of why the dead continue to walk through the town, the motel, and its cemetery.
Legends say the Pueblo American Indians of this area dressed as clowns in ceremonial dances to release their own personalities and invite nearby spirits. (Walk-Ins) Perhaps, these natives opened portals by which their ancestors could return and walk the earth. (Ghost Dance Religion)
In 1900, a worn-out miner, Jim Butler, threw a stone at his donkey and noticed it was unusually heavy. After further examination, he discovered a plentiful silver mine. He leased his claim to several large mining companies. Belmont Mining, founded in 1902, set up their operation there.
Tonopah strived as a mining community and build a cemetery in 1901. Long-dead, but nonetheless colorful individuals reside in the cemetery.
- Victims of the 1905 Plague and the 1911 Belmont Mine Fire.
- Sheriff Thomas Logan who was shot in a local brothel while trying to save others. (Not sure from what.)
- George Devil Davis was the first African American in Tonopah. His wife shot him in the back. She only served a year in prison because of the abuse Devil inflicted on her.
- Bina Verrault of New York and her friend were the subjects of an extensive man/woman hunt. They stole over $2.5 million in jewelry and clothes from men they seduced. Bina escaped authorities and ended up in Tonopah. And the cemetery. She died of alcoholism.
The Tonopah Plague
The eerie thing about the plague, besides plagues being eerie like cults, doctors dissected the dead for research. They found the victims’ livers black and hard as a rock. The plague started with chest pains.
It is not the black plague, nor any other kind of plague. It is simply an acute pneumonia of a very severe type. The sickness is believed to be due to the lack of sanitary conditions. The disease, strangely enough, only attacks grown men. —LA Herald stated this in 1905
The Belmont Mine Fire 1911 and 1942
Tonopah was the site of several fires over the years.
February 25, 1911, a fire erupted deep within the Belmont mine. Volunteer William F ‘Big Bill’ Murphy went down three times to retrieve the trapped miners. On the third round, Murphy did not return.
The cage was full of weary men. One of them said Murphy had fallen out of the cage on the ascend.
“Well boys, I’ve made two trips and I’m nearly all in, but I’ll try again.” Big Bill’s last words.
Seventeen miners died, including Murphy. He was only twenty-eight years old. His gravestone reads: Died while saving others.
In the 1942 fire, Clarence David, the clown collector, died. His death resulted in his children building The Clown Motel. (And we’ve come full circle… Except for the hauntings.)
The Clown Motel’s Reputation Grows
Media labels The Clown Motel as one of the spookiest motels in the United States. Consequentially, it has become a must for ghost hunters and paranormal investigators.
Visitors to the motel tell of apparitions walking to and from the graveyard. Additionally, they’ve heard disembodied voices say, “We mined. We died that day.”
According to the lore, the clown statues, strategically positioned around the motel, act as vessels for the miners’ ghosts. Other occupants of the motel claim they wake to find a scary seven-foot clown standing over them. Others say when videoing their room or the cemetery, a gloved clown hand pops in front of the lens.
The clown museum now holds a collection of over 3,000 clowns from all over the world.