The 13th Floor

Terror in Tonopah: The Clown Motel, The Old Cemetery, and The Lady in Red

Clowns. They are terrifying. Whoever thought that a grown adult in oversized clothing and more makeup than a pageant child playing tricks on people was a good idea is seriously demented.

Whoever came up with the idea for a Clown Motel should be institutionalized.

The Clown Motel is located in Tonopah, Nevada, better known as the middle of nowhere. The town is right between Reno and Vegas, roughly 200 miles from either city, and has a population of about 2,500. A former mining town… wait, you don’t want a history of Tonopah, do you?


So the Clown Motel, best as I can figure, is just your standard roadside motel that happens to have a clown theme. Over 600 clowns decorate the lobby, everything from innocuous toys and smiling figurines, to life-sized grinning psychopaths and clawed demons sure to eat your soul. There are no clown figures in the rooms, but there are clown portraits that hang over the beds. Somehow, that is even more insidious.

Clowns not scary enough for you? Luckily, right next door is a turn-of-the-century, abandoned cemetery.


Built in 1901 and closed a mere 10 years later, filled to capacity, Old Tonopah Cemetery is home to 300 corpses, many of whom were among the first residents in the town.


Denizens of the cemetery include victims of the 1902 “Tonopah plague” (which turned out to be something called pleuro-pneumonia); victims of the Tonopah-Belmont Mine fire of 1911; and a sheriff who was killed during a shoot-out in a bordello.


Interestingly, there are not really any tales of the cemetery or the motel being haunted. Other than the occasional “shadowy clown in the corner” (which could just be a clown image burned into the retina of one of the guests), or “strange feeling” in the cemetery, these both appear to be quiet, middle-of-nowhere destinations.

Luckily, the nearby Mizpah Hotel (built in 1907, shuttered in 1999, reopened after massive renovation in 2011) is said to house “the Lady in Red,” the ghost of a prostitute who was beaten to death by her boyfriend on the fifth floor of the hotel.