Halfway between Reno and Vegas, where Route 6 and Route 95 merge, there's a motel filled with clowns. Five shelves of toy clowns stare at you from behind the front desk. There are clown pictures on the room doors, clown paintings over the beds, and a giant juggling clown rendered in pastel on a big sign by the highway. This is the Clown Motel of Tonopah. Bikers are welcome.
The presence of hundreds of smiling, dead-eyed jesters is unnerving in itself, but especially creepy considering the motel's neighbor: the old Tonopah Cemetery. Established in 1901 and filled to capacity by 1911, the no-frills graveyard is home to over 300 deceased residents, including 14 of the 17 miners who died in an horrific underground fire 103 years ago.
Lest you think that this hotel and graveyard are all the town of Tonopah—population around 2500—has to offer travelers, consider the missile range. Thirty miles southeast of Main Street is a military test site that's come to be known as Area 52 due to its classified operations.
Officially, Tonopah Test Range is used for nuclear weapon stockpile reliability testing, as well as firing systems research and trials of nuclear weapon delivery systems. But if you're a conspiracy theorist who's just spent a sleepless night at the Clown Motel, you'll probably have a more suspicious view of the site.
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