Tonopah, Nevada has a clown motel, miners' graveyard, and missile range

Settle in for Sweet Dreams at This Clown Motel With a Cemetery View

Settle in for Sweet Dreams at This Clown Motel With a Cemetery View

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
June 10 2014 12:39 PM

Tonopah: Home of the Clown Motel With a Cemetery View

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world's hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook, Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

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.

View Clown Motel in a larger map

Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.