Inside terrifying, haunted ‘clown motel’
When news spread Nevada's creepy Clown Motel was on the market, fans of the spooky motel were concerned.
Was America about to lose a roadside attraction that has intrigued, fascinated and terrified travellers for more than 20 years?
Thankfully, stories of the demise of the clown-themed motel proved to be unfounded.
A white knight investor has kept the dream alive for everyone planning on making a pilgrimage to the offbeat motel.
Proving you can't keep a good clown down, just like Pennywise from Stephen King's It, the Clown Motel will never die.
A GHOST TOWN OF A DIFFERENT KIND
Even though more than 2000 people call Tonopah home, the ghost town moniker still fits. Halfway between Reno and Las Vegas, Tonopah is the type of town that sums up exactly why Nevada is hot property with fans of a good, old-fashioned, diner-food-fuelled road trip through the old west.
Home to ramshackle, weather-beaten buildings, rusty remnants of the town's silver mining history and a turn-of-the-century cemetery populated by residents of years gone by (including 17 victims of a 1911 mine fire), it's unsurprising Tonopah is a hotbed of paranormal activity.
Despite being tiny, the town has everything you need for a good time. There's a small, smoky casino that prides itself on having "loose slots". Next door, there's a historic hotel with one-armed bandits in the lobby and a resident spectre known as "the Lady in Red".
There's also a brewery and barbecue joint that serves smoked meats by the pound accompanied by house-made hot sauces with names like Nuclear Test Site.
And there's the Clown Motel.
SEND IN THE CLOWNS
Featured in low-budget horror flicks and TV series like Ghost Adventures, the cemetery-adjacent Clown Motel is a world-famous landmark that is visited by travellers from all over the world who book in to experience a spine-tingling night at the circus.
Rooms start at $59.99 a night plus tax (the cemetery views come free of charge), so the motel is an economical option for truckers and travellers driving between Reno and Vegas.
Thanks to its reputation for being haunted as hell, the motel also draws in ghost hunters and paranormal investigators from near and far.
There's no missing the Clown Motel. Driving into Tonopah via US Route 95, a sign featuring an oversized orange-haired, red-nosed clown beckons you to stop. While eye-catching, the exterior clown signage is just a sneak peek at what's to come.
Stepping inside, the lobby is a fever dream of clowns. Sad clowns. Happy clowns. Old clowns. Young clowns. Demented clowns. So. Many. Clowns. A life-size plastic Ronald McDonald figure stands guard at the door, welcoming guests with his trademark, plastic grin.
But the real welcome comes from the motel's new CEO, a man born on another continent who is now living his best life, working, eating and sleeping among hundreds of clowns.
LIVING THE AMERICAN DREAM
When long-time owner Bob Perchetti announced he was selling the motel, many worried this one-of-a-kind travel find would be redeveloped and lost forever. After all, it takes a very special person to run a supposedly haunted, clown-themed motel located in a remote desert town.
The circus needed a new ringmaster, and Hame Anand was just the man for the job. Originally from India, Hame spent years working in ad agencies in Delhi before moving to the USA in 2007 to study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
When a long-time friend ("more like a brother") offered him funding to buy and run a hotel anywhere in America for under a million dollars, Hame started his property search. Finding a hotel for sale under seven figures proved difficult until the Clown Motel cartwheeled into his life.
With a listing price of $900,000, the motel not only came in under the million-dollar mark but also fulfilled Hame's lifelong fascination with clowns.
"When I was 14, I went to the circus for the first time, and I really loved the clowns. Since then, I've been fascinated by them. When I saw the Clown Motel for sale, I thought, 'My god, it's got to be mine'," Hame said, laughing.
Living onsite, Hame is now surrounded by clowns 24/7. In a bold move, he even chose the most haunted room to call home.
"The first night I stayed here, I admit I was totally scared. I thought something was going to happen but nothing did," he said.
"The clowns want me here. They're not going to hurt me. People have had different, strange experiences at the motel, but nobody has been hurt so far."
Recognising the bizarre appeal of the motel, Hame has no intentions of toning down the clown theme. Instead, he plans to take it to the next level. With huge, clown-shoe-sized dreams for the motel, Hame has invested in radio ads and is keen to inject more Halloween vibes into the place.
Think: spotlighting of clowns hanging from the ceiling.
As the motel's clown collection continues to grow (people literally "send in the clowns" from all over the world), Hame plans to get creative with displaying his clown collection. He's planning to open a clown-themed cafe where people can enjoy snacks and coffee surrounded by the hundreds-strong clown family that's been amassed over the 20-plus years the motel has been in operation.
While he understands the motel isn't everyone's cup of tea, Hame feels he's ended up exactly where he's meant to be.
"The clowns love me, and I love them. That's why I'm here. This is my destiny."
- Jo Stewart is an author & writer of travel, nature, human interest & pop culture features. Continue the conversation @jostewartwriter