June 20, 2018

Photo Essay: Clown Motel, Gateway to the Haunted Miners' Cemetery

For nearly three decades, the Clown Motel has been scaring the bejeezus out of weary travelers along the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, a.k.a. US-6.

At least, those with coulrophobia—a fear of clowns.

I feel rather indifferent to clowns, having grown up with my mother's obsession with Emmett Kelly, surrounded by the Pierrots and Mira Fujita harlequins that were so popular in the 1980s, and falling asleep to the dulcet tones of "Send in the Clowns" on WEZG-FM.

And I particularly like the iconography of circuses and carnivals, so how scary could a clown be?

And how creepy could a clown-themed motel be?

I found the whole experience quite friendly.

Though, in retrospect, maybe some of those clowns weren't just clowning around.

Maybe they were trying to scare me.

But if I could survive being trapped with hundreds if not thousands of Ronald McDonalds in the unofficial McDonald's museum in San Bernardino...

...I would be just fine for a few minutes, alone with shelves full of clown dolls and figurines.

To me, the Clown Motel is just another example of a collection taken to the extreme—like the Bunny Museum or the Banana Museum.

Only—you can spend the night surrounded by these hoarded collectibles.

I chose to limit my visit to the daytime, making sleeping arrangements elsewhere down the road.

Too often, my imagination runs wild.

I see too much life in inanimate objects.

Those clowns might seem safely perched on the shelf during the day...

...but who knows what they'll do while I dream?

Who knows what they'll do in jest?

But my suspicion doesn't stem from these figures being clowns, posing as clowns, or identifying as clowns.

I'd feel the same if there were that many collected chickens being held captive in the lobby of a Cheep Motel. Or miniaturized kings and queens at a Crown Motel.

The owners say that all the clowns at the Clown Motel are happy clowns...

...but that's not necessarily true.

It's not even open for interpretation.

And some of those clowns have seen better days.

Besides, aren't all clowns sad on the inside?

If that's what scares people about clowns, then I get it.

How can you trust a clown who's crying inside but tries so hard to outwardly cheer other people up?

Of course, the creepiest thing about the Clown Motel might not be the clowns at all—but rather, the neighboring cemetery.

Contrary to what you might've heard, it's not "abandoned."

Just nobody gets buried there anymore.

After all, it was Tonopah's first such cemetery...

...when the town was known more for its silver mines than as a truck stop midway between Vegas and Reno.

Back at the turn of the last century, people in mining towns like Tonopah died in all sorts of horrible ways...

...whether from illness (including the "Tonopah Plague" of 1902), old age, or murder...

...or from accidents like runaway ore carts, mine fire, and faulty hoisting devices.

Whether they came from Finland, British Columbia, or New York, for them, Tonopah was the end of the line. Most of them were miners or mining family members. Some were railroaders. There's no telling whether any of them ever masqueraded as a clown.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: How Billions of Burgers Got Their Start in Southern California
Photo Essay: The Museum That's Gone Bananas
Photo Essay: Hoppy Holidays from The Bunny Museum
Photo Essay: The Bunny Museum Strikes Back
Photo Essay: The Death Toll of Tombstone

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