Travel

Meet the Man Behind Nevada's Creepy, Definitely Haunted Clown Motel

Come for the 2,000 clowns. Stay for the cemetery next door.

The Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada | Courtesy of Hame Anand
The Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada | Courtesy of Hame Anand

Before he moved to a lonely Nevada motel with 2,000 clowns and some ghosts, Hame Anand went to the circus in his native India. The then-14-year-old -- terrified by the tigers, the massive elephants, women swinging on ropes from impossible heights -- left after 15 minutes. 

The next day, a friend convinced him to give it another shot. It scared him again, until suddenly a clown appeared and transformed the audience's gasps into laughter. 

“I fell in love with that character,” says Anand. “From that day on, I started collecting clowns.” 

In 2017, Anand packed up 200 of his beloved clown figurines and moved to Vegas, where his family owns two motels. When he wasn't pulling 10-hour shifts at Amazon, he used his marketing expertise to help the family business. It came easily to him, too. So much so that his brother offered to buy him a hotel of his own. One where the clowns would have a home too. 

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clown motel
Seeing these peculiar relics are worth the nightmares you may have later | WRITTEN IN SILVER VISUALS/SHUTTERSTOCK

In the sleepy desert town of Tonopah, Bob Perchetti, had been overseeing the Clown Motel -- with its cartoonish neon sign and collection of about 800 clown artifacts -- for more than two decades. The motel had gained a reputation as an infamous roadside attraction along the desolate reaches of US-95. In 2017, Perchetti decided to retire and listed the property for $900,000. To Anand, it felt like fate. 

Tonopah, with 2,478 residents and a vacant mountain landscape scattered with mining ruins, felt empty in contrast to Vegas. Adding to the sense of dread -- for Anand’s brother, anyway -- was the old cemetery perched directly beside the Clown Motel. 

“All my life I worked in advertising,” says Anand. “So I know that even if you had $10 million you’re not going to get that kind of publicity. I told my brother, 'see, this motel is very popular and the graveyard -- that’s the catch.'” 

"There must be some divine power. They want me here to run this motel."

It wasn’t long before Anand took charge -- he prefers to be referred to as the CEO of the Clown Motel, not the owner -- and moved up to Tonopah to merge his collection of 200 clowns with the 800 that came with the property.
 
“I was scared a little bit,” he says. “I couldn’t sleep in my room. But one day I thought, 'why did I come here? There must be some divine power. They want me here to run this motel. So probably, they are not going to mess with me.'”

Oftentimes, he says he heard sounds from unoccupied rooms -- footsteps, knocking, voices. The thought of wandering ghosts from the graveyard and endlessly staring clown dolls might have spooked the average hotelier, but Anand isn’t the average hotelier. 

“This was how I knew that they were telling me, 'we are here, but don’t worry about that,'” he says. 

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The Clown Motel
The lobby of the motel features a collection of clowns in all shapes, colors, and sizes | Will Keightley/Flickr

When asked about which rooms at the Clown Motel are especially haunted, Anand rattles off a list that seems to include just about all of them. Overnight guests experience especially strange incidents in rooms 108, 109, 210, 215, and 217. Bathroom doors open and close, voices whisper after dark. In one case, a group of four women reported a ghost in the bathroom who actually offered to fix the toilet. 

Like Anand’s beloved clowns, these ghosts seem like a benevolent fixture around the motel, occasionally meandering over from the desert graveyard to simply hang out, maybe do some pro-bono plumbing work. 

Anand knows that tourists who seek out the motel want to be scared, so he’s leaned into the macabre reputation. There’s a Friday the 13th room, a Halloween room, an Exorcist room, and of course, an It room. He laments the fact that none of these rooms have views of the graveyard and plans on constructing 14 “very special” rooms that allow guests to see the crumbling tombstones and weather-torn crosses right from their windows.

“I don’t see why people say ‘creepy”... The clown is the laughing character. It makes you laugh.”

Anand has also grown the motel’s clown collection. He estimates the lobby now houses 2,000 of them. “I tell people I am a clown lover,” he says. “And if you have clowns, you can donate because it’s the right place and right home for them.” 

On a phone call from India, where he has been stuck since the COVID-19 pandemic turned a brief vacation into a longer stay, Anand spoke lovingly about the motel, which attracts visitors from all over the world. They come from Germany, France, Scotland, England, and Switzerland to see the collection in the lobby or brave a night in a room. “Creepy,” they say, over and over in different languages.

“In my eyes, I don’t see why people say ‘creepy,” says Anand. “My grandmother used to say, ‘whenever you’re down, look at the clown.’ I grew up with this line. That’s how I felt collecting the clowns. The clown is the laughing character. It makes you laugh.” 

Krista Diamond is a freelance/fiction writer who lives in (and often writes about) Las Vegas. Her writing has been featured in HuffPost, Eater, Business Insider, Fodor’s, Time Out, and  Desert Companion. You can learn more about her at https://www.kristamariediamond.com/.