“All because of Clarence"
The Clown Motel is built on a rich history of a once-thriving mining community
and the love of two siblings for their father...
Tonopah & the early days
The story goes that a man named Jim Butler accidentally stumbled upon silver-rich ore in Tonopah after throwing a stone at a donkey in frustration and noticing it was unusually heavy!
Butler originally leased out his claims and collected royalties. Multiple mining companies were set up including the Belmont Mining Company founded in 1902. Tonopah grew into a thriving mining community.
Tonopah Cemetery built
The famous cemetery next door to The Clown Motel was founded in 1901 but was closed just 10 years later.
Among those buried buried are victims of the 1905 "Tonopah Plague" as well as the 1911 Belmont Mine Fire and Sheriff Thomas Logan who was shot while trying to save others in a local brothel. Among others there's also George 'Devil' Davis, the first African American man in Tonopah. He was murdered by his wife who shot him in the back, although served a prison sentence of only one year due to the extensive abuse he'd inflicted upon her.
Also among the graves is Bina Verrault of New York who made national headlines after her and a friend made a pact to become wealthy widows and collected clothes & jewelry to today's value of over $2.5 million from men they'd seduced. Bina went on the run and ended up in Tonopah where she died of alcoholism.
The Tonopah Plague
In 1905 a terrible disease swept through Tonopah. What started as chest pains lead to death within a number of hours and dissections carried out to understand the horrific disease found that the livers of the victims were completely black and hard like stone.
The cause of the disease was accepted to be pneumonia, caused by poor sanitation.
The Belmont Mine Fire
In the early hours of 23rd February a fire was identified deep in the Belmont Mine, newspapers of that day reported it had started at the 1166-foot level.
William F 'Big Bill' Murphy was among the men who volunteered to go down and load up the miners. Down he went, returning to the surface with a cage of rescued men. For a second time, he went into the now smoke-filled pit to rescue his colleagues. Despite the fumes, he was determined to go down for a third time but it took a little longer for the cage to return to the surface. Eventually, the cage emerged, full of weary men, but no Bill.
One of the semi-conscious men said someone had fallen out of the cage on its ascent. Everyone knew it was Bill. His last known words before his final descent were "Well boys, I've made two trips and I'm nearly all in, but I'll try again." In total, 17 men lost their lives that day including 28 year old Bill whose grave in Tonopah Cemetery reads 'Died while saving others'.
A monument to Bill stands outside Tonopah Post Office. There is also a mural depicting his funeral procession on the side of A-Bar-L Western Store.
The Belmont Mine Fire
Over the years there were many fires in the Tonopah area. Clarence David died in the Belmont Fire of 1942 - he was buried in Tonopah Cemetery and he just so happened to have.....a clown collection!
Leona & Leroy
Clarence David's children Leona & Leroy opened a Motel next to the Cemetery where their beloved father was buried. They displayed all 150 of their father's clown collection. It was an instant hit.
The Clown Motel & the Perchettis
In 1995 Bob and Deborah Perchetti bought The Clown Motel. A mild-mannered and benevolent gentleman, Bob's dedication and passion to him hometown shone through to all the guests who passed through the Motel and took the time to mention what a great host he was when leaving their reviews.
Besides dedicating over two decades to looking after guests at the Clown Motel, he was Convention Center Director in Tonopah, created the 'Jim Butler Day' celebrations and was the first Rural Commissioner for the Nevada Division of Tourism.
Zak Bagans brought his crew to The Clown Motel to film an episode of 'Ghost Adventures'. Scenes include a visual sighting of a dark silhouette, a voice heard saying "Hello, it turned on" when using a voice spirit box and most famously - the hand of the large clown is caught on camera moving off it's leg entirely of it's own accord....
It was after the episode aired that Bob Perchetti said things really started to take off, with people from all over the world donating their clowns and booking their stay to see the spooky Motel for themselves!
'I Lived in a Clown Motel'
Clown Motel - The Film
Joseph Kelly directs a Film Short. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, a group of young people seek refuge at The Clown Motel but they unwittingly unleash an evil clown spirit....
Up for Sale!
After more than 20 years of lovingly looking after the Clown Motel, Bob Perchetti decides it's time to retire and enjoy some free time with is wife, 5 daughters, 3 sons and 14 grandchildren. The Clown Motel goes up for sale with an asking price of $900'000 and the strict condition that the new owners must keep the Motel running and look after the clown collection.
Clown Motel: Spirits Arise
Joseph Kelly returns to direct his second film.
"A group of Ghost Hunters encounter a group of Las Vegas partygoers at The Clown Motel where the ghosts of clowns turn everyone's stay into a violent nightmare".
The Mehar Family
The motel was purchased in 2019 by the Mehar family from Las Vegas who are experienced hoteliers with a wealth of experience from around the globe. They are both dedicated and passionate about preserving the iconic Clown Motel and growing the world-famous clown collection.
Since taking over the property, they have invested a lot of time and effort into improving the facilities and renovating the rooms. The family have many plans for the bright future of The Clown Motel to honour its legacy so it may be preserved for generations to come.
Content created by Family Trees by Hannah © Genealogy Services, England, United Kingdom
alongside Kat Galli, Tourism & Events coordinator of Tonopah, Nevada