Drive some 211 miles north from Las Vegas on Interstate 95 and you’ll come to Tonopah, a small desert community of 2,627 souls. It’s an unremarkable destination but for one thing: the Clown Motel. And while some folks find clowns sinister enough by themselves, even the bravest may feel their neck hairs bristle as they realize that right next to the motel is an eerie cemetery that was abandoned over a century ago.
Tonopah itself, meanwhile, owes its existence as a thriving community to the discovery of rich seams of silver there in 1900. The story goes that one Jim Butler was hunting for a runaway mule during May of that year when he stumbled across rocks abundant in the precious metal.
And after Butler’s discovery, a veritable mining industry sprung up around the former Native American camping site. Moreover, in 1913, the single most productive year, nearly $10 million worth of gold, silver, copper and lead was extracted from the area.
But the good times weren’t to last, of course. After 1921 the extraction of the materials declined, and it had ceased almost completely by 1947. Today, then, abandoned mines surround Tonopah, adding even more of an unnerving air to the place.
But, for those with some trepidation of face-painted children’s entertainers, the Clown Motel is definitely the spookiest place to be here. And it’s hard to avoid the theme even from its outside, given the pair of cheery, brightly colored clowns decorating the guesthouse’s signs.
Head inside the motel’s reception, though, and things get worse, with dozens of grotesque clowns watching your every move. There are ceramic clowns, plastic clowns, and even little clowns sitting in the lap of a terrifyingly large clown. If your skin isn’t crawling by now, then you’ve got nerves of steel.
However, probably the worst thing in the reception is the weird clown grimacing through the bars of his cage. His gruesome smile displays rotting teeth, and his maniacal eyes ringed with pitch-black face paint are enough to make you shiver with horror. If you weren’t scared of clowns before, you will be now.
And don’t think you’ll escape the clown terror by checking into your room and locking the door, with a chair against the handle for extra security. For while the rooms are on the whole nondescript, boasting just basic furnishings and a TV, it may be a struggle to get to sleep if you’ve picked a room with disturbingly happy clown paintings on the walls.
Since the Clown Motel became something of an internet sensation, then, crowds of thrill-seekers, ghost hunters and ghoulish rubberneckers have flocked there. You can, too, and you’ll get free internet, dish TV and a place to sleep along with the clown horror – the latter of which comes at no extra charge.
Among those who have dared to venture inside the motel’s walls is Christopher Sebela. The graphic novelist raised $10,000 through a crowdfunded scheme in order to stay there for 30 days, hoping to use what he saw and found in a new comic book.
Even Sebela himself, however, would go on to describe his idea as “the stupidest thing [he] ever thought of,” according to The Kernel. During his stay, he encountered everything from clown troupes to meth addicts. What’s more, on at least one night, he “[slept] under clown sex” – a prospect that sounds utterly chilling. Talk about suffering for your art…
Meanwhile, TripAdvisor reviews of the Clown Motel are – well, let’s just say they’re variable. Opinions range from the enthusiastic “Loved it. Has its quirks. Met our needs” to the more underwhelming “We were desperate.” All in all, most guests appreciate the fun of the place and the super-cheap room rates – but if you’re expecting five-star luxury, look elsewhere.
And just to keep the fear dialed up to maximum, if you walk out of your room and across the parking lot, you’ll arrive at the motel’s neighbor, the First Tonopah Cemetery. Opened in 1901 to accommodate the deceased in the newfound mining town, the boneyard is covered in burial plots marked by simple wooden crosses, as well as stumps with crudely fashioned plaques all commemorating those who lie there.
Especially poignant among the 300 or so graves in the cemetery are those that shelter the remains of most of the 17 miners killed in the Belmont Mine Fire disaster of 1911. It’s hard to imagine today the horror of death by fire and smoke, deep underground.
Plus, the graveyard contains the remains of locals who died in the still-unexplainable plague of 1902. In that instance, an unidentified but deadly disease tore through Tonopah, killing around 30 people. Panic ensued, and many fled the area in terror.
Still, even the spookiness of the cemetery and its history may not be more terrifying than the Clown Motel, at least for those with coulrophobia – otherwise known as an overwhelming fear of clowns. And while coulrophobia isn’t officially recognized as a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, it’s nonetheless all too real for its sufferers.
Yet even those who find clowns at worst a little sinister may have been pushed over the edge if they had been witness to one armed robbery in Manchester, U.K. During the 2002 incident three men held up a bar, threatening an employee with both a shotgun and a large knife – and all while they were clad in clown fancy dress.
And, perhaps unsurprisingly, clowns have provided their fair share of scares in movies and on TV, too. As well as the demonic Pennywise from the 1990 adaptation of Stephen King’s It, for example, there are the people-drinking horrors from schlocky 1988 B-movie Killer Klownz from Outer Space. And that’s not even to mention the frankly psychotic Joker…
Even children aren’t always appreciative of clowns, either, despite them being a mainstay at kids’ parties over the years. For example, when a study, carried out by researchers from the U.K.’s University of Sheffield, asked 255 children for their views on hospital ward decorations, kids of varying ages said that those featuring clowns were a bad idea.
Perhaps, then, taking children to the Clown Motel isn’t such a good plan. But, given its ghoulish location and nightmare-inducing interior, even big kids could be terrified by what lies within the Tonopah landmark.
This New York mansion has lain abandoned for 40 years. But what it looks like inside will blow you away.
But if it’s the supernatural that scares you, then you’ll probably want to avoid this hotel in Liverpool, England. When a man was browsing Google Street view, you see, he noticed something ghoulish leering in the top floor window of a local pub-hotel. It might not have been one of the grotesque clowns that haunts the Nevada motel, but what was seen here may be just as terrifying.
Sprawled on the banks of the River Mersey, the city of Liverpool in northwest England is a historic port with a proud sense of identity. It is a gritty but friendly place long celebrated for its world-class soccer clubs, its lively music scene and, of course, its pubs.
In the north of the city, the unassuming Stuart Hotel is a stone-built pub and overnight lodging with a history that goes back more than a century. The establishment lies in the ancient district of Walton-on-the-Hill, an area famous as the home of Goodison Park stadium, where the soccer team Everton play.
At first glance, nothing seems very unusual about the Stuart. Its Facebook profile describes it as “a heart of the community pub in which all is welcome,” adding, “We have friendly staff and a friendly atmosphere. On match days, darts, crib, quizzes and poker [and] we provide a hot or cold buffet all free of charge.”
Likewise, many Facebook reviewers rate the Stuart positively. “Great local pub, boss atmosphere,” wrote Facebook user Franny Dickson, awarding it five stars. “Best local I’ve ever had,” stated Carl Bell. And, “Once your in [sic],” declared Joe Stephens, “you can never get out and that’s not a bad thing…”
But all might not be as it seems. According to paranormal expert and writer Tom Sleman – the author of dozens of books about Liverpool’s supernatural history – there are no less than 150 haunted pubs in the city. And the Stuart hotel, despite its local camaraderie, is considered to be one of the most spooky and haunted of all, he claims.
Speaking to local newspaper The Liverpool Echo, Sleman described how in 1897 a former a landlord of the Stuart and “a down-to-earth 41-year-old Wallasey man named Robinson Pemberton” had been disturbed by unexplained scratching noises emanating from the pub basement. Day and night, apparently, the clawing persisted.
The story goes that at first Pemberton thought it was a rat. However, the noise purportedly grew so intense that eventually his neighbors could hear it, too. Within days, it seems, “the pub was shaken from top to bottom and the windows of the pub were left open in case the vibrations shattered the glass.”
Suddenly and without explanation, it seems, the noise stopped, and everything appeared to return to normal. Then, recounted Sleman, one night a boozy patron knocked on the wall three times and received the answer of three knocks in return. Yes, summoned from the other side, the scratching returned in force.
This time, moreover, the infernal noise was accompanied by the relentless sound of a bell tolling. Indeed, according to Sleman, for an entire week the bell rang and the scratching continued. And the commotion only finally stopped when a priest from the local St.Mary’s Church dared to venture into the cellar and left behind a bible, claimed Sleman.
Back in the present, our own story begins with a Twitter user who goes by the handle of Captain Insensible (@keswickbro). The “captain” describes himself as “purveyor of cynicism,” and his Twitter feed overflows with anarchic commentary on British politics and soccer.
In February 2016 Captain Insensible was searching Google Maps for the Byrnes fish and chips shop – a famed establishment said by some to be the best chip shop in the U.K. As he scouted Google Street View for its location, he stumbled upon the Stuart. And then… “Something in the top window caught my eye,” he wrote.
What is that up there? A face? A person? Zooming in, the Captain beheld a stomach-churning sight: a grotesque, bald-headed monster leering through the glass. What’s more, at his side there appeared to be a shadowy second figure attired in a tuxedo. “Look closely,” the Captain tweeted, “And it appears to be breathing on the window.”
The story was picked up the Liverpool Echo less than week later; it ran with headline “Man uncovers ‘haunted pub’ on Google Street View.” After that, national tabloids – including The Mirror, The Daily Mail, The Sun and The Express – got hold of the story, and the tale of the Stuart’s seemingly unearthly guests went viral.
Some journalists furthermore made creative observations in an attempt to describe and explain the phenomenon. According to the Daily Mail, the figure on the left uncannily resembled the morose Addams Family butler, Lurch. The face on the right? A goblin from the Harry Potter films. And the resemblance certainly is uncanny.
However, audiences were divided by the story. Some dismissed it as nonsense, while others found the faces undeniably creepy. And several reviewers took to Google Plus to express their concern in a variety of eloquent ways. “There something weird there’s like a face or a ghost something like that I don’t know what it is dudes but don’t go there really,” wrote one Eduardo Sebastian Sosa Hernandez, managing to put into words what we were all thinking.
Nevertheless, even paranormal expert Slemen – a man well accustomed to the weird world of Liverpool’s afterlife – acknowledged that there was something unnerving about the figures. He told the Liverpool Echo, “I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the faces in the windows; they do look eerie though.”
So what were the faces in the windows? Ghosts? Shape-shifters? Visitors from another realm? Or were they psychological projections of a collective unconscious saturated with Hollywood images of ghouls and monsters? What other possible explanation could there be?
Well, one reader of the Liverpool Echo, Anthony Dale, claimed to know the answer. He posted a scathing comment beneath the newspaper story, offering an altogether more mundane explanation. “It’s a Halloween mask,” he explained. And it had reportedly been there “for years.”
Reality is rarely as dark or nightmarish as we might imagine to be, but that hardly matters in the realm of the unconscious. While it may have a simple explanation, this story proves how the apparent sight of two ghoulish figures in a window still has the power to jolt nerves and turn stomachs. And who doesn’t enjoy the make-believe of a good horror movie now and again?