While Nevada’s Clown Motel may seem like the product of a horror writer’s fevered imagination with its army of glassy-eyed clown dolls and convenient proximity to a Wild West cemetery that holds the (possibly unquiet) remains of local miners, but the dusty little lodging is just a fan of merriment. They swear.
Catering to bikers, truckers, and other long haul travelers that find themselves off the beaten path, the Clown Motel is the final port of call before the yet another stretch of unbroken Nevada desert.
It must be this location’s oasis-like location that has kept the establishment in business for so long, as the ever-watchful eyes of the ubiquitous clown figurines seem to serve more as a warning than a draw.
From the moment travelers enter the adjoining offices they are greeted by a life-size clown figure sitting in a chair, cradling smaller figurines like familiars.
In fact the entire office is covered in shelves and bookcases full of clown dolls, statues, and accouterment of every stripe.
Stuffed animals, porcelain statues, wall hangings, and more make up the mirthful menagerie, staring down at guests from every angle.
Leaving the office with key in hand, visitors might also notice an arch just feet away heralding the “Tonopah Cemetery.”
Just beyond the gate is a century-old miner’s graveyard made up of a gaggle of wood and stone markers. The very Platonic ideal of a haunted cemetery.
Remarkably, there do not seem to be many extant stories, horror or otherwise, surrounding the Clown Motel.
Its possible that this paucity of history is because it simply arose, fully-formed from the dark parts of the American subconscious, or it could also be because no one has made it out alive.
Joey Grimaldi, the greatest clown of the 19th century, made his debut at the age of four in The Triumph of Mirth.
The triumph was hard-won. His father, a fine and original clown himself, was a monster Dickens would have been proud to have invented, a savage brute (known as the Signor, but more generally referred to as Grim-All-Day) whose idea of training children for the theatre was to put them in the stocks or suspend them in a cage 40ft above the stage.
He routinely beat his wife and terrified the household with his obsession with his own death. The devil had informed him in a dream that he would die on the first Friday of the month, whereafter the Signor kept vigil on that day, every month, in a room filled with clocks, gibbering till dawn.
His favourite reading was The Uncertainty of Signs of Death; his dread of being buried alive led him to stipulate in his will that when he died his children should sever his head from his body, a task duly performed by his daughter, who kept a hand on the saw worked by the surgeon hired for the purpose.
Anyone who could survive Grim-All-Day could survive anything, you might think. Andrew McConnell Stott, in this great big Christmas pudding of a book, almost over-stuffed with rich and colourful life, notes the cost to Joey of his upbringing, but also observes that it was at the core of his work.
If you wanted to breed a clown, the Signor was perhaps the perfect parent, whose “arbitrary justice and irrationality had led him to understand the world as a shifting plane of ambiguities, void of the anchors of reason and authority a parent conventionally provides”. Well, yes, but was he funny?
The answer, for his contemporaries, was ear-splittingly in the affirmative. He was so irresistibly comic “as to put dullness to flight and make a saint laugh,” said one. “His acting and manner leave all competition at a very humble distance.”
The appeal was across the board: the famously severe lord chancellor Lord Eldon remarked that “never, never, did I see a leg of mutton stolen with such superhumanly sublime impudence as by that man” – impressive expert evidence.
Children are frightened by clown-themed decor in hospitals, a survey suggests. How did the smiley circus entertainers become a horror staple?
Anyone who has read Stephen King’s “It” would probably never choose to decorate a children’s ward with clowns.
And it probably comes as no surprise to horror fans that a University of Sheffield study of 250 children for a report on hospital design suggests the children find clown motifs “frightening and unknowable”.
It is the fear of the mask, the fact that it doesn’t change and is relentlessly comical
One might suspect that popular culture is to blame.
In It, made into a television movie in 1990, Stephen King created a child-murdering monster that appeared as a demonic clown.
King’s It has sparked a slew of schlocky movies over the past 20 years, known as the killer clown or evil clown genre.
Examples include Clownhouse from 1990 where three boys at home alone are menaced by escaped mental patients who have taken on the identities of clowns they have killed.
S.I.C.K., Killjoy and the Camp Blood Trilogy are other low-budget examples of the genre.
But perhaps the highlight is 1988’s Killer Klowns from Outer Space, with the tagline “In Space No One Can Eat Ice Cream”.
What is “Coulrophobia”?
It is the irrational fear of Clowns.
Since it is not an old phobia, but one that has increased in recent decades, little is known about coulrophobia.
Scientists and doctors now agree that it is a result of not knowing who lies behind the excessive makeup, red nose and hair color.
Some researchers believe that coulrophobia cases increased after the 1990s, when Steven Spielberg classic horror film “IT” depicting a murderous clown was released.
The phobia can cause a state of panic, difficulty in breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea and feelings of fear.
Coulrphobia may seem absurd for some, however, many people suffer so much, that it prevents them from eating a hamburger in that famous fast food chain.
It is not a trivial matter either and coulrophobia shouldn’t be treated lightly.
Although the fear of clowns develops most of the time during childhood, when children are very sensitive to an unfamiliar face, it is also prevalent amongst adults.
My Pathetic Story:
I have had Coulrophobia since being a child when my Dad took me to a small Aussie circus behind the Maid of Auckland Hotel on South Road, Edwardstown in South Australia.
It would have been in the mid to late 1950s.
Apart from falling down between those horrid walk boards while I was trying to find my seat I was terrorised by an evil looking Clown with a stick and a rubber horn.
He barked like a dog and I was so terrified that I screamed like a little girlie and have been mortified by Clowns ever since.
People thought I was joking when I couldn’t bear to watch “Bozo” or was it “Bobo” the Clown on Channel 9 Kid’s Television in the late 1950s in Adelaide?
It’s all true, and now I know it has got a name “Coulrophobia”.