Tonopah Cemetery

by Kaylah Stroup

I’ve always had this vision of what a cemetery in the desert looks like. I imagine its filled with cowboys. Its definitely dusty there. The headstones probably aren’t anything like the ones I’m used to in the northeastern side of the United States. Mountains in the background are a must. Aside from cowboys, Tonopah Cemetery hit all the marks. It was everything I had ever dreamed of. It was dusty, there were mountains, and this cemetery was like nowhere I have ever been before!

Founded in 1901, this cemetery was only active for a mere ten years before the number of dead outgrew the small plot of land. Just over 450 people are buried here, more than a few of which fell victim to the  “Tonopah Plague” in 1902. It was actually just pnemonia but it claimed the lives of at least 30 people from the small town and caused a mass exodus. Another big reason people ended up here? The Belmont Mine fire which was clearly marked on many of the headstones.

Tonopah Cemetery almost feels like a fake cemetery, like something someone would set up in their yard for Halloween. So many of the headstones just listed the name and cause of death. I’ve never seen anywhere where so few had the date of birth and death. The unique choice of grave marking materials only added to the cemetery’s appeal. I counted less than five traditional granite headstones.The majority were wood. I even saw what appeared to be a table leg being used!

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Oh, I’m saving the best part for last! This cemetery? It’s right next door to a clown themed motel. Despite what a very funny polariod of me as a child at the circus would have you believe, I’m not afraid of clowns. As much as I’d love to write an article like the forty others I found while doing some post-vacation research about how this is “the creepiest place EVER” I didn’t think anything about Tonopah Cemetery or its surroundings was creepy. Unique? Absolutely! I’ll be the first to admit that its kind of funny but honestly there was nothing spooky about it.

Jeffrey isn’t a motel staying kind of guy or I gladly would have shelled out the $42.50 to spend the night, just to add it to my list of experiences. Instead, in a normal Kaylah fashion, I darted around the cemetery excitedly taking photos, trying to capture all that I was seeing, and then we moved on to the next town.
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I’ve visited a lot of cemeteries but Tonopah Cemetery easily ranks among the best. Tonopah, Nevada seemed like rad, albeit very tiny, town. If you’re out aimlessly wandering, definitely check it out.


PS. For more of my favorite cemeteries, check out this list.

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Allie June 6, 2017 - 11:29 am

I’ve been wanting to go to this clown motel forever but I just recently found it it was next to this graveyard!! I’m officially dead of jealousy. Bury me under a nice table leg, please.

Kaylah June 7, 2017 - 9:13 am


Kaylah June 7, 2017 - 9:13 am

Actually, can I bury you under a grate from a grill instead? I rather liked that one…

Kate June 6, 2017 - 3:01 pm

Great pictures! That looks like such an interesting place. Tonopah is so dreamy!

Kaylah June 7, 2017 - 9:14 am

Thanks, Kate! 🙂

f June 6, 2017 - 7:06 pm

This has to be one of the coolest cemeteries I have ever seen! I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve been to cemeteries all over Europe! I would love to see it in person. It seems so untouched, but I feel like a lot of the desert must feel like that. Must be why it’s so appealing…

Kaylah June 7, 2017 - 9:28 am


Prisilia June 7, 2017 - 4:34 am

The wooden tombstones were definitely unique! It doesn’t feel like a cemetery at all-more like a set up for rustic-themed Halloween party!
I’ve heard about Clown Motel! Apparently a guy launched campaign on Kickstarter (or some sort) to tell about his experience for spending a month there 😮

Kaylah June 7, 2017 - 9:25 am

Definitely! One of my favorite parts, which for some dumb reason I didn’t photograph, was that there were a bunch of shovels and rakes against the fence. It felt like a set up. They like left those there to be spooky.

Such a neat place!

Helle Dannemand June 7, 2017 - 9:59 am

What a special place!
That “Unknown” just broke my heart…

Kaili | Weirdwonderfulwanderlust June 7, 2017 - 5:26 pm

Wow, what a unique find! I love those handmade grave markers. I once found a creepy “Teddy Bear Motel” in North Carolina (sadly didn’t grab a photo), but this clown motel might be even weirder.

Kaylah June 14, 2017 - 10:29 am

Thats definitely creepy too. I think teddy bears might be weirder than clowns…

Molly June 15, 2017 - 6:47 pm

This is so weird to see. I went to high school here and grew up 26 miles south in Goldfield, NV. I remember when the Clown motel was new and the cemetery was place my sister and I used to play. Thank you for bringing a bit of my past back to me, especially since I am now thousands of miles away. It looks the same as it did in the 80s and 90s. Beautiful, dusty, and magical.

Kaylah June 16, 2017 - 7:33 am


Goldfield Pioneer Cemetery - THE DAINTY SQUID March 25, 2023 - 1:46 pm

[…] visiting Tonopah Cemetery I guess my excitement got the best of me because I fell asleep as soon as we got back into the car. […]

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