In 2017, the eccentric Zak Bagans of Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures converted a 1938-built (allegedly haunted) mansion into a paranormal paradise. The museum houses 30 rooms packed with seriously spooky artifacts—from Sharon Tate’s wedding dress to an entire room full of bedeviled puppets—as well as a collection of what are rumored to be the most cursed objects on Earth, each personally hunted down by Bagans himself.
Let’s Get Weird: Weird Wonders Around the Silver State
Let’s face it: Nevada’s always been a little…different. But as a state whose memories include Wild West mining towns, top-secret government facilities, mob-run casinos, and renegade art festivals, how could it not? The thing is, we love that for us. Which is why legacies of our unusual history can be found at oddball attractions all over this funk-tastic state.
So if you’re the kind of traveler who believes no trip is complete without someone saying, “Well, THAT was a little weird!” a couple times a day…you’re our kind of person. And we’ve got your next eccentric adventure covered with this lineup of favorite #WeirdNevada wonders well beyond our metros—in small towns, ghost towns, and far beyond—as well as some extra tips on what else to see and do nearby.
Come get weird at these oddball attractions around the Silver State
The Clown Motel
Exactly what it sounds like, this clown-themed Uncommon Overnighter boasts what we officially estimate to be the largest private collection of clown figurines and memorabilia under the sun (and moon). We’re talking a giant, lit-up clown sign welcoming (or scaring away) passing motorists; clown-ified paintings of Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, and other rock legends adorning the walls of every room; a spectacular gift shop corner; and a complimentary foam clown nose upon check-in. Oh yeah, and it’s haunted…Thanks to a few ghostly miners rumored to have moved in from the Old Tonopah Cemetery next door, the property is popular with Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and plenty of other paranormal enthusiasts.
Bizarro Bonus: Check Tonopah’s events calendar to book a Ghost Walk for guided, local expert-led tours to learn some spooked-out history of the Old Tonopah Cemetery and Clown Motel, as well as haunted historic buildings like The Mizpah Hotel and Tonopah Liquor Company. If timing doesn’t work out, you can still take yourself on a self-guided tour of the graveyard.
Goldwell Open Air Museum
This avant-garde outdoor array of eccentric desert art, originally created by Belgian artists in the 1980s, is unlike any other “museum” you’ve ever visited. Charles Albert Szukalski’s “The Last Supper” features life-sized plaster ghosts acting out Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous fresco, while his “Ghost Rider” depicts another shrouded figure mounting a rusty old bike—pieces that are perfectly at home in a landscape overlooking an actual ghost town on the edge of Death Valley National Park. Other works to wander and ponder among: a 24-foot-tall miner (and his trusty penguin, of course), Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada, a female Icarus (named “Icara”), and a psychedelic mosaic couch (summer loungers beware!).
Bizarro Bonus: Once home to 5,000 fortune-seekers, Rhyolite was abandoned more than 100 years ago, but its iconic buildings still dazzle film crews, more photographers than any other Nevada ghost town, and anyone craving a vestigial glimpse of the West’s boomtown era. Among its stubborn remnants is the famed Tom Kelly Bottle House, constructed of nearly 50,000 glass vessels.
International Car Forest of the Last Church
Find it on the Free-Range Art Highway road trip
Located on the outskirts of the “living ghost town” of Goldfield, just off US-95 is one of the offbeat, art-tastic attractions that originally helped earn that stretch of road its “Free-Range Art Highway” nickname. This free, unconventional automotive art installation features upwards of 40 cars, vans, and trucks in curious arrangements—half-buried and sticking straight up out of the desert ground, straddling crevices, or even balancing delicately on top of one another—each one transformed into a creative, colorful vehicular canvas by invited guest artists and muralists. Don’t expect much proselytizing from the religion-free “Last Church,” but offerings are welcome for upkeep and to bring in new artists.
Bizarro Bonus: To Burning Man attendees, “Art Car” could mean a giant, LED-draped, EDM-blasting pirate ship “sailing” across the Black Rock Desert playa. But to Goldfield local Rocket Bob, it was all about the little details (thousands of them) on his whole-car canvases, which you’ll find permanently parked on Goldfield’s main drag.
The Republic of Molossia
Find it on the Loneliest Road in America road trip
Nevada sometimes feels like a country within a country. But here’s the thing: this place actually is. Because, somehow, His Excellency President Kevin Baugh and Madame Adrienne managed to turn their property—situated smack-dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood—into a “micronation” (which also claims territory on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and about 50,000 square miles of Venus’ surface). Pack your passports when you enter the Republic, which boasts its own post office, national bank, and even space force. But before you cross the border, just be sure you ditch any contraband onions, incandescent bulbs, walruses, and catfish in any form. (Better yet, don’t—then see what kind of mischief ensues…)
Bizarro Bonus: Back in Nevada, just twenty minutes up Six Mile Canyon, lies the famous silver boomtown of Virginia City, whose Wild Western mining past paved the way for a present full of ghosts—so many that TV ghost hunters consider the town one of the most paranormally active places on Earth. Hop on the Bats in the Belfry evening walking tour, or follow a guide into the crypt at The Washoe Club & Haunted Museum, and say hello to the other side.
The Middlegate Shoe Tree
50 mi / 45 min east of Fallon
Find it on the Loneliest Road in America road trip
A couple miles east of Middlegate Station is where some choice local lore hangs out. This old tree bears no fruit, but instead countless pairs of shoes slung onto the branches from passers-by. The story goes: some quarrelsome lovers got in their first fight as newlyweds, made a scene on the side of the road right near this tree, exchanged terse words, and one left the other walking home—sans shoes. Luckily (for both of them), the driver quickly thought better of that choice. The pair patched things up, then made an anniversary tradition out of returning each year to huck a sole-ful totem of their lasting love up into the tree’s boughs. Bring an old pair and join the fun—relationship drama or not.
Bizarro Bonus: 25 minutes back toward Fallon, aptly named Sand Mountain rises six stories above the surrounding landscape. If you’re here in the exact right conditions (and for safety, when off-roaders aren’t), you may hear this huge dune’s rare talent: a “singing” or “booming” sound that can reach 105 decibels. Fun Fact: There are very few “singing sand dunes” on this planet…but Nevada’s home to three of ‘em.
First off, we love the Silver State’s primo assortment of old-school, authentic Sagebrush Saloons, and just about all of them have SOMEthing gloriously weird about them. But when it comes to taxidermy, remote little Jiggs Bar is the life of the party—and we don’t just mean the massive elk head and requisite jackalope. To set the scene, back in the day, Jiggs’ whole population once fit into a Volkswagen van for a photo in an ad. Today, you’ll find the few folks who live around here enjoying cold libations and friendly conversations, including—if you ask, which you obviously should—about the albino porcupine (“al-BEEN-oh PORK-a-pine”) in the case and the two-headed calf that greets you above the doorway.
Bizarro Bonus: Back in Elko, the folks at the Northeastern Nevada Museum are the proud caretakers of another amusing artifact from the cowboy world: Crazy Tex’s “hoof shoes.” Fashioned from short wooden boards, leather straps, and a pair of actual cow hooves per shoe, the clever cattle rustler made off with multiple moo-ers—all without leaving a single (human) footprint—until his spree came to a “head” with some vigilant buckaroos.
Belmont’s Stolen Church
49 miles / 45 mins northeast of Tonopah on SR-376
If you head to the “living ghost town” of Manhattan (yep, we’ve also got an intriguing pair of crumbling buildings in a place called Metropolis…), you can’t miss the darling little wooden church perched up on the hilltop above town. But take our advice: if you continue on to nearby Belmont and notice a strangely similar house of worship, think twice before you bring it up to the Belmontians…You see, back when the mining boom was busting here, its soon-to-be-former residents packed up and left to seek fortune in Manhattan, but that packing up wasn’t limited to personal belongings. One night in 1908, the new Manhattanites went back and stole that church, rolling it on timbers more than 17 miles to its current location.
Bizarro Bonus: Just before major creepo Charles Manson’s murderous brainwashing kicked into high gear in the fall of 1969, his bizarre philosophies had already been rejected by everyone of sound mind (besides certain Beach Boys…), leading his clan of misfits to hole up around the Nevada backcountry—including in Belmont, where his killer John Hancock remains etched into a doorway in the Belmont Courthouse—which, despite all that, we promise is actually really beautiful and a cool place worth visiting.
Goldfield Historic Cemetery’s Eccentric Epitaphs
Find it on the Free-Range Art Highway road trip
“Unknown man died eating library paste — July 14, 1908” … This is just one of many “gut-busting” epitaphs revealing the untimely demises of this mining-era cemetery’s permanent residents, located just outside of Goldfield—at least now. Originally situated in the center of town, the cemetery found itself encroached on all sides as the boomtown blew up to nearly 20,000 fortune-seekers. When the railroad arrived, the company didn’t want passengers stepping off train cars and onto graves, so a group of men assembled, dubbed themselves the “Official Ghouls,” and proceeded to relocate the graves (and those occupying them) in the middle of the night. Virgil Earp was once buried here, but he later moved (for good) to Oregon.
Bizarro Bonus: Although the bodies got moved, it’s possible that some of their previous occupants did not. Why? Oh, only because paranormal experts consider the Goldfield Hotel one of the most haunted places in the world. (Just ask the producers of Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures.) While you can only admire this alleged “portal to the underworld” from outside, you can take a guided tour of the fascinating (and also plenty haunted) Goldfield Historic High School across the street.
Thunder Mountain Monument
40 miles / 30 mins from Lovelock at Imlay I-80 Exit 145
Find it on the Cowboy Corridor road trip
On the stretch of the I-80 between Lovelock and Winnemucca, it’s easy to breeze by a giant, colorful array of oddly shaped structures and wonder, “What on Earth was that?” Next time you approach the Imlay exit, let off the gas, cruise down the ramp, grab your camera, and follow the dirt road to Thunder Mountain Monument—the unconventional sculpture garden, artistic playground, and home meticulously created by the late Frank Van Zant, AKA Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder. Every building and art piece was assembled from materials he found along the side of the interstate or train tracks—rocks, bottles, car parts, you name it—and a healthy dose of cement, when needed, in order to honor the Great Spirit.
Bizarro Bonus: If you continue east, that same dirt road will put you on NV-400, the road to another unexpected attraction: Mark Twain’s “small, rude cabin in the side of the crevice” which he “roofed…with canvas, leaving a corner open to serve as a chimney, through which the cattle used to tumble occasionally, at night, and mash our furniture and interrupt our sleep.” Find it in Unionville; then read about it in Twain’s classic Nevada-centric tome, Roughing It.
Words of wisdom and hand-carved whimsy line this mile-long road to reflection, along with several larger sculptures and art pieces, including Aphrodite, a tribute to Elvis, and the Desert Broadcast System, which features screenless televisions permanently tuned to truly splendorous views of the Black Rock Desert Wilderness beyond. Although it may seem like it oozes Burning Man vibes, it was actually established by longtime beloved Gerlach local DeWayne “Doobie” Williams decades ago—and it’s intriguing to imagine how many of the 70,000 annual burners unwittingly (or exhaustedly) sail right by it. Adding to the weirdness: the dude went by “Doobie,” but the locals call it “Dooby Lane” and the DOT goes with “Guru Road.”
Bizarro Bonus: Just past Gerlach, at the toes of the Granite Mountains, lies Planet X Pottery, a working art studio from another dimension, where since 1974 a husband-and-wife team has created and sold exquisite ceramics and paintings in their sprawling ranch-home galleries, many inspired by their splendiferous surroundings.
Worth the Trip
Next time you wanna get weird in and around the Entertainment Capital of the World, add these locales to your list to ensure a truly unconventional Vegas visit. Even better, get the full rundown right here.
Zak Bagans’ The Haunted Museum
Seven Magic Mountains
Rising from the wide-open desert just 20 miles south of the Strip are seven 11-story-tall rock towers, whose fluorescently painted boulders gleam in conspicuous contrast to their natural desertscape backdrop. The art installation is the work of Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, who went to extravagant measures to source and shape enormous Nevada boulders before busting out the heavy machinery to stack them just oh-so-perfectly.
If you’re into coffin-shaped furniture, jewelry, purses, ping-pong tables, or really anything else—including actual coffins—this quaint little mom-and-pop coffin shop just nails it. Even if you’re not, make an appointment to tour the owners’ coffin-themed home and workshop, peruse their hearse collection, or even exchange vows in their wedding chapel—all of which make for some truly undying memories.