REVIEW: ‘I Lived in a Clown Motel: A True Story of the Dumbest Thing I Ever Did’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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In February of 2015, Christopher Sebela, the creator of Heartthrob and Crowded, stayed at the Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada. A surprisingly very real place; click that link if you don’t believe me.

It was during the following summer that Sebela issued the ultimate challenge on Twitter: he would stay in the Clown Motel for a month if a Kickstarter paid for it. On September 7th, the campaign went live. At 4:15 PM he simply tweeted out:

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you did it, you monsters, you really did it pic.twitter.com/2jL0m81tve

Coulrophobia is an irrational fear of clowns and there are dozens of psychological reasons behind our unease with clowns in society as a whole. The most commonly cited one is that most people find it creepy that the jovial beings are always happy, and it’s the same reason that the Joker makes such an alluring villain. The painted on smile that is often at odds with the actions of a clown throws people off their game, making it difficult to read the social cues we are learned to search for in interactions. Add in the natural mischievousness, and it makes for an uncomfortable and unpredictable encounter.

And it certainly doesn’t help that pop culture has run with the fear and created stories like Stephen King’s IT: A Novel. This has furthered that fear into a full-blown learned phobia.

So, when Sebela embarks on his hell trip, I mean vacation, to the Clown Motel it’s understandably done with dread and anticipation in his grizzled heart. He’s checked into the same room he had all those months ago and trapped into a Twilight Zone-esque world of literal desert and limited Wi-Fi. The book lays out his visit in an aesthetically pleasing way with a ton of humor at his own expense. I found myself torn between complete horror and immersed in entertainment as Sebela bluntly tells us about his days in the Clown Motel.

There’s a drunk cowboy who likes the f-word (A lot), a bartender that I personally feel is responsible for Sebela’s survival in Tonopah, and an RV with a bloody history that I’m still trying to decide the legality of discussing it in I Lived in a Clown Motel. There’s also a creepy graveyard that looks like something straight out of a Stephen King novel with a plethora of kitty-cats to try to balance out the spook-factor. Let’s not even get started about the things you’ll see in the bedrooms.

One of the most interesting factors of I Lived in a Clown Motel is the way Sebela portrays the residents. An outsider reading this book is going to be horrified and make a point to steer clear of Tonopah, Nevada, the town where no one leaves and no one comes and yet still exists. However, the residents there love it; the quiet, the familiarity, and the community. In the middle of the absolute horror-fest of their main tourist attraction is a deep-seated community that only small-town people will understand, and as someone from a town of fewer than 600 people, it resonated with me on another level.

I also enjoyed watching the swaying of Sebela. At times he felt like where he was an okay place to be and joked about being one of the locals. An author writing about their Clown Motel made him a bit famous with the locals, and Sebela got a taste of the small-town life that means everybody knows what you had for breakfast before you even paid the bill.

While the tale itself is plenty of reason to read this, the layout of the book is unique and eye-catching. With simple text boxes placed across the page, it reads like a social media account, with photographs of the town, the scenery, and the incredibly large assortment of clown memorabilia scattered throughout.

That’s more terrifying than an anonymous map leading you into the desert if you ask me. And yes, Sebela followed it.

In a complicated way, I Lived in a Clown Motel is my favorite Christopher Sebela book. Sebela, a talented writer and one of my favorite comic creators, writing a memoir-type piece opened more doors for his own personality to come through. If you aren’t familiar with him or his work, that means a lot of opportunities for the dry snark and morbid sense of humor to come through on the page. It made the read a rollercoaster of emotion because you were experiencing his stay with him, as Sebela writes in real-time and deposits the reader into the motel rooms with him.

I Lived in a Clown Motel is a story about clown meetings, seances and the dumbest thing Christopher Sebela has ever done, set in what’s reported to be “the most haunted motel in America.” It’s also available on Amazon for Kindle here.

I Lived in a Clown Motel: A True Story of the Dumbest Thing I Ever Did
5

TL;DR

In a complicated way, I Lived in a Clown Motel is my favorite Christopher Sebela book. Sebela, a talented writer and one of my favorite comic creators, writing a memoir-type piece opened more doors for his own personality to come through. If you aren’t familiar with him or his work, that means a lot of opportunities for the dry snark and morbid sense of humor to come through on the page. It made the read a rollercoaster of emotion because you were experiencing his stay with him, as Sebela writes in real-time and deposits the reader into the motel rooms with him.