"If a radio landed in the hands of Thomas Jefferson, do you know what Jefferson would do? He would just lock it up, until he figured out it wasn't going to kill him. That's exactly what we do here. We take the unexplained... and we safely tuck it away."A Secret Government Warehouse is where a nation keeps various items whose existence should be kept secret from the general populace. Usually run by an Artifact Collection Agency. In fiction, the Secret Government Warehouse is a plot device used for conveniently disposing of story elements that have fulfilled their purpose in a story, but that would cause consistency or continuity problems for subsequent (or previous) stories in the same fictional setting were they to remain. In many cases, the story items disposed of are of such a nature that they would make it difficult to set up the necessary tensions and conflicts for other stories in the fictional setting, as they would make such tensions and conflicts simple to resolve. A secondary purpose of the Secret Government Warehouse plot device is to satirize the ineptitude of governments, the premise being that if a government found itself in possession of an extraordinary object or person, it would simply catalog it and lose it in a vast filing system. Occasionally, a Secret Government Warehouse can serve as the main setting for a story. In this case, the warehouse has a rather different purpose in the story (even though its in-universe purpose is the same), that of providing a unique setting with a steady influx of phlebotinum and other weirdness. Some conspiracy theorists believe that Secret Government Warehouses exist in Real Life, containing suppressed inventions, archaeological and historical evidence that contradicts mainstream theory, and objects that have famously been lost. A sub-trope of Black Site and Extranormal Institute. Not to be confused with Abandoned Warehouse, even though the two can overlap.
— Artie, on Warehouse 13
- Area 51: Frequently overlaps with Secret Government Warehouse, as their functions are similar.
- Bazaar of the Bizarre: If the contents of the Secret Government Warehouse were on sale, it would be a Bazaar.
- Magical Library: Like the Warehouse, but keeps lost or forbidden knowledge rather than items.
- Museum of the Strange and Unusual: Smaller, more intimate version of the Warehouse, generally run by a single Collector of the Strange rather than an Artifact Collection Agency. Less of an emphasis on secrecy, though it can be just as hard to find.
- Trophy Room: A small, personal collection of mundane items.
- Superhero Trophy Shelf: A small, personal collection of not-necessarily-mundane items that is kept by a superhero.
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- The comic book Area 52 ("a storage facility for Area 51") is based entirely on this premise.
- The Research Technical Institute, the main setting of Creature Tech.
- Both the Four and members of Planetary maintain large collections of the world's secrets, including mementos from dead superheroes and alien artifacts. As Mr. Snow observes when visiting a parallel earth "They killed an entire world so that they had somewhere to store their weapons."
- In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a secret wing of the British Library acts both as this, and the headquarters of the eponymous League.
- The conclusion of Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most famous uses of this plot device: the ending of the film is a shot of The Ark of the Covenant, in a crate, being filed in a massive warehouse. Filled with identical crates.
- The first part of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull happens in the same warehouse, where baddies are looking for the titular object. At some point a crate is damaged, showing the Ark in it.
- In the Hellboy films, the BPRD facility holds (among other things) artifacts and books relating to the occult—including Hellboy himself.
- The Librarian, featuring the Metropolitan Public Library.
- The third film reveals that the Library is actually thousands of years old and that the Librarian's mentor may, in fact, be the original Librarian.
- In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the Department of Mysteries houses one of these which holds items considered strange and dangerous even to the wizarding world. There were even more such items in the book but they seemed to have more of an effect on their surroundings and were housed very strangely.
- In Star Trek Into Darkness, Khan and his crew get sealed in one of these.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron: The secret stash of out-world artifacts at the Sokovian HYDRA base used to be this trope, before HYDRA's infiltration of SHIELD was exposed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and it cut all ties with the World Council.
- Scott Westerfield's book Specials includes one of these. The two main characters sneak in to steal a specific tool, and end up finding vast shelves of forgotten "Rusty" (present-day) technology and artifacts as well as extremely dangerous weapons of more modern make. The example is both subverted and played straight: the government IS hiding these tools from the general populace, because the cities are all supposed to be at peace and war is unheard of, and subverted because the two main characters are themselves special government agents (and arguably living weapons) that the general populace is unaware of.
- Not run by a government, which doesn't seem to exist in the Nightside, but the Collector's vast collection of, well, everything rare and legendary meets most criteria for this trope. Definitely secret, because he's a selfish Jerk Ass who's paranoid about people stealing what he's stolen.
- Also, reference is made to a "House of Blue Lights" beneath the Pentagon, from which the Unholy Grail was stolen. Possibly a subversion, as it's unclear whether this facility houses other items or just the one.
- Tale of the Troika by Strugatsky Brothers takes place in one, very poorly organized and overrun by Obstructive Bureaucrats.
- Averted in the Discworld where Lord Vetinari prefers inconvenient things to be lost in a welter of competing Guilds and other agencies, ideally in plain sight where everybody can see them and nobody notices. This is helped by the several-thousand years old history of the city of Ankh-Morpork having accumulated so many potentially significant artefacts that Gormenghast would look bare by comparison. This works extremely well until somebody notices, for instance, the unique-but-impractical projectile weapon held as a curiosity in the Assassins' Guild Museum.
- The Folly from the Rivers of London series is, aside from a specialist police facility, the UK's covert repository for books, materials and artifacts pertaining to Newtonian magic or magic-related crimes and disturbances. The Black Library hidden underneath it is an example within an example, being a highly-restricted secure vault for captured Nazi Black Magic lore.
- Subverted in The Laundry Files novel The Rhesus Chart when Bob Howard visits such a warehouse, but it's used to store mundane (yet still secret) items like government warning posters stockpiled for an invasion by Eldritch Abominations from Another Dimension. Then it turns out a vampire is using this secret location to hide its activities from both the public and the Laundry.
- In The Divine Cities, the so-called Unmentionable Warehouses contain all the artifacts and miraculous items the Saypuri were able to get their hands on after they conquered the Continent and outlawed any mention of the Divinities or their Miracles. Nobody but the hightest authorities in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are even allowed to know of the existence of the warehouses, and even less people are allowed to enter them, meaning the various items have been collecting dust for over seven decades. The warehouse outside of Bulikov masquerades as an unremarkable warehouse between ones that store supplies for the Saypuri military, but becomes vital to the story as Dr. Efrem Pangyui's legal access to it brings the Restorationist's on his case, who want access to its stored Miracles for their own means.
Live Action TV
- The X-Files is replete with characters and objects with unusual properties and powers that would complicate the fictional setting, or make it too simple for characters to achieve the goals that they quest for, and the Secret Government Warehouse trope is heavily used to explain the absence of the characters and objects, and to make the goals difficult to achieve. The plot device is in fact a central element of the series.
- In the first episode of War of the Worlds a triad of war machines are collected from a Government Warehouse ("Hangar 15") where they had been stored since an invasion in 1953, thus linking the television series to the 1953 film The War of the Worlds.
- The Sci-Fi Channel series Warehouse 13, not to be confused with the GURPS sourcebook.
- The Warehouses actually date back thousands of years, usually located in one of the most powerful nations at the time before being moved (partly to protect the Warehouse, partly to enable the collection of artifacts). Warehouse 1 was built by Alexander the Great and was his personal collection. After his death, the artifacts were moved to Egypt into the newly-built Warehouse 2, where the Regents (ruling body of the Warehouse) were established. The subsequent Warehouses were located, in order, in the Western Roman Empire, the Hunnic Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Khmer Empire, the Mongol Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Mughal Empire, the Russian Empire, the British Empire, and finally the United States.
- Additionally, the Bronze Sector within the Warehouse stores dangerous people, many of them would-be Hitlers.
- Played with in an episode where the CEO of a large pharmaceutical company found out about the Warehouse and pulled strings with a senator to get access to it. The CEO's Number Two betrays him after finding out the truth about the artifacts and, instead, points him towards a tiny room with a few shelves of random junk, grandiously announced as Storage Space 6.
- The cover story that the current Warehouse uses is that it's actually a more prosaic version of the truth; specifically, that it's where the IRS stores old tax forms.
- The town in Eureka could be regarded as a Secret Government Warehouse for super smart people.
- Likewise, the Sanctuary could be regarded as a Secret Government Warehouse for "people."
- In the second season of Heroes, we have the Vault, where the Company keeps various important items including a human brain, a figurine of the Trojan Horse, a gold key, a gray pyramid model, a kris similar to that carried by St. Joan, a strain 138 of the Shanti virus, and three playing cards (the Queen of Diamonds, the Queen of Spades, and the Queen of Hearts).
- The Sarah Jane Adventures had UNIT's "Black Archives".
- By extension Torchwood One and its hub in the Cardiff Division, as found in Doctor Who and Torchwood respectively, functioned similarly, although they did salvage and use the alien tech. Of course, they've both now been destroyed.
- Chillingly used on Criminal Minds, where an episode about a lone anthrax terrorist ends with his pathogen getting locked in a U.S. military vault. Dozens of similar vaults are seen, each presumably housing samples of a different biological weapon that the public doesn't know about.
- In Lexx, the US government has a secret warehouse where dangerous individuals — like the child who spotted a UFO with his telescope — are clamped to the middle of a wall several stories high.
Child: Don't worry. After a few weeks you get used to it.
- We see at one at Area 51 in Stargate SG-1's episode "Point of View". Several rows of shelves piled high with artifacts and technology from offworld, many of which were seen in previous episodes. It looks suspiciously like the show's props department.
- Stargate Command during the period between the Abydos mission and the beginning of the series, when the Stargate was inactive and mothballed.
- Warehouse 23 is a role playing book based on a warehouse run by Secret Masters. Steve Jackson Games also calls its online store "Warehouse 23".
- Also from SJG, Illuminati New World Order features a card which depicts one of these.
- The Green Box Generator is based on this concept.
- As is The Filing Cabinet List.
- This thread.
- In Shadowrun the Atlantean Foundation has a treasure trove of ancient magical artifacts obtained from archeological digs all over the world. It keeps them in various well-guarded sites in North America and Europe.
- Although not strictly a government warehouse, the Aegis Kai Doru in Hunter: The Vigil are described as having dozens or more of these around the world, including, among other things, the still-talking and prophesising head of John the Baptist.
- Similarily, the Mysterium in Mage: The Awakening maintain several athenea all over the world, which are a version of this combined with Magical Library. They contain all sorts of manner of strange artifacts, with anything ranging from simple magical tools for uncovering more knowledge to objects of tremendous power and hazard.
- In UFO Aftermath, two plot missions involve going to such warehouses. Unfortunately, it is only possible to get info on government relationships with aliens there.
- One of the (best) possible endings in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines has the sarcophagus being stored in a Secret Camarilla Warehouse, which has the potential of being even worse.
- In Dungeons of Dredmor, there's a spell in the Archaeology skill branch that sends magical artifacts here, in return for a large amount of XP.
- The FEMA facility from Deus Ex: Human Revolution qualifies.
- In Mass Effect, while everyone knows about the existence of the the Citadel Archives, only those with extremely high levels of clearance are allowed access are permitted to enter the facility, such as Spectres.
- Ms Saga A New Dawn has the various Moonbases as well as Eisengrad's underground fortress all of them having some of the best gear in the game.
- Parodied in Kingdom of Loathing. The endgame of the Actually Ed the Undying challenge path has you raiding the Council of Loathing's secret warehouse for the Holy MacGuffin, and finding a bunch of other Macguffins and plot coupons in the process, including the Ark of the Covenant, a platinum casino chip, and Marvin Acme's will.
- Secret Contents of a Certain Government Warehouse was originally created by Stirling Westrup and many Usenet contributors around 1990. It lists a large number of magical, high tech and just plain weird items that are stored in a secret government facility. Almost all of them are based on devices from popular books, TV shows and movies. Version 0.1, Version 0.2 (updated by Timothy Toner in 1992) and Version 0.3 (updated by Uncle Bear in 1999).
- Maintaining secret warehouses is pretty much the entire job of the SCP Foundation, only some of the items are sentient and trying to escape. The warehouses containing the most dangerous items each have a nuclear warhead which is set to go off if too many of them escape at once. For some of the items, this will only slow them down.
- The Vatican Secret Archives and the storage areas of the Smithsonian Institution are claimed to be real Government Warehouses.
- Indeed, almost any fairly large institution (ranging from everything from the above-mentioned Smithsonian all the way down to the Baseball Hall of Fame's Museum and then some) will have far more stuff out-of-sight (either being restored, studied or just plain old stored away) than it has on display. The Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum alone had such a problem that they built a Annex Museum and so much interesting stuff is still behind closed doors that they are now working to build a whole new wing onto that Annex which will allow people to actually look at the stuff that is being restored.
- Shane McMahon once let slip in an interview that the WWE never throws anything away; somewhere in Stamford, Connecticut is a warehouse filled with old stages, props, and other assorted gimmicks. One of the reasons behind this is the desire to construct a museum/hall of fame at some point.
- It's notable that "secret" in real life does not necessarily mean "Earth-shattering revelations here". If you dug into the CIA's secret files and warehouses, most things you would see would only really make sense to other people who work in intelligence and not the common man, who would typically scratch his head at some things. For instance you may find a report on the eating habits of a foreign leader - while it isn't a secret that everyone has different eating habits, the reason it's secret is that someone did work to find that info (probably undercover), and it's handy info to have should they ever want/need to covertly poison said foreign leader (or if they want to decide if it would be safer and cheaper to let said leader gorge himself to death instead).
- Applied to data, this would make the USA's Utah Data Center one of the biggest Secret Government Warehouse out there. It's used to store data that pass through nodes (satellites, etc) compromised by one or more secret intelligence agencies of USA. It's such a massive net that it basically knows everything of you that can be digitally recorded (including your activities in This Very Wiki). Now you too can be covertly poisoned by secret agents, a honor that used to be restricted for troublesome foreign leaders.
- An honorable mention goes to the US Office of Personnel Management storage facility at Boyers, PA. It is located in an abandoned mine 230 feet below ground, and in there 600 people process and store every federal employee retirement file, by hand. There have been multiple attempts and hundreds of million dollars spent trying to digitize, but decades of laws working at sometimes contradictory purposes mean that no computer program can sort out the human logic.
- The dangers of having enormous amounts of material no one remembers anymore came to the fore as part of a series of security lapses involving the CDC that occurred or came to light in 2014, including a cleanup job that uncovered numerous unsecured samples of deadly pathogens, just sitting on shelves since as long ago as 1946.