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Black Site

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Clearly someone wasn't paying attention to the rule about no photography...

Michael: Where am I?
Vaughn: Well, some folks call it a private holding facility, others, a secret prison. I think it's officially listed as a document-processing center. So you can take your pick.

A top secret facility belonging to The Government, Government Conspiracies, groups associated with the government, or NGO Superpowers. What goes on in this facility is highly classified, and if its existence is known to the public, those activities will often be the subject of much rumor, speculation, and Conspiracy Theories.

While this trope frequently overlaps with Elaborate Underground Base, a Black Site might be concealed merely by being remote. This was particularly common for Cold War-era media, as both the US and the USSR have/had perfect locations for isolated facilities. In American settings, sparsely-populated deserts such as those in Nevada and neighboring states are a popular choice. Meanwhile, Russian settings give you all the vast wastes of Siberia to play with. The occasional China story could take advantage too, using the Gobi Desert, Tibet, or Inner Mongolia. Alternately, if your setting doesn’t allow such extreme isolation, the facility can just be behind so much security that even if the public knew it was there, they'd never be able to get close enough to see it. Often times the site will not appear on any maps, and be airbrushed out of satellite and aerial photography, although they'll just as often be in the center of a strictly enforced no-fly zone, preventing aerial photographs from ever coming into being in the first place.


Note that in Real Life, the existence and locations of Black Sites will often not be officially classified as secret, but all information about them beyond that will be. This is why everyone and their dog knows about Area 51 but details about the facility such as what it's for, what's inside it, what goes on there, who works there, and what it looks like from any vantage other than low earth orbit is still very much an Unsolved Mysterynote . However, even if the facility's existence isn't classified, that just means they legally can tell the public about it, not that they necessarily will.

There are four major types of Black Sites:

  1. Secret Lab:
    • A scientific facility where unethical experiments are performed or fantastic technologies are developed in secret, often with the implications that it will be used either as a weapon or to control the populace.
    • A common sub-variant of type one is a temporarily facility built around, and dedicated to the study and/or containment of a specific object of interest in the field that, for whatever reason, it is impossible or impractical to relocate to another facility. These are generally constructed of eerily sterile-looking white prefabricated structures (sometimes to the point of being just as large and elaborate as its more permanent cousins) with the object of interest in a central courtyard surrounded by floodlights, impressive-looking sensor equipment, and often dramatic-looking, apparently sourceless fog. If above ground, these facilities will often have a bad case of Always Night.
  2. Secret Bunker: An insulated, self-sufficient refuge to help the government or social elite survive some apocalyptic catastrophe while the general public is left to rot. Most examples that appear in conspiracy theories tend to be this variety, but it's extremely rare in fiction.
  3. Secret Prison: Also much more common in conspiracy theories than in fiction, although to a lesser extent than Secret Bunkers. This is where people are sent when the government (or whomever) needs to make them disappear. Due to the lack of oversight that comes with secrecy, these prisons are often much more cruel to their inmates than a normal prison, as well as to really drive home the point that the people running it are evil. It isn't uncommon for a character imprisoned there to never see any sign of his fellow inmates. In other versions, this is simply where they send criminals who have abilities or knowledge which would break The Masquerade if they were allowed to be held in normal prisons.
  4. Secret Government Warehouse, holding anything from the paperwork that reveals Who Shot JFK? to Hidden Supplies in case of an emergency (such as Alien Invasion — the more secretive, the more unusual the emergency it is Crazy-Prepared to encounter).

In any case, most variations also function as a secret army base or a headquarters for some secret organization.

In certain settings, organizations may decide to Landmark the Black Site or hide it behind a Mundane Front.

Super-trope to Area 51 and Secret Government Warehouse.

Compare Supervillain Lair, which tends to fall closer to the other end of the Sliding Scale of Realistic vs. Fantastic.


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    Comic Books 
  • The Punisher: The End has Frank find a secret bunker containing what may well be the last remains of humanity after a full-scale nuclear war, having learned of its location from a cellmate who helped build them. Unfortunately, as they're also the people who started the war, he kills them all before succumbing to radiation poisoning.
  • During Civil War, several of the Runaways and Young Avengers were captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. and taken to the Cube, a secret detention facility for extraterrestrials.
  • Wonder Woman: The prison on Reformation Island (just off of Paradise Island) serves to imprison and rehabilitate super powered criminals who commited crimes all across the galaxy, but is overseen by the Amazons and not any of the governments or peoples the crimes were against and is hidden and inaccessible for everyone else.

    Fan Works 
  • The facility in Project Chimera - The Attic Hypothesis is one of these.
  • PEFE HQ in We Are All Pokémon Trainers, which is located on an island in the middle of the ocean where all sorts of science is performed, has no defined location, and has Psychic types and PEFEgons that prevent it from being found except by PEFE employees and those they bring with them. As a result only the most trusted are allowed to visit, though luckily the organization is fairly benign. Beforehand it was the property of Pokefutures Inc., who used it to perform unethical experiments, some of which were fought during the PEFExp miniarc.
  • In the Discworld, the various bases belonging to the Air Watch, Ankh-Morpork's nearest thing to an Air Force, where all manner of flight research goes on as well as unorthodox operational flying. It doesn't help that Air Witches with a wicked sense of humour will drop hints about Area Fifty-Seven and what may be going on there. Just for a laugh.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Big Hero 6, the entire island where the transportation experiment was carried out gets quarantined after the accident. The heroes enter the location to look for the villain.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The isolated desert facility where the astronauts were spirited away to in Capricorn One, where the fake Mars-landing was to be filmed.
  • In Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the government uses a Gas Leak Cover-Up to keep civilians away from an alien landing site.
  • Hangar 18. A crashed alien ship is stored at the eponymous U.S. government installation (see Real Life below).
  • In Godzilla (2014) a black site is built on the site of the ruined nuclear power plant in the heart of the Janjira exclusion zone, to contain the cocooned MUTO. The facility is heavily fortified despite surrounded on all sides by irradiated ruins that are off limits to the public (but thanks to MUTO, the facility itself is not actually irradiated), but the hero manages to sneak in just in time to see the containment fail.
  • In Interstellar, a ghost in the house communicates the coordinates to a secret government facility in binary codes. Cooper and his daughter Murphy follow the lead and find what turns out to be a NASA base camp where they are researching interstellar space travel.
  • Escape Plan has the aptly named prison, "The Tomb". Complete with small plexiglass cells, armed and masked guards who beat up prisoners for as much as just looking at them the wrong way, and solitary cells that subject prisoners to cramped and hot conditions with the help of a heating lamp. The prison itself is located on a freighter out in the middle of the ocean, which helps to make escape virtually impossible.
  • Erewhon Prison in Face/Off is a secret super-max in which the prisoners are tossed in and the key is tossed away, and inhumane acts like electroshock therapy is imposed upon them unrestricted. The prison itself is on an oil rig just off the coast of California.
  • James Bond:
    • British superspy James Bond in Moonraker discovers a secret laboratory in Venice that synthesizes nerve gas. By the time Bond can get MI6 on the scene, Big Bad Hugo Drax has eradicated all traces of the laboratory, and welcomes the Brits to what is ostensibly a summer villa. The lab was moved to another secret base in Rio de Janeiro.
    • Spectre: Big Bad Franz Oberhauser/Ernst Stavro Blofeld's secret base in the Saharan desert is dedicated to sorting intel provided by the "Nine Eyes" program, and was built around a meteorite impact crater. And who knows if SPECTRE in the new continuity has other hidden Supervillain Lairs in other parts of the world doing similar things? By using the "Nine Eyes" surveillance program, it would enable SPECTRE to run smoothly from behind the scenes and easily counteract any investigations into their operations.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Captain America: Civil War The Raft is one of these. The facility spends most of its time submerged in the North Atlantic, only surfacing when people are traveling to and from the site. It is the most secure prison facility in the world and was designed for holding enhanced individuals. Nevertheless, Steve Rogers manages to break in and liberate his teammates who were being held there at the end of the movie.
    • In Thor, SHIELD builds a temporary black site around Mjolnir. It's not terribly secret, considering everyone in the nearby town knows what was there before the government chased them out, but it otherwise hits all the points of the "Secret Lab" description above.
  • The facility where much of the action in The Signal (2014) is assumed to be this trope, but subverted when it turns out the entire desert where the facility is located is a fake environment inside an alien spaceship.
  • In Zero Dark Thirty, the CIA has, among other places, a secret prison somewhere in a Polish city where prisoners are tortured for information on Osama bin Laden.

  • The Wildfire Project from Michael Crichton's thriller The Andromeda Strain is an Elaborate Underground Base where leading oncologists and pathologists race to identify and neutralize an alien contagion that almost eradicated the town of Piedmont, Arizona.
  • One Animorphs book has the protagonists break into a version of Area 51, which turns out to be hiding an alien toilet.
  • The various 'Redoubts' that the protagonists encounter on Deathlands.
  • Honor Harrington:
    • The planet Hades, deep within the People's Republic of Haven, where the Havenite government maintains a prison for their "special prisoners". The cases vary, from POWs to some members of the old government before The Coup. They had intended to keep Honor there as well, but she escaped just before they arrived and eventually was able to take over the entire facility.
    • Also Bolthole, a secret Haven R&D base and shipyard complex.
  • The Laundry Files: Lampshaded by the protagonist of The Concrete Jungle in his usual sardonic fashion.
    The next morning they put me on the train to Cheltenham (second class of course) to visit a large office site which appears as a blank spot on all maps of the area, just in case the Russians haven't noticed the farm growing satellite dishes out back.
  • Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's The Long War:
  • In the Discworld, the town of Big Cabbage is the epicentre of the Sto Plains brassica-growing industry. The town seeks to make cabbage into a tourist trap, with varying degrees of success, but one nearby location that nobody talks about very much is the tightly-guarded Cabbage Research Institute which is shrouded in mystery and legend. rumours abound, but the smart money is on the research being into bio-thaumically-engineering the cabbage as a potential weapon of war, with input from Patrician Vetinari, the Guild of Assassins, the Guild of Artificers, and Unseen University. Observers have seen strange explosions there and have witnessed fiery trails rising thousands of feet in the air. although local farmers shrug and allege that happens to them, too, with some of the livelier varieties they grow.
  • In The Lost Fleet, there were once rumors that The Alliance's top brass had a whole star system taken off the books and were preparing a secret base there. The rumors didn't pan out and eventually it became a running joke ("Can't find your toolbox? Must have been sent to Unity Alternate. Can't get a hold of an old friend? Must have been assigned to Unity Alternate"). However, as of Steadfast Unity Alternate is confirmed to both exist and have at least a major shipyard.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • The Emperor had a special prison built on Dathomir, a planet so far off the beaten path most people had never heard of it, where he kept dissidents and others that he wanted to simply disappear.
    • The Emperor had a great many such Black Sites, such as Wayland (another out-of-the-way planet, housing the biggest of his secret cloning facilities), the Maw Installation (built in a gravitational oasis inside a cluster of black holes, devoted to superweapon research) and Lusankya (a Super Star Destroyer buried in the cityscape of Coruscant itself, used as a max-sec prison, secret base and imperial getaway vehicle).

    Live-Action TV 
  • The first season of 24 has bad guys raiding a secret detention center to release that season's Big Bad.
  • The majority of the SHIELD facilities in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D have touches of this, to the point that the majority of the cast aren't allowed to know their locations while visiting them on official business.
    • Their nemesis HYDRA seems to use the same idea - except they have their demonic symbol on the walls of the offices.
  • The Post Office in The Blacklist is a black site occupied by the FBI's Reddington Taskforce who work in tandem with their informant Raymond Reddington, an international criminal who sold government secrets. The Post Office is underground and anyone out of the taskforce is required to be blindfolded before entering. However, this doesn't stop it from being breached by Anslo Garrick.
    • When Red is "arrested" in Hong Kong, he was brought by the CIA to a black ops site somewhere in the Bering Sea, which happens to take the appearance of an oil rig.
  • Blake's 7. Finding the location of Star One (a base containing the Master Computer which controls the Federation) is the Story Arc for Season Two. It's so secret that anyone who could possibly know it's location has either been killed or brainwashed into forgetting it. This backfires badly because when things start going wrong with Star One, even the people running the Federation don't know where it is!
  • Doctor Who and its spinoffs:
    • "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances": Limehouse Green Station in London, the place where the "bomb" fell, is sealed off by the army.
    • "The Idiot's Lantern": The Wire is stealing peoples' faces through their TV sets from Magpie's shop. The police, not wanting to cause a panic with the coronation leaving them deprived of needed officers for a full investigation (and Torchwood breathing down their necks), abduct the victims, putting bags over their heads to hide their faceless faces, and store them in a black site. This is first made clear when the Doctor and Rose, upon arriving in the area, spot one such faceless victim being taken away by the police. They chase down the police car on their scooter, but the police officer, realizing he's being followed, radios ahead "Operation Market Stall! Go go go!" so by the time the Doctor and Rose make it to the black site entrance, they find only the disguised entrance (plainclothes cops pretending to sweep market stalls).
      The Doctor: Lost them! How’d they get away from us?
      Rose: I'm surprised they didn’t turn back and arrest you for reckless driving! Have you actually passed your test?
      The Doctor: Men in black? Vanishing police cars? This is Churchill’s England, not Stalin’s Russia!
    • "Army of Ghosts" reveals that One Canada Square in Canary Wharf houses the Torchwood Institute's secret headquarters, Torchwood One.
      • Torchwood One is also implied to have been located at a different Black Site prior to One Canada Square's construction, but this location is never revealed.
    • Torchwood Three in Cardiff, also known as "The Hub", is the most notable, being the Home Base for the cast of Torchwood (who, despite it being hidden underground and having a Perception Filter over the entrance, do an absolutely terrible job of concealing its existence).
    • The Black Archive, UNIT's "depository of everything that shouldn't exist on Earth but does anyway", appeared first in The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Enemy of the Bane" as a rather difficult-to-miss, advanced-looking military base within sight of at least one road, but by the time it appeared on Doctor Who proper, in "The Day of the Doctor", it had been relocated to under the Tower of London. Ironically, Landmarking the Black Site is actually a less obvious hiding place.
    • "Journey's End" gives us the UNIT facilities housing the Osterhagen Project, a Self-Destruct Sequence for the Earth. It's really no wonder they wanted to keep them secret.
    • "Death of the Doctor":
      • UNIT Base 5, visibly located on top of Mount Snowdon (the highest mountain in Wales and the focal point of a national park, no less), is also incredibly eye-grabbing. UNIT Black Sites in The Sarah Jane Adventures seem to have a problem with this.
      • UNIT Moonbase, which manages to evade prying eyes by being on the Moon.
  • CONTROL Headquarters in Get Smart, with its now-iconic oft-referenced entrance corridor full of dozens of dramatically opening automatic doors. It's only after going through all the doors (which presumably require clearance to pass) that you come to the elevator (unnecessarily disguised as a phone booth in an otherwise empty room), which leads to the real facility, located underground.
  • In Intelligence (2014), CYBERCOM has a secret black site prison where they imprison the Big Bad due to his ties with the American government.
    • Tetazoo threatens to use this on a CYBERCOM agent trying to help Gabriel and Riley find the culprit responsible for framing him as an assassin.
      Tetazoo: Agent Jameson! If you click "send" on that phone, you will spend the next 20 years in a concrete box.
  • The climax of the Murdoch Mysteries episode "The Annoying Red Planet" features a temporary Victorian-era black site outside of Toronto, where the U.S. government is secretly developing a secret military aircraft using highly advanced military technology... which is to say, an airship.
  • One such site appears on NCIS, which the team is tasked with breaking into as part of a security exercise. It turns out to be part of a larger operation to expose a mole.
  • Mentioned a lot on Person of Interest as the place that secret government agencies send people after they get a black hood over their head at the end of the episode.
    • In "Mors Praematura", we see one in action. The black-hooded inmates are kept in wire cages, are moved from site to site every 72 hours, and are officially dead so they don't exist and can be interrogated indefinitely.
    • Finch creates his own version in the pilot episode, by buying an abandoned library via a bank that immediately declares bankruptcy. "So the property is in a kind of limbo — it doesn't exist." In later seasons Finch converts an abandoned subway station as a new base. The station is sealed off from the main subway system and does not appear on any digitized maps.
    • The Machine is originally housed in a large room in a nuclear power plant. This provides its computer banks with easy access to power and cooling, and people expect a nuclear power plant to have tight security and restricted-access areas.
  • The Prisoner (1967) is set in "The Village", the world's most pleasant secret prison, where inmates (implied to be former intelligence operatives) are able to enjoy the luxuries and atmosphere of an affluent rural coastal village including fresh air, luxury accommodation, total freedom to wander about the Village and socialize as they please, a wide range of recreational and occupational activities, never having to pay for anything, lavish parties, the illusion of democracy, mandatory curfews, omnipresent 24-hour surveillance, occasionally being brainwashed, psychologically abused, or experimented on against their will, and the knowledge that escape is impossible and that any apparent success at escaping is just an elaborate ruse that the Powers-That-Be constructed solely to torment them. Exactly which government is running the Village, if any, is never revealed.
  • The Old, Dark House belonging to the titular family in The Hound of the Baskervilles becomes one of these in Sherlock's setting-updated version, replacing the Victorian Gothic Horror trappings of the original story with those of the more contemporary conspiracy and paranormal horror genre. Given that many British military installations were originally old manor houses, it's quite possible that Baskerville Hall literally became one of these.
  • The plot of UK miniseries/Masterpiece Theatre episode Sleepers kicks off when the KGB rediscovers an abandoned black site/program where agents were trained to pretend to be British citizens and sent to blend in, to be activated at some point in the future. By the time this happens 25 years later the two agents involved have gone thoroughly native and don't want to be activated or recalled.
  • Stargate Command in Stargate SG-1 is a benevolent example, with the added perk of being based out of a the real-life Cheyenne Mountain Complex which is a borderline example itself.
  • The Time Tunnel: The secret underground base used by the Government Agency of Fiction "Project Tic-Toc", housing the eponymous "time tunnel" and serving as Mission Control for the cast.
  • Gerry Anderson's sci-fi series UFO has the headquarters for alien defense operations, SHADO Control, located beneath a film studio. These secret defenders thwart mysterious aliens covertly, so as not to alarm the public about an Alien Invasion. Of course, being produced in 1970, it's laughably Zeerust now.
  • On Good Eats, Alton and a burly assistant named Clarence take an Audience Surrogate to a secret location (at the request of his mother) to teach him how to cook breakfast for himself. There's even a Room 101 which turns out to be a simulated grocery store, where they teach him how to shop for bacon.
  • Sites like this turn up with some regularity on The X-Files.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Edom operates several of these in The Dracula Dossier, most notably HMS Proserpine, a decommissioned oil drilling platform used to hold vampiric prisoners.

    Theme Parks 

    Urban Legends 
  • Dulce Base, an almost certainly apocryphal secret underground UFO base underneath Archuleta Mesa near Dulce, New Mexico. There's some debate amongst believers whether Dulce Base belongs to The Government, aliens, or aliens working for the government.
  • "Secret FEMA Internment Camps" tend to crop up in conspiracy theories surrounding major disasters, stating that the disasters were created deliberately (generally using "HAARP technology") to give the Shadow Government an excuse to have FEMA round up "undesirables" and stick them in secret underground prison camps.
    • A particularly popular variation places one of these internment camps in the partly-disused support tunnels under Denver International Airport (colloquially known as the "New World Airport", on account of the airport's admittedly kinda creepy public art, alleged "hidden Masonic/Nazi symbolism", and this one commemorative plaque donated by the Freemasons which makes reference to the (apparently non-existent) "New World Airport Commission" which sounds kinda like "New World Order").
  • During WWII, Those Wacky Nazis sent an exploratory expedition to a region of Antarctica which they dubbed "Neuschwabenland" ("New Swabia" to English speakers), but never constructed any form of base camp or research station there. Many conspiracy theorists claim they did construct a facility there. A secret one, built in secret and hidden somehow to keep it secret, which, despite it's secrecy, is somehow known to be named "Base 211" by conspiracy theorists. Depending on who you ask, Base 211 is either still manned by loyal Nazis who plan to use it as a staging ground from which to orchestrate the creation of a Fourth Reich, a the launch site for an expedition to the moon, where they built another base from which they plan to orchestrate the creation of a Fourth Reich, or an entry point into the fantastic lands inside the Earth (which is hollow), from which they plan to orchestrate the creation of a Fourth Reich. Rarely is it brought up that the original expedition happened almost 80 years ago, and that even if there was a permanent Nazi crew stationed in New Swabia (or wherever they went after that), they'd surely be dead by now.
    • There is a plausible explanation for this which does not invoke Stupid Jet Pack Hitler. Accurate weather forecasting is essential for military planning, both for your own operations and in anticipating those of your enemy. note . Germany in particular needed accurate weather forecasts concerning weather fronts building up in the Atlantic, and passing east and north over Europe. Therefore Germany landed clandestine advance stations in the Arctic and Greenland to radio back weather reports. It is entirely possible they also did this in the Antarctic so as to get advance weather forecasts for the benefit of their U-boat fleet operating far from home. There are accounts of the secret Arctic war between German meteorological detachments and Allied units sent to hunt them down.
  • Montauk Air Force Station in Montauk, New York. While its security and secrecy never exceeded that of any other Air Force base, conspiracy theory paints it as the highly secretive home of the pseudoscientific Montauk Project, which depending on the theorist either involved invisibility, teleportation, or time travel, among a whole host of much weirder things running the whole gamut of Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything Evil (although other forms of phlebotinum occasionally show up).
    • It's now called Camp Hero State Park and is fully open to the public (and the few parts that aren't open to the public, mostly for being unsafe decrepit old military buildings, are secured only by a simple chain-link fence and a "keep out" sign and are therefore broken into and thoroughly photographed by conspiracy fans and urban explorers on a semi-regular basis).

    Video Games 
  • The secret FEMA prison in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which is drawn directly from similar facilities that appear in many conspiracy theories (see Urban Legends above).
    • There's also Rifleman Bank Station from the Missing Link DLC, a remote detention/interrogation center owned by Belltower Associates which has a second, even more secret black site (used for human experimentation by The Illuminati) hidden inside it. And a computer display in the second black site hints at another site hidden near (or possible even inside) Ayers Rock.
  • The Black Mesa Research Facility from Half Life 1, its remake Black Mesa, Half-Life: Opposing Force, and Half-Life: Blue Shift.
  • Freelancer had the Alaska system, which belongs entirely to the Liberty Security Force. It was only accessible through a jump gate in the New York system, which was guarded by a battleship and a massive minefield, and contained both the Nome maximum-security prison and the Juneau military shipyards.
  • The real life Raven Rock Mountain Complex (see Real Life below) appears as a major story location in Fallout 3 as the headquarters of the Enclave. Fittingly, you're unconscious for the entirety of the journey to the facility and can't return to it after leaving.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: The planet Belsavis, where the Republic maintained a secret prison for prisoners that couldn't be kept in normal facilities. It's secret was blown and the Empire landed on the planet to break out some of their high-value prisoners, and anyone else that could cause the Republic problems.
  • Mass Effect: Vigil tells Shepard's party that the Prothean research facility on Illos survived because it was top secret and went completely dark when the Reapers began their invasion. In the third game, if questioned about it, Javik says he is completely unaware of any such facility, which makes sense: to successfully hide from the Reapers, the facility had to be hidden from everyone, including their allies.
  • Sunless Sea has Station III. If you attempt to turn a report on it in to the government (a common activity, especially with new ports), the person you hand it to immediately throws it in the fire, hands you a large sum of money, and tells you to never think about that place again. As it turns out, it's a secret government facility devoted to harvesting of "heartmetal", a substance with unique properties and uses. It grows parasitically in people who've consumed small quantities of it, so the government's started secretly feeding it to people; once they die, their corpses are shipped to Station III for extraction.
  • The Akhenaten in Evolve. It's a top secret space station whose location isn't known to even CIG9 and is believed, even among top ranking officials and scientists, to be an urban legend. While most of its purpose is unknown, for at least two years it has been studying and reverse engineering the monsters. A more local example is the Wraith Trap map, a facility build in the middle of the desert to contain a Wraith and reverse engineer its translocation.
  • Camp Omega in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, a Cuba-based secret prison camp guarded by US Marines that's a clear riff on Guantanamo.
  • One early story mission in XCOM 2 involves investigating an Advent Blacksite.
  • Sonic Adventure 2 features Prison Island. Tails apparently got all of his intel on a top secret military prison from a public news broadcast despite this fact somehow.
  • The Aeonar in Dragon Age: Origins is a Chantry prison reserved for rogue mages, its location is a closely guarded secret known only to a handful of Templars and its not even listed in the world map (presumably, its somewhere in Southern/ Western Thedas outside of Tevinter's control). Though its never actually seen in the game, the Aeonar is said to be a miserable place to be sent due to the presence of demons and being sentenced there is considered A Fate Worse Than Death.
  • The Shadow Temple from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Hyrule Historia explains the temple was employed as a jail by the Sheikah, loyal guardians of the Royal Family of Hyrule, to interrogate and torture enemies, hence the blood-stained walls and floors as well as the torture instruments that can be found all over the area. Because of the dark stain on Hyrule's history that it represents, it is taboo for the Royal Family to speak of the place and its existence remains unknown to the population.
  • Skyland 1976: The titular Skyland is a top secret government research facility that was created in The '50s to prepare for the Cold War. Simon has gone there, suspecting them to be behind his sister's disappearance.
  • Star Trek Online: Facility 4028 is a secret prison where the Federation keeps prisoners that are either the worst of the worst, and/or politically sensitive. Its location is revealed in the mission of same name when the Dominion demands the release of the Female Changeling (held there for war crimes since her capture at the end of the Dominion War 34 years earlier) in exchange for them ordering Kar'ukannote  to stand down. Kar'ukan follows your ship there, and things go pear-shaped.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In the Cars shorts "Mater's Tall Tales", one short features Mater rescuing his alien pal Ma-Tor from an Area 51 Expy.
  • Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths and Legends has one out in the desert near Roswell disguised as a large mesa. That one is the headquarters of the Alliance, serving as both a bunker and a lab, but they have several others around the world which cover the other categories as well.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Lost Our Lisa", Lisa finds Area 51-A while searching for the museum, which presumably has a similar purpose to Area 51. The guard at the gate can't give her directions because "the location of this location is classified".

    Real Life 
  • Area 51 is probably the archetypal example, appearing in fiction often enough to have its own trope. Sadly (for conspiracy theorists and fiction writers, anyway) it was declassified in 2013 revealing what most non-conspiracy theorists already suspected, that it was a facility for the development and testing of new experimental military aircraft and military aircraft technologies, most of which get declassified themselves after a decade or so, and nuclear research after being commissioned post-WWII. This has done nothing to stop rumors of sinister conspiracies and Imported Alien Phlebotinum, since conspiracy theorists rarely believe "The Official Story" anyhow.
  • Nearby is Area 19, containing a high voltage power line that terminates in the middle of the desert, far from the nearest building. Many believe the power line must be powering one of these.
    • It should be noted that the surrounding Nevada desert is actually littered with numbered government "Areas" purchased under the Nevada Test Site land grant, though for the most part, Areas 51 and 19 are the only ones with any sort of intriguing air of secrecy or with any place in conspiracy lore. There are about 28 confirmed areas that are officially part of the Nevada Test Site, numbered 1-30 (13 was deliberately skipped over due to 13 Is Unlucky, and 28 was decommissioned, split up, and reassigned as additional land for Areas 25 and 27) They were originally allotted for nuclear testing, which the government eventually realized that they didn't need nearly that much space for, and re-purposed the majority of the sites as things like bombing-ranges and boring non-secret government warehouses (for stuff like ration stockpiles, surplus service weapons, and archived paperwork). Area 51 is located off-site, and given the number, it stands to reason that there must be at least 20 other off-site "Areas", but information about them is so difficult to come by that there aren't even any rumors or conspiracy theories about them.
  • The British equivalent, meanwhile, is Porton Down, an extremely secretive biological and chemical weapons testing facility in the Cotswolds of Southern England that's run by the Ministry of Defence. note  Like Area 51, it has a reputation for dissecting alien corpses and human experimentation. Unlike Area 51, no one with any sense wants to get anywhere near it (house prices are notably lower in villages downwind of the facility), and the human experimentation thing is based in fact: a 50 year legal battle by the family of Aircraftsman Ronald Madison, who died in 1953 at the age of 20, revealed that his death was caused by Sarin exposure during 'volunteer testing'. Between 1953 and 1976 it also released E. Coli bacteria, among others, off the coast of Britain to simulate an Anthrax attack, invented the nerve agent 'VX', and rendered Gruinard island off Scotland uninhabitable by testing Anthrax on it (though it has supposedly been decontaminated since 1986).
    • Currently, the official story is that while they do still test and study biological and chemical agents, they only do so in order to figure out how to cure and counter them. The British government also freely admits that there have been over 20,000 human volunteers involved in studies at Porton Down since it was founded in 1916, with current human trials apparently being restricted to ensuring that protective gear works. This proclamation would be more believable if it wasn't preceded by the words 'The Volunteer Programme has always been operated to the highest ethical standards of the day.' And if this doesn't sound quite enough like an organisation of supervillains and/or the real life Weapon X Project, the head of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee (equivalent to a Congressional Committee) said in 1999, "I would not say that the Defence Committee is micro-managing either DERA or Porton Down. We visit it, but, with eleven members of Parliament and five staff covering a labyrinthine department like the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces, it would be quite erroneous of me and misleading for me to say that we know everything that’s going on in Porton Down. It’s too big for us to know, and secondly, there are many things happening there that I’m not even certain Ministers are fully aware of, let alone Parliamentarians." In other words, if the zombie apocalypse starts in Britain, this place will probably be the location of Patient Zero.
  • The Metro-2 (the Russian presidential metro). Its existence is still vehemently denied by Russian authorities. However, several spelunkers claim to have visited the Metro-2, many government officials have spoken of it (albeit mostly describing it as being in disrepair), and the CIA even has maps of it.
    • Mount Yamantau is the Russian equivalent of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, as it reportedly contains a secret extensive bunker complex for either the Russian government, armed forces or both. Repeated questions have yielded several different responses from the Russian government regarding Mount Yamantau, including it is a mining site, a repository for Russian treasures, a food storage area, and a bunker for leaders in case of nuclear war. In 1997, a United States Congressional finding, related to the country's National Defense Authorization Act for 1998, stated that the Russian Federation kept up a "deception and denial policy" about the mountain complex after U.S. officials had given Cheyenne Mountain Complex tours to Russian diplomats, which the finding stated "... does not appear to be consistent with the lowering of strategic threats, openness, and cooperation that is the basis of the post-Cold War strategic partnership between the United States and Russia."
    • Kapustin Yar is Russia's Area 51, as while it's a rocket test, launch and development site in Astrakhan Oblast and not far from Volgograd, it is also the site of numerous Soviet-era UFO sightings and has been nicknamed "Russia's Roswell".
  • In the 1950s the US government built an elaborate top secret nuclear bunker code named Project Greek Island under the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia that was intended to protect members of congress in the event of nuclear Armageddon. The site was decommissioned in 1992 after being exposed by the press, and now offers tours to visitors.
    • Several other still-active elaborate bunkers in other locations were also built to house other government bodies, although most of the others (despite the government doing very little to broadcast their existence) were never officially classified as any sort of secret and, after being dragged into the public eye by the press, smoothly transitioned from being places you could only really find out about by looking up the relevant (but publicly available) documentation to being openly discussed locations complete with their own government websites and numerous appearances in fiction. The two most notable being Raven Rock Mountain Complex in Pennsylvania—assigned to the military and the Department of Defense—and Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center in Virginia, which is assigned to assorted civilian and military top brass and a very popular location for conspiracy theorists to claim as the headquarters of the Shadow Government.
  • The notorious Hanger 18 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio is often alleged to be a small Black Site where the wrecked flying saucer and alien corpses from the Roswell crash were taken to be studied, although this theory seems to be on the decline, with more recent retellings saying the wreckage was taken to Area 51 instead, despite the fact that Area 51 didn't exist in 1947.
  • In modern Western democracies, this trope is inextricably mixed up with the Open Secret. Britain's Ordnance Survey maps are rightly acclaimed as one of the best, most accurate and most detailed representations available anywhere. This leads to several rather contradictory situations brought about by the military origins of the OS - the maps were first created for military use, hence the name - and the fact they have evolved over a century of refinement and differing priorities. For instance, the location of Britain's special forces bases is officially a close-guarded secret, but anyone buying the relevant map section will see an Army barracks with virtually all its buildings faithfully represented and even named as Stirling Lines. Anyone looking on the maps for the Aldermaston nuclear research base, the GCHQ research station at Martlesham, Suffolk, or the American spy station at Menwith Hill, will, however, just see rolling empty countryside, with no apparent sign a large military installation is there. Despite the fact locals will happily point you to the radomes and buildings and the razor wire fences.
  • P.O. Box 1142 was a Black Site of the Secret Prison variety. Located in Fort Hunt, Virginia, it was the home to the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Service sections X and Y during World War II. MIS-X was concerned with aiding American POWs and providing them the means to escape. MIS-Y was the final destination for captured high-ranking German officials, including Operation Paperclip recruits. In a subversion of the example at the top of the page, no torture ever took place there, however prisoners' cells and certain facilities were bugged to gather intelligence outside of interrogation rooms.
  • In 2015 the Chicago Police Department came under fire for operating what's been termed a black site at Homan Square, a warehouse where criminal suspects would go missing for days and be interrogated without being booked or having access to a lawyer.


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