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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. Officials will either insist the facility is a mundane warehouse or office or they will deny that such a facility exists. The Black Site might be for bioweapons or chemical warfare research, a place for banned experiments, hiding alien remains and UFOs, or an off-the-books prison and interrogation center (this is illegal because if there's no record of a prisoner being held there, it's easy for them to "disappear").

While this trope frequently overlaps with Elaborate Underground Base, a Black Site might be concealed merely by being in a forbiddingly remote location. 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 East Asian story could take advantage too, using the Gobi Desert, Tibet, or Inner Mongolia. In Israel, you have the Negev to set up your top-secret government research projects in. 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 any further details about the facility — 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 — were among the world's most infamous Unsolved Mysteries for decades before finally being declassified. 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 or Shadow Government.

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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    Anime & Manga 
  • Usagi-chan de Cue!!: The Public Welfare Board has been quietly rounding up merged beings, and using them for hideous, Nazi-like experiments. One poor squirrel-girl is seen being stripped of clothing, then shocked repeatedly with a cattle prod. Once the Director learns that merged beings can influence people with telepathy, he orders the merged beings to be wiped out completely. The Director even delivers his most feared "admonisher" by helicopter to slay the last ones: Koshka and Mimika. Very likely, poor Benten Chou would've been next.

    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 (2006), 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 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): The isolated Monarch outpost which Alan Jonah's paramilitary take up residence in is an abandoned Black Site. It's both off-book to Monarch, and was originally built by the Russians in the 20s to study Chuchuna before Monarch took it over.
  • Child of the Storm:
    • The Raft, as per usual, acting as a superhuman prison.
    • Porton Down is a Real Life example, and every bit as creepy as its counterpart. It's where James Bond is resurrected as a Magitek LMD referred to as a 'techno-zombie' at the end of the first book. It's later revealed to be the home of the British Super-Soldier Project - exactly what happened there is unknown beyond the fact that it was extraordinarily unpleasant, enough that psychic impressions sunk into the walls.
    • Strangeways is an expansion on the real-life Strangeways, HMP Manchester, with its 'Dark Levels' qualifying as one, being the British answer to the Raft.
    • Tony Stark alludes to Area 52 a.k.a. 'Project Bluebook'.
    • Project Pegasus is - or was - a SHIELD-affiliated project in the Bayou near New Orlaens that studied weaponising magic in the Cold War. This eventually backfired spectacularly, and is occasionally darkly alluded to as "an extinction-level threat" that took the full power of Alan Scott to scourge and seal away. Unfinished Business finally reveals just what it is, the horrors still contained within (one relatively mild example? Magical cordyceps zombies), and what went wrong with it, when a former participant, Nimue, makes a play for the vast power within.
  • The facility in Project Chimera - The Attic Hypothesis is one of these.
  • Tarkin's Fist: Task Force Odysseus is based out of one of these in French Guiana.
  • 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. See The Price of Flight by A.A. Pessimal for more.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.

    Films — 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.
  • 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 the MUTO, the facility itself is not actually irradiated), but the hero manages to sneak in just in time to see the containment fail.
    • The sequel and other films and TV shows set in the same franchise reveal that Monarch has a slew of these worldwide, which are known as "Outposts" and given a numerical designation which is usually a Mythology Gag (Outpost 61, Outpost 56). Some Outposts are used as containment sites for Titans while others are more along the lines of underground emergency bunkers, sensor monitoring stations, supply depots, or simply placed in strategic locations, ensuring that Monarch has quick response time to any Titan-related fiascos that occur. The headquarters is an elaborate underwater base off the coast of Bermuda, known as either Outpost 54 or Castle Bravo.
    • The tech and sophistication level of each Outpost seems to vary: Outpost 56 is a literal Volcano Lair, Outposts 31 and 88 are Eerie Arctic Research Stations, and Outpost 47 is a single radiography technician and her equipment packed into an RV in the Utah desert.
  • 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.
  • Hangar 18. A crashed alien ship is stored at the eponymous U.S. government installation (see Real Life below).
  • The titular island from Island of Fire is a prison facility where convicts - most of them desperate men near the brink of suicidal, are stripped of their humanity and converted into mindless killers to be sent on suicide missions. Even those who succeeds in their assignments are eliminated via Car Bomb to Leave No Witnesses.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022): In The Stinger, a GUN agent tells Commander Walters that they, while erasing Robotnik from their database, came across a nearly-forgotten, 50-year-old file that contained coordinates to a secret government research facility. The scene then cuts to inside that lab, where the "project" awakens.
    Agent: It was a black site, sir. Someone worked very hard to keep this hidden.
    Commander: My God... Project Shadow.
  • 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.
  • Beneath the City Streets: The Secret Plans to Defend the State (1983) by Peter Laurie is a non-fiction book about how the UK government is planning to defend itself from war and revolution, and where it might be hiding its command and control centres.
  • 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.
  • In 24 (Japan), mercenaries raid a black site secretly managed by the National Police Agency Security Bureau used to detain Victor Hayashi, who was supposedly dead in the Madereba Federation.
  • The majority of the S.H.I.E.L.D. facilities in 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 Blacklist:
    • The Post Office 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 its 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:
    • In "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances", Limehouse Green Station in London, the place where the "bomb" fell, is sealed off by the army.
    • In "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.
  • One episode of Earth: Final Conflict dealt with a secret prison where dissidents who hadn't even been charged with crimes were placed into a fluid that causes sensory deprivation. Another showed an illegal internment camp where hybrids were rounded up and locked away.
  • In The Endgame, international arms dealer Elena Federova is being held at Fort Totten, an FBI black site in New York.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Jessica Jones (2015): In season 1, Will Simpson procures one in an old CDC facility that contains a hermetically sealed soundproof room for containing Kilgrave.
  • 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. Toward the end of the episode, the characters discuss better locations for hiding a Black Site, including the deserts of the American Southwest and Wales.
  • One such site appears in 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.
  • In Resident Alien, General McAllister has a secret prison site where she is holding a number of individuals she thinks might either be aliens or connected to aliens. Among these is Dr. Ethan Stone, the Patience town doctor that was kidnapped instead of Harry Vanderspeigle after Max Hawthorne said that the alien is the "town doctor."
  • Sherlock: The Old, Dark House belonging to the titular family in The Hound of the Baskervilles becomes one of these in the series' setting-updated version, "The Hounds of Baskerville", replacing the Victorian Gothic Horror trappings of the original story with those of the more contemporary Conspiracy Thriller and paranormal horror genres. Given that many British military installations were originally old manor houses, it's quite possible that Baskerville Hall literally became one of these.
  • Section 31 operates a number of secret facilities in Star Trek. One houses Control, their threat-assessment AI; another one, Daystrom Station, has many of their top-secret projects.
  • The plot of the UK miniseries Masterpiece 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.
  • Supernatural: Site 49, where Sam and Dean are locked up by the US government in "First Blood", officially doesn't exist.
  • 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.
  • UFO (1970) 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.
  • 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 
  • The queue of The Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal's Islands of Adventure is set inside a strictly off-limits military base, where Thunderbolt Ross is conducting experiments to create an army of Hulk soldiers.
  • Area 72 at Kings Island is themed after a top secret military base. However, due to the desperate need of volunteers to participate in the Orion Sequence, the base is open to the public.

    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 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: Dr. Doyle's lab contains a passage into an underground facility headed by The Consortium. The lab contains numerous phenomenons that were created by the Limen crater which the organization is covering up along with otherworldly dangers to find the means of destroying Limen.
  • 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, its remake Black Mesa, Half-Life: Opposing Force, and Half-Life: Blue Shift.
  • Hitman (2016): Ether Corporation built a secret laboratory responsible for developing a virus able to target people via their DNA.
  • 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, where the squeaky-clean ADVENT Administration conducts experiments it doesn’t want its human subjects to know about. Namely, mulching over a million people into concentrated genetic raw materials for the Avatar Project, with the aim of consuming the entire human race once the process was perfected and Avatars were ready to enter mass production.
  • 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 suspected abominations. Its location is a closely guarded secret known only to a handful of Templars, and it's not even listed in the world map (presumably, it's somewhere in Southern/Western Thedas outside of Tevinter's control). Though it's never actually seen in the game, the Aeonar is said to be a miserable place due to the Veil between reality and the world of dreams being almost nonexistent there, which attracts demons, and being sentenced there is considered A Fate Worse Than Death. As of Dragon Age: Inquisition, it's been abandoned and both inmates and wardens are missing.
  • The Shadow Temple from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The 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.
  • In Stellaris one potential starbase building is a "Deep Space Black Site" that does not officially exist in which intelligence operatives monitor the star system and carefully manipulate the media to your empire's benefit. In game effects it increases stability and governing ethics attraction on any colonized planets in the system where it's built.


    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.
  • Inside Job (2021): Cognito Inc. is a secret organization pulling all the world conspiracies to ensure the theories conceived throughout the ages remain true.
  • 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 
  • In the United States:
    • 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: it was a facility for the development and testing of new experimental military aircraft and related technologies. Most of those ended up declassified themselves after a decade or so. This has done nothing to stop rumors of sinister conspiracies and Imported Alien Phlebotinum, since conspiracy theorists rarely believe "the official story".
    • Area 51 implies there are other numbered "Areas" in the Nevada desert along these lines, and indeed there are. There are at least 28 confirmed areas as part of the Nevada Test Sitenote , which were initially allocated for nuclear testing. Then the government realized that they didn't need nearly that much space for that, and they repurposed most of them for things like bombing ranges and boring non-secret government warehouses for stuff like ration stockpiles, surplus service weapons, and archived paperwork. The only remotely intriguing one of these "Areas" is Area 19, which contains a high-voltage power line that ends in the middle of the desert, far from the nearest building, which people are convinced must be hiding something. That said, if the numbered areas end at 30, the existence of Area 51 implies that there are another twenty-odd super-secret Areas — about which we know so little that there aren't even any rumors or conspiracy theories about themnote .
    • Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico was founded during World War II as a secret, centralized facility to coordinate the scientific research of the Manhattan Project, the Allied effort to develop the first nuclear weapons. Over the course of the project, Los Alamos hosted thousands of employees, including many Nobel Prize-winning scientists. The location was a total secret, and all mail was routed through a post office box in Santa Fe. The lab had a long-term relationship with the University of California system, but due to the heavy classification, UC president Robert Sproul did not know the lab's purpose until after the bombs fell on Japan in 1945 (he thought it might have been working on a Death Ray, though). The only member of the UC administration who knew its true purpose — and indeed its exact physical location — was Secretary-Treasurer Robert Underhill, who was in charge of wartime contracts and liabilities.
    • In the 1950s, the U.S. government built several elaborate nuclear bunkers to house government bodies, the most notable of which are Raven Rock Mountain Complex in Pennsylvania (for the military and Department of Defense) and Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center in Virginia (for assorted civilian and military top brass). Mount Weather, being pretty close to Washington, D.C., has attracted its share of conspiracy theorists, who claim it's the headquarters of America's shadow government. Most of these bunkers were never actually classified (although the government did very little to announce their existence), but one that was was "Project Greek Island", located under the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia and assigned to members of Congress. That one was eventually exposed by the press, decommissioned in 1992, and now offers tours to visitors.
    • Hangar 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. The theory declined in favor of the popularity of Area 51, but Area 51 didn't exist in 1947.
    • P.O. Box 1142 was a black site of the "secret prison" variety. Located in Fort Hunt, Virginia, it was 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. While no torture ever took place there, the prisoners' cells and certain other facilities were bugged to gather intelligence.
    • In 2015, the Chicago Police Department came under fire for what has been described as a black site disguised as a warehouse where criminal suspects would go missing for days, during which time they were interrogated without being booked or having access to a lawyer.
  • In the United Kingdom:
    • Porton Down is an extremely secretivenote  biological and chemical weapons testing facility in the Cotswolds, run by the Ministry of Defence. Like Area 51, it has a reputation for dissecting alien corpses and human experimentation. Unlike Area 51, the human experimentation thing was real — the British government admits that there have been over 20,000 human volunteers involved in studies at Porton Down since it was founded in 1916, and they're still going. Among the things they tested there were Sarin, E. Coli, and Anthrax, and the place invented the VX nerve agent. The British government insists that they only do this to figure out how to cure and counter biological threats, and that "the Volunteer Programme has always been operated to the highest ethical standards of the day" (which isn't very reassuring at allnote ). No one wants anything to do with the place (house prices in villages downwind of the facility are notably lower), and the head of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee had this to say 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."
    • Many of Britain's top-secret military sites are Open Secrets, in part because if you put some building with a ton of radomes and satellite dishes in the countryside the locals will notice and gossip, and in part because British military publications — such as the Ordnance Survey maps, regarded as some of the best maps of the country — are available to the public if you know where to look and aren't very good at hiding their existence.
  • In Russia and the former Soviet Union:
    • The Metro-2 is a second secret layer of the Moscow Metro. It was designed back in the Soviet days to connect various important government buildings and safe sites, and its existence was a secret — it was designed to shuttle government officials to safety in the event of an attack. It was built deep underground to shelter it from a potential nuclear attack. Even today, the Russian authorities vehemently deny its existence, but several spelunkers claim to have seen it, the CIA has detailed maps of it, and a number of government officials have spoken of it off the record (mostly describing it as being in disrepair).
    • Mount Yamantau is the Russian equivalent of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, as it reportedly contains a secret and extensive bunker complex for the Russian government and armed forces. Russian authorities have denied this, but their explanation as to what it's "really" for hasn't been consistent — at various times it's been a mine, a food storage area, an old nuclear bunker, and a repository for Russian treasures. When the Americans came clean about Cheyenne Mountain in 1997 and gave a tour of the place to visiting Russian diplomats, they expressed their disgust at the Russians' continued obstructionism regarding Mount Yamantau.
    • Kasputin Yar is located in Astrakhan Oblast, not far from Volgograd. It's officially a site for developing, testing, and launching rockets. It's also the site of several Soviet-era UFO sightings, which lends it the nickname "Russia's Roswell".
  • In China:
    • The Ministry of State Security (MSS) manages Black Jails, isolated facilities where people targeted for imprisonment such as dissidents, reporters and other undesirables are locked up.


Video Example(s):


Welcome to Fort Totten

Elena Federova, leader of the Belarusian mafiya group Skazka o Myortvoy Tsarevne, is sent to a FBI black site in Fort Totten. The site is guarded by FBI Hostage Rescue Team operators to ensure the facility's security.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / BlackSite

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