Follow TV Tropes


Secret Government Warehouse

Go To
Ark of the Covenant? Two aisles down on the left, right between the Roswell ship and Jimmy Hoffa.

"If a radio landed in the hands of Thomas Jefferson, do you know what Jefferson would do? He would just lock it up, until he figured out it wasn't going to kill him. That's exactly what we do here. We take the unexplained... and we safely tuck it away."
Artie Nielsen, Warehouse 13

A Secret Government Warehouse is where a nation keeps various items whose existence should be kept secret from the general populace. Usually run by an Artifact Collection Agency.

In fiction, the Secret Government Warehouse is a plot device used for conveniently disposing of story elements that have fulfilled their purpose in a story, but that would cause consistency or continuity problems for subsequent (or previous) stories in the same fictional setting were they to remain. In many cases, the story items disposed of are of such a nature that they would make it difficult to set up the necessary tensions and conflicts for other stories in the fictional setting, as they would make such tensions and conflicts simple to resolve. A secondary purpose of the Secret Government Warehouse plot device is to satirize the ineptitude of governments, the premise being that if a government found itself in possession of an extraordinary object or person, it would simply catalog it and lose it in a vast filing system.

Occasionally, a Secret Government Warehouse can serve as the main setting for a story. In this case, the warehouse has a rather different purpose in the story (even though its in-universe purpose is the same), that of providing a unique setting with a steady influx of phlebotinum and other weirdness.

Some conspiracy theorists believe that Secret Government Warehouses exist in Real Life, containing suppressed inventions, archaeological and historical evidence that contradicts mainstream theory, and objects that have famously been lost.

A sub-trope of Black Site and Extranormal Institute. Not to be confused with Abandoned Warehouse, even though the two can overlap.

Compare with:

Contrast with:

  • Trophy Room: A small, personal collection of mundane items.
    • Superhero Trophy Shelf: A small, personal collection of not-necessarily-mundane items that is kept by a superhero.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Planetary: Both the Four and members of Planetary maintain large collections of the world's secrets, including mementos from dead superheroes and alien artifacts. As Mr. Snow observes when visiting a parallel earth "They killed an entire world so that they had somewhere to store their weapons."

    Fan Works 
  • Gaz Dreams of Genie: The Swollen Eyeball Network is revealed to have an underground facility where they store away dangerous artifacts. At the end of the story, it's where they stick the genie lamp that Gaz has been trapped in.
  • Nobledark Imperium: Ganymede as a wholes serves as this for the Imperium; whenever the Inquisition finds something that's too dangerous to leave alone but which cannot be destroyed and/or might come in handy someday, which happens often, it gets stashed on Ganymede behind layers of security. Among other things, the facilities there contain ancient Old One artifacts, two copies of a nanotech terror weapon, an imprisoned Daemon Prince, a bioengineered super-assassin, a set of lockpicks capable of opening literally anything, and a human preserved in amber several millions of years old. The eldar think that the whole thing is a huge security risk and they and the Inquisition tend to get into heated arguments over it whenever something breaks out or when some object or inmate becomes useful.
  • "The Curse of Jumanji" sees Mildred Hubble and Ethel Hallow (The Worst Witch) spend thirty years trapped in Jumanji (Jumanji). Once they escape (returned to the moment they entered the game), Ethel suggests that they contact the Great Wizard so that he can take the game to the Morgana Vaults, a magical research facility created by Merlin and Morgana themselves with the goal of keeping dangerous magical artefacts or knowledge contained away from the general public.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Averted in Discworld, in which Lord Vetinari prefers inconvenient things to be lost in a welter of competing Guilds and other agencies, ideally in plain sight where everybody can see them, and nobody notices. This is helped by the several-thousand years old history of the city of Ankh-Morpork having accumulated so many potentially significant artifacts that Gormenghast would look bare by comparison. This works extremely well until somebody notices, for instance, the unique-but-impractical projectile weapon held as a curiosity in the Assassins' Guild Museum.
  • In The Divine Cities, the so-called Unmentionable Warehouses contain all the artifacts and miraculous items the Saypuri were able to get their hands on after they conquered the Continent and outlawed any mention of the Divinities or their Miracles. Nobody but the highest authorities in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are even allowed to know of the existence of the warehouses, and even less people are allowed to enter them, meaning the various items have been collecting dust for over seven decades. The warehouse outside of Bulikov masquerades as an unremarkable warehouse between ones that store supplies for the Saypuri military, but becomes vital to the story as Dr. Efrem Pangyui's legal access to it brings the Restorationist's on his case, who want access to its stored Miracles for their own means.
  • In The Dreamside Road, the massive transports that move the Solar Saver crawlers were taken from these after destabilization. This same operation enabled Brett Nalrik and his crew to collect their Powered Armor.
  • Subverted in The Laundry Files novel The Rhesus Chart when Bob Howard visits such a warehouse, but it's used to store mundane (yet still secret) items like government warning posters stockpiled for an invasion by Eldritch Abominations from Another Dimension. Then it turns out a vampire is using this secret location to hide its activities from both the public and the Laundry.
  • Not run by a government, which doesn't seem to exist in the Nightside, but the Collector's vast collection of, well, everything rare and legendary meets most criteria for this trope. Definitely secret, because he's a selfish Jerkass who's paranoid about people stealing what he's stolen.
    • Also, reference is made to a "House of Blue Lights" beneath the Pentagon, from which the Unholy Grail was stolen. Possibly a subversion, as it's unclear whether this facility houses other items or just the one.
  • The Folly from the Rivers of London series is, aside from a specialist police facility, the UK's covert repository for books, materials and artifacts pertaining to Newtonian magic or magic-related crimes and disturbances. The Black Library hidden underneath it is an example within an example, being a highly-restricted secure vault for captured Nazi Black Magic lore.
  • Scott Westerfield's book Specials includes one of these. The two main characters sneak in to steal a specific tool, and end up finding vast shelves of forgotten "Rusty" (present-day) technology and artifacts as well as extremely dangerous weapons of more modern make. The example is both subverted and played straight: the government IS hiding these tools from the general populace, because the cities are all supposed to be at peace and war is unheard of, and subverted because the two main characters are themselves special government agents (and arguably living weapons) that the general populace is unaware of.
  • Tale of the Troika by Strugatsky Brothers takes place in one, very poorly organized and overrun by Obstructive Bureaucrats.
  • Laszlo Hadron and the Wargod's Tomb: An old docking facility from the Imperial Wars on the remote planet Sel'Akis has since been converted into one of these by the Department of Operations, keeping secure certain things the Solar Commonwealth would prefer to keep secret.
  • In the Star Wars Legends series The Thrawn Trilogy, the Emperor is revealed to have had such a storehouse, which contained (among other things) plans for a starship cloaking device and an immense and fully functional cloning facility. In fact, its existence was so secret that after his death, it was five years before one of his most trusted officers (one of very few beings who was even aware of it) was able to piece together the details of its exact location. However, even though Grand Admiral Thrawn didn’t know exactly where the facility was, he did know what specific artifacts he expected to find there, as well as exactly how they would factor into his overall strategy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Criminal Minds: The episode "Amplification", about a lone anthrax terrorist, ends with his pathogen getting locked in a U.S. military vault. Dozens of similar vaults are seen, each presumably housing samples of a different biological weapon that the public doesn't know about.
  • Heroes: In the second season, the Vault is where the Company keeps various important items including a human brain, a figurine of the Trojan Horse, a gold key, a gray pyramid model, a kris similar to that carried by St. Joan, a strain 138 of the Shanti virus, and three playing cards (the Queen of Diamonds, the Queen of Spades, and the Queen of Hearts).
  • Lexx: The US government has a secret warehouse where dangerous individuals — like the child who spotted a UFO with his telescope — are clamped to the middle of a wall several stories high.
    Child: Don't worry. After a few weeks, you get used to it.
  • The Toronto city records room in Murdoch Mysteries is a visual Shout-Out to the Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse. Getting re-assigned to there is Chief Constable Davis' eventual comeuppance.
  • One episode of NCIS centered around the team being assigned to figure out how had broken into one containing cheese. There was nothing secret about the cheese — the real secret was the fact that the government, through pork barrel and/or kickback related subsidies to the dairy industry, had purchased enough surplus cheese to fill a top-secret bunker in the first place. It eventually turned out that the criminals had broken into the wrong classified storage bunker — there was another one nearby with a similar serial number that held guns — and then the case shifted to figuring out who had cracked the encryption on the access panels so they could enter the bunker in the first place.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures had UNIT's "Black Archives".
  • Star Trek: Picard: In "The Bounty", Riker, Worf, and Raffi infiltrate the Daystrom Station's vaults, where Section 31 is storing the likes of the Genesis Device, a thalaron generator, and Capt. James T. Kirk's body. While sneaking through, they trigger the station's AI, taking the form of the holographic Professor Moriarty from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes "Elementary, Dear Data" and "Ship In A Bottle", who can only be deactivated by a musical lock, which Riker realizes is "Pop Goes The Weasel", leading to them discovering another Soong-type android, M-5-10, that contains not only Data's consciousness, but also Lore and the previous Soong-type androids, too.
  • Stargate SG-1: In "Point of View", one is present at Area 51. Several rows of shelves piled high with artifacts and technology from off-world, many of which were seen in previous episodes. It looks suspiciously like the show's props department.
  • Warehouse 13, not to be confused with the GURPS sourcebook.
    • The Warehouses actually date back thousands of years, usually located in one of the most powerful nations at the time before being moved (partly to protect the Warehouse, partly to enable the collection of artifacts). Warehouse 1 was built by Alexander the Great and was his personal collection. After his death, the artifacts were moved to Egypt into the newly-built Warehouse 2, where the Regents (ruling body of the Warehouse) were established. The subsequent Warehouses were located, in order, in the Western Roman Empire, the Hunnic Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Khmer Empire, the Mongol Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Mughal Empire, the Russian Empire, the British Empire, and finally the United States.
    • Additionally, the Bronze Sector within the Warehouse stores dangerous people, many of them would-be Hitlers.
    • Played with in an episode where the CEO of a large pharmaceutical company found out about the Warehouse and pulled strings with a senator to get access to it. The CEO's Number Two betrays him after finding out the truth about the artifacts and, instead, points him towards a tiny room with a few shelves of random junk, grandiosely announced as Storage Space 6.
    • The cover story that the current Warehouse uses is that it's actually a more prosaic version of the truth; specifically, that it's where the IRS stores old tax forms.
  • War of the Worlds (1988): In the first episode, a triad of war machines are collected from a Government Warehouse ("Hangar 15") where they had been stored since an invasion in 1953, thus linking the television series to the 1953 film The War of the Worlds.
  • The X-Files is replete with characters and objects with unusual properties and powers that would complicate the fictional setting, or make it too simple for characters to achieve the goals that they quest for, and the Secret Government Warehouse trope is heavily used to explain the absence of the characters and objects, and to make the goals difficult to achieve. The plot device is in fact a central element of the series.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Delta Green:
    • The Green Boxes used by Delta Green are this they can range from self-storage, warehouses, rental lockers to safe houses.
    • Delta Green's rival, Majestic-12, has a lot of those, dedicated to researching Grey technology. They are usually within larger U.S Military, CIA, NSA, NRO and March Industries facilities. One of their facilities is located in Area 51 (Although is not Area 51 itself).
  • GURPS had the sourcebook "Warehouse 23", meant to be a repository for anything the GM can think to weave a conspiracy plot around. From biblical and mythological artifacts to alien weapons and animals.
  • Shadowrun: The Atlantean Foundation has a treasure trove of ancient magical artifacts obtained from archeological digs all over the world. It keeps them in various well-guarded sites in North America and Europe.
  • Warhammer Fantasy: The dungeons of the Light College, the headquarters of the wizards of the Light Order in the Empire's capital city, are used to store and contain arcane artifacts obtained by Imperial forces. These include both arcane treasures of immediate or potential use to the Empire or the wizards in particular, stored to keep them safe and away from unwelcome eyes, and many malign objects and monstrous beings imprisoned to keep them from working their designs upon the world.
  • The World of Darkness:
    • Mage: The Awakening: The Mysterium maintain several athenea all over the world, which are a version of this combined with Magical Library. They contain all sorts of manner of strange artifacts, with anything ranging from simple magical tools for uncovering more knowledge to objects of tremendous power and hazard.
    • Hunter: The Vigil: Although not strictly a government warehouse, the Aegis Kai Doru are described as having dozens or more of these around the world, including, among other things, the still-talking and prophesizing head of John the Baptist.

    Video Games 
  • In UFO Aftermath, two plot missions involve going to such warehouses. Unfortunately, it is only possible to get info on government relationships with aliens there.
  • One of the (best) possible endings in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines has an elder vampire decide to store the sarcophagus in one of vampire society's secret warehouses rather than find out whether it really does hold an apocalyptically powerful antediluvian.
    Strauss: I told you before that there are some powers in this world that are best left undisturbed.
  • In Dungeons of Dredmor, there's a spell in the Archaeology skill branch that sends magical artifacts here, in return for a large amount of XP.
  • The FEMA facility from Deus Ex: Human Revolution qualifies.
    • Palisade Bank from Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a Secret Corporate Warehouse, thanks to Pragues pro corporate laws they can actually pull Swiss Bank Account style tricks and the various corporations use it to store information and physical objects related to their schemes without fear of media or government scrutiny.
  • In Mass Effect, while everyone knows about the existence of the Citadel Archives, only those with extremely high levels of clearance are allowed access are permitted to enter the facility, such as Spectres.
  • MS Saga: A New Dawn has the various Moonbases as well as Eisengrad's underground fortress all of them having some of the best gear in the game.
  • Parodied in Kingdom of Loathing. The endgame of the Actually Ed the Undying challenge path have you raiding the Council of Loathing's secret warehouse for the Holy MacGuffin, and finding a bunch of other MacGuffins and plot coupons in the process, including the Ark of the Covenant, a platinum casino chip, and Marvin Acme's will.

  • Girl Genius: The Corbettites have several vaults that contain various dangerous Sparky creations that are entrusted to them because everyone in Europa knows that they can be trusted to never try to use them.
  • The Paranormal Things That Are Of Little Use To Anyone Storage Facility from El Goonish Shive is a decoy secret government warehouse. It's a collection of useless and inert magic items designed to look painfully underfunded and under-secured. It serves to distract would-be thieves from another facility containing actually useful artifacts, and it also serves as a trap for said would-be thieves. The security systems don't even kick in until you try to remove an artifact from the premises.
  • The Repository of Dangerous Things had the titular repository, wherein most of the comic took place.
  • An early The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! installment features one of these where a bomb of the same type that killed the dinosaurs is stored. It also houses the Lost Ark, Richard Nixon's missing 20 minutes of tape, magic bullets, Checkers' favorite soup bones, and... some Bath parasites, of all things.

    Web Original 
  • Maintaining secret warehouses is pretty much the entire job of the SCP Foundation, they have warehouses for storing dangerous items that are usually safe if no one touches them, and they also have prisons for dangerous monsters and humans with powers, although some of the items that look like inanimate objects are actually sentient and are trying to escape. The warehouses containing the most dangerous items each have a nuclear warhead which is set to go off if too many of them escape at once. For some of the items, this will only slow them down. Also, the Foundation operates outside of any government jurisdiction, and could probably instantly take over the world if they weren't so very busy constantly trying to prevent The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Secret Contents of a Certain Government Warehouse was originally created by Stirling Westrup and many Usenet contributors around 1990. It lists a large number of magical, high tech and just plain weird items that are stored in a secret government facility. Almost all of them are based on devices from popular books, TV shows, and movies. Version 0.1, Version 0.2 (updated by Timothy Toner in 1992) and Version 0.3 (updated by Uncle Bear in 1999).

    Western Animation 
  • Æon Flux begins in one of these.
  • Family Guy shows one of these in the episodes "Peter's Got Woods", and "Back To The Woods". Both of them end with James Woods being trapped in a crate and placed among many identical ones, a shout out to the Indiana Jones example above.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: The Daystrom Institute apparently has one of these for self-aware megalomaniacal computer storage.

    Real Life 
  • The Vatican Secret Archives and the storage areas of the Smithsonian Institution are claimed to be real Government Warehouses.
  • Indeed, almost any fairly large institution (ranging from everything from the above-mentioned Smithsonian all the way down to the Baseball Hall of Fame's Museum and then some) will have far more stuff out-of-sight (either being restored, studied, or just plain old stored away) than it has on display. The Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum alone had such a problem that they built an Annex Museum and so much interesting stuff is still behind closed doors that they are now working to build a whole new wing onto that Annex which will allow people to actually look at the stuff that is being restored.
  • Shane McMahon once let slip in an interview that the WWE never throws anything away; somewhere in Stamford, Connecticut is a warehouse filled with old stages, props, and other assorted gimmicks. One of the reasons behind this is the desire to construct a museum/hall of fame at some point.
  • It's notable that "secret" in real life does not necessarily mean "Earth-shattering revelations here". If you dug into the CIA's secret files and warehouses, most things you would see would only really make sense to other people who work in intelligence and not the common man, who would typically scratch his head at some things. For instance, you may find a report on the eating habits of a foreign leader — while it isn't a secret that everyone has different eating habits, the reason it's secret is that someone did work to find that info (probably undercover), and it's handy info to have should they ever want/need to covertly poison said foreign leader (or if they want to decide if it would be safer and cheaper to let said leader gorge himself to death instead).
  • Applied to data, this would make the USA's Utah Data Center one of the biggest Secret Government Warehouse out there. It's used to store data that pass through nodes (satellites, etc) compromised by one or more secret intelligence agencies of USA. It's such a massive net that it basically knows everything about you that can be digitally recorded (including your activities in This Very Wiki). Now you too can be covertly poisoned by secret agents, an honor that used to be restricted to troublesome foreign leaders.
  • An honorable mention goes to the US Office of Personnel Management storage facility at Boyers, PA. It is located in an abandoned mine 230 feet below ground, and in there 600 people process and store every federal employee retirement file, by hand. There have been multiple attempts and hundreds of million dollars spent trying to digitize, but decades of laws working at sometimes contradictory purposes mean that no computer program can sort out the human logic.
  • The dangers of having enormous amounts of material no one remembers anymore came to the fore as part of a series of security lapses involving the CDC that occurred or came to light in 2014, including a cleanup job that uncovered numerous unsecured samples of deadly pathogens like smallpox, just sitting on shelves since as long ago as 1946.
  • In the United Kingdom, there is the "Secret Nuclear Bunker" in Essex, which was an emergency government base in the case of a nuclear threat, now open as a museum.


Video Example(s):


"Top Men"

The conclusion of Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most famous uses of this plot device: the ending of the film is a shot of The Ark of the Covenant, in a crate, being filed in a massive warehouse. Filled with identical crates.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / SecretGovernmentWarehouse

Media sources: