is a horror podcast about Dan Powell, an archivist who has just started a new job reviewing and cataloging recordings made by the Housing Historical Committee of New York State. Through a series of mysterious interviews carried out by Melody Pendras, dark secrets are revealed about the building and beyond. It began on April 5th, 2016.
Archive 81 contains examples of:
- Affably Evil: Mr. Davenport. His folksy demeanor might be easy to see through, but he's still a downright teddy bear compared to the other managers.
- And Now for Someone Completely Different: After focusing on Dan for two seasons, the show's third season shifts the focus to newcomers Nicholas and Christine, who are attempting to complete a complex arcane ritual created by their late father. Dan appears in brief cameos to offer them assistance.
- Apocalyptic Log: For reasons that are difficult to explain briefly, many entities in the setting thrive, grow stronger, and in some cases can only exist if they are being recorded somehow. This leads to countless examples of hapless victims inadvertently recording their own demise, or worse. The series is actually named for a cache of such recordings held by a corporation seeking to harness the power of the beings they record.
- Artifact Title: Dan escapes from the Archive 81 building at the end of season 1 and never returns. The title's relevance to the plot continues in the forms of the tapes themselves, which survive.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Season 1 and 2 have both ended with the primary antagonist getting what he wants. Samuel is able to complete his apotheosis thanks to Dan, and the Curator gets to keep Lou, who can never return home. Finally averted in Season 3 where the season's Big Bad is soundly defeated.
- Big Bad Ensemble: The story is set in a world of incredibly powerful organizations and entities all vying against one another for even more power. LMG, the Cult, and the Curator are three who directly menace the protagonists.
- Big Good: From the end of season 2 onward Melody herself fills this role, providing answers and assistance to the various protagonists as well as leading a community of survivors in the City.
- Blue-and-Orange Morality: Seems to be the norm for inhabitants of the City, who are happy to help you as long as you let them steal the color from your hair or the memories of your tenth birthday (and other things that are far, far worse.) Of course, the Leviathans take this to even further extremes.
- The Bus Came Back:
- Lou, who seems doomed never to be seen again at the end of season 2, only to return for a substantial episode in season 3.
- Patricia from The Golden Age resurfaces decades later, likewise having a substantial role in the events of season 3.
- FaceHeel Turn: Marc, a.k.a. Dromen who starts out sincerely wanting to help Dan, and over several years of using reprehensible means to do so, eventually becomes a high-ranking member of the Cult, albeit one who is reluctant to use lethal force.
- Genius Loci: Frighteningly common in the setting. Notable ones include Visser: an Eldritch Abomination hiding in the form of a New York tenement building, and Curator: a living, evil museum.
- Genre Shift: Season 1 is a supernatural mystery with elements of cosmic horror. Season 2 keeps the cosmic horror, but has more of a straight-up science fiction feel. Season 3 keeps elements of both while showing more of the urban fantasy side of the setting, with various low-level magicians skulking about the real world while trying to gain more power and trafficking in supernatural substances and services.
- Karma Houdini: Villains rarely suffer for their crimes, which is appropriate given that most of them are powerful mages, massive mega-corporations, and Eldritch Abominations. Indeed, the only major villain to meet a satisfying onscreen death so far has been Davenport.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: By listening to the tapes and obeying Davenport, Dan enables Samuel to find the location of the archive.
- Old Media Are Evil: For reasons that no one really understands, the various horrors of the setting need some kind of sound recording in order to properly manifest in this world and cassette tapes seem to be their favorite method. It is flat out stated at one point that this is because evil loves older things.
- Psycho for Hire: Alistair: a mercenary sorcerer whose signature move is trapping people in inescapable rooms until they die.
- Sadistic Choice: Payphone will give you any kind of help you require, but at the cost of one of these. Typically it involves either going through a Life-or-Limb Decision or instead causing something terrible to happen to another person.
- Sir Swears Alot: Cynthia: an LMG executive who only speaks in profanity-laden streams of abuse.
- Unperson: The fate of Jesse after he gets caught spying on Samuel and the Cult.
- Was Once a Man: Dan, Rat, Suit, Samuel, Static Man, and Dromen are all just a few examples of humans in the series who are horrifically transformed into monstrosities through supernatural means.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: Christine goes on a dream quest to find an arcane component for the ritual. She is only asleep for five minutes, but she spends six years inside the dream world.