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The Magnus Archives is a horror podcast written and performed by Jonathan Sims (of The Mechanisms fame) with a supporting cast and occasional guests. It began in 2016, and concluded in 2021.

Jonathan Sims is the newly appointed archivist of the Magnus Institute, an academic organisation in London dedicated to research into the paranormal. Unfortunately his predecessor Gertrude Robinson left the archive in a complete mess. Countless statements from people who have come to the Institute over the years to report alleged supernatural experiences lie in hopeless disorder. It’s up to Jon to record them properly, and follow up any interesting ones with the help of his assistants, Tim, Sasha, and Martin. As he works through the statements, Jon discovers that some of them suggest disturbing connections with each other – and with the Institute itself.

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At first most episodes take the form of Jon reading and recording a statement from the archive, or occasionally recording someone else giving a new statement; a cast of regular supporting characters builds up as the story develops. Once the statement is over Jon adds some comments of his own, noting any further investigation his assistants have been able to do, how much of the statement he believes and any other implications it may have. At first each episode seems self-contained, but story arcs develop as the series goes on, and over time monologue more often gives way to full-cast drama or a mixture of the two.

The series is produced by Rusty Quill and can be found on their website. It also has a wiki and a reddit.

See also Rusty Quill Gaming and Stellar Firma, both podcasts made by Rusty Quill, as well as The Storage Papers and Old Gods of Appalachia, podcasts on the wider Rusty Quill Network.

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Note: Only spoilers for Seasons 3, 4, and 5 are marked. Proceed at your own risk.


The Magnus Archives contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Martin was originally meant to become a Web avatar and face off against Jon in the final episode. Hints for this were set up from very early on, but they ended up becoming Fauxshadowing after the story's direction changed.
  • Accidental Murder: In "Vampire Killer", the statement-giver claims to have killed several 'people' who were certainly vampires, but also two people he's not sure about and one who definitely wasn't (but that one was a violent criminal, so he doesn't lose much sleep over it).
  • Adventures in Comaland: Episode 120, the finale of season 3. After Jon falls into a coma-like state from the explosion, Elias uses his Mind Reading to paint us a picture of what's going on in their head: He communes with The Eye and stalks the nightmares of the people who he's personally collected statements from. It is also revealed that this happens every time Jon sleeps, and the only difference is that they are now unable to wake up, so they are trapped in nightmares indefinitely.
  • The Ageless:
    • Avatars of the Dread Powers usually obtain this status as a result of their Immortality, though some appear to still age to some degree.
    • The second stage of existence for those who gamble with Death and win, after encountering a successor.
  • Agent Scully: In Season 1, Jon knows that the supernatural exists but believes very few alleged cases are genuine. He says in the very first episode that most files are likely to end up in the archive's "Discredited" section and is quick to dismiss those who give the statements as deluded, hallucinating, lying or simply mistaken unless there is strong corroboration (though any mention of the name Jurgen Leitner or Jane Prentiss dispels his skepticism). Eventually he reveals that he actually believes far more than he has been letting on, and has been feigning skepticism in his recordings because he believes someone or something is listening in, and fears that something terrible will happen if he admits to all of it. Unsettlingly, he may have been completely right. When Helen Richardson comes in, he admits he believes her... and then "Michael" consumes her within minutes of him admitting to this.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Sure, the Magnus Institute works to stop the potentially world-ending rituals of eldritch fear gods and their followers... but only because the Institute follows its own eldritch fear god and wants to get its own world-ending ritual completed before anyone else's. The same could also be said of Gertrude Robinson, who dedicated her life to foiling the Powers and their rituals, but who pretty much no one would describe as a "good person" by the end of it.
  • All First-Person Narrators Write Like Novelists: Despite the statements being given by people from all sorts of professions and social class, all of them sound quite extensive and expressive. It's ultimately revealed that part of the Archivist's powers is giving people the ability to express themselves in such a way, since whenever anyone besides Jon tries to take a live statement, the results are far less impressive.
  • All for Nothing: All of Gertrude's sacrifices to stop the rituals? Sacrificing innocents, bombing buildings, damning her assistant to potentially eternal torment? Until Jonah Magnus, everyone misunderstood the rituals. It's impossible to summon a single entity, and none of those rituals could have ever succeeded. All those sacrifices? They changed nothing.
  • Alternate Universe:
    • The statement giver from "Cracked Foundation" apparently came from an alternate universe - in her original world, the buildings were different, she had friends that don't know her in this one, and the Institute didn't even exist.
    • Several details in the plot point to the entire setting being in a slightly alternate universe. For instance, Robert Smirke (a fairly major Posthumous Character and real-life architect) died in April 1867 in the real world; he dies writing a letter to Jonah Magnus mid-February.
    • In the final season, it's revealed that the characters have the option of restoring their universe to normal by opening a portal into another universe and letting the Fears into it.
  • Ambiguously Human:
    • Sasha, on meeting "Michael", immediately perceives the latter as non-human even though "it" looks human. This impression is reinforced so when they shake hands - its hand is described as heavy, like a wet leather bag full of heavy, sharp stones.
    • The narrator describes the strange hunter in "First Hunt" as looking human except that "everything about him was sharper" and he has a smile with "far too many teeth to it".
    • This is the ultimate fate of humans who are marked to become avatars, priests, and/or servants of the great powers. When you feed a god, it feeds you. In episode 92, Elias confirms that this includes him and Jon, both of whom are creatures serving The Beholding. As of season 4, Jon is much less human, recovering from a six-month coma completely by recording a statement.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Some episodes leave it ambiguous which Fear is responsible for the statement. One example is "Zombie", which could involve the Stranger, the Lonely, or the Spiral. Another example would be Binary, which didn't seem to fit with any of the various Powers for a long time.
  • Amicable Exes: Georgie Barker and Jon. She seems to be his closest friend.
  • Amnesia Missed a Spot: The "Not-Them" are creatures who murder people and seemingly rewrite reality to take their place, even though once they are finished (though they look human) they don't resemble the person they replaced in any way. In every story featuring them, there is always a single person who knows they are not the real person (so far, someone who didn't know the person very well or was estranged from them). However, since said person is then taunted and tormented by the Not-Them, it's implied that they miss said people on purpose.
  • An Aesop: Generally avoided by the creators, who prefer the moral of any given story or arc be open to interpretation. That said, The Reveal of episode 160 puts a pretty definitively harsh light on Gertrude's actions, as confirmed by the Season 4 Q&A. Because there was never any danger of a single power's ritual succeeding, every atrocity she committed in the name of stopping them was for nothing. In short, you can't justify the means with the ends, because you never really know the ends.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • This is the fate of many victims of the End. It is the fear of death; but it can also deny death to people for whom that is even more terrifying. The statements provide several examples of individuals who try to kill themselves yet cannot die; they are always sobbing as they do so. In one example, the victim in question has been alive since the time of ancient Egypt.
    • All the Dread Powers are capable of this if they are able to trap someone within their purest form. Because one of the Powers is Death itself and the Powers can block other Powers, you cannot die within the domain of another Power.
      "And so we took the casket, a hungry thing of the earth, a crushing, choking tomb that will not let you die because it is too much what it is for death to find you there, within its mocking shape, buried alive."
    • In episode 145, we find that Gertrude Robinson did something to Eugene Vanderstock, a Lightless Flame cultist. Something that seems to horrify even Arthur Nolan, leader of Vanderstock's cult. We only find out by the end: As Desolation cultists are made of wax, Gertrude somehow managed to fill his wax body with shards of sawdust, stole his head, and hid it somewhere. And worst of all, Vanderstock is still alive and desperately wants to scream. Damn.
    • In season 5, this happens to everyone on earth with the exception of Jonah Magnus, Jon and Martin, as the Entities fully manifest in our reality and trap humanity in waking nightmares from which death is no escape. We see people dying and coming back on a constant battlefield, having to tear off and wear each other's faces on an endless carousel, trapped in a constantly burning building and being forced to tunnel through the ground like worms. Although there is some hope: The End, as the fear of death, has to really, actually kill people. As no new humans are being born, eventually it will kill everyone. So there's that, at least.
  • And This Is for...: During Jon's final beatdown of Big Bad Jonah Magnus, he punctuates each of his blows by naming each of the Big Bad's victims: Sasha, Tim, Gertrude, "and all the others."
  • Anti-Magic:
    • One of the Artifacts of Doom traded by Mikaele Salesa, a camera. It hides its owner from the Dread Powers, protecting them from supernatural influence. In season 5, it's revealed this extends to a "bubble" of anti-magic that allows Salesa's country house to remain normal in the midst of the apocalypse. This also creates a blind spot in Jon's omniscience, which Annabelle exploits to lure him to Hill Top Road. Unfortunately, Annabelle destroys it before the heroes can use it for anything else.
    • Robert Smirke's architecture is supposedly capable of balancing and containing the Powers safely, though events cast some doubts on its efficacy. The tunnels underneath the Institute, at least, empirically block the influence of the Powers, interfering with the Eye's omniscience and remaining untouched by the apocalypse in season 5.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Jon, in Season One, though this is revealed to generally be an act. But really, the entire reputation of the Magnus Institute as some dusty building full of crackpots that goes unrespected among academics: reading a statement is apparently physically taxing, the Institute Head makes a habit of mind-raping hopeful interviewees, there's a storage chamber full of openly dangerous and flatly-unexplainable supernatural objects, the whole building is built on top of a labyrinth of living tunnels, and the only people who ever stop working there either died or gouged out their eyes. All it takes is a close look, and even the receptionist could tell you something is up. Of course, that's exactly it—most people don't look closely.
  • Archive Panic: In-universe – the late archivist Gertrude Robinson left the files in an absolute mess, which Jon now has to put in order. She held her job for over fifty years. He remarks that it’s going to take him a very long time.invoked
  • Arc Villain: The first three seasons are structured this way, with one Avatar menacing the heroes for an entire season then being destroyed by the season's end - Jane Prentiss in season 1, Not!Sasha in season 2, and Nikola Orsinov in season 3. Season 4 strays from this trope into a format closer to Monster of the Week, with the protagonists fighting multiple avatars over the course of the season (though Peter Lukas is the closest thing to a season-long villain) and Jonah Magnus being revealed as the Big Bad of the entire series at the season's end.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Jared Hopworth from "The Bone Turner's Tale" is a hoodlum who has been conducting a campaign of harassment and assault on his former childhood friend Sebastian Adekoya for the "crime" of having gone to college, so it's hard to feel too sorry for him when the titular Deadly Book brainwashes him and turns him into a Humanoid Abomination.
    • Lee Rentoul from "Piecemeal" is an unpleasant, violent criminal, which makes his horrific fate a little easier to swallow.
  • A Wizard Did It: The Hand Wave for why All First-Person Narrators Write Like Novelists? The Eye does it.
    Jonny (in the S3 Q&A): "Oh, does the magic power also make them really eloquent storytellers?" Yes. Yes it does.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Jon gets these in later seasons. Having a Compelling Voice that forces people to tell the truth sounds cool... until you realize it also comes with the ability to rip information out of people's heads via Mind Rape, the ability to give people recurrent nightmares of their trauma and then watch their dreams, and a Horror Hunger for other people's fear. Jon tries to use these powers for good, although he begins to stray into Anti-Hero territory during season 4.
  • Bait-and-Switch: As the podcast goes on, listeners will begin to notice patterns to the supernatural threats. Sometimes an episode will set itself up to be about one kind of monster, and then be about an entirely different kind of monster instead—for example, "Zombie," episode 122, is not about the undead but about a woman convinced she's surrounded by constructs pretending to be real people.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy:
    • Wilfred Owen encountered the Slaughter in WWI and it apparently provided him the inspiration for his war poems.
    • Robert Smirke was apparently heavily involved with the supernatural and his buildings are noted as reacting to it in unique ways. He also catalogued all of the Powers.
    • Joseph Grimaldi and Wolfgang von Kempelen were servants of the Stranger.
    • Edmond Halley (yes, THAT Halley) was not only a servant of the Dark, but his body also served as the first host of the entity that later called itself Maxwell Rayner).
  • Being Watched: For most of Season 1, Jon is a clear Agent Scully - he claims that nearly every statement he reads is bogus, even when he's presented with undeniable evidence to the contrary. In the season 1 finale, Martin confronts him, asking why he insists all the stories are fake when they're obviously real... and Jon confesses that he actually believes all of them. He's just been feigning skepticism because he feels like something has been watching him read statements, and that whatever is watching him will get very angry if he admits that the statements are credible. He's completely right. The Magnus Institute is a cult that serves the physical manifestation of the fear of being watched, and by reading statements, Jon has actually been feeding it.
  • Beneath Suspicion: You'll expect horrors from things like spiders, ancient artifacts, and the dark. But then cigarettes, of all things, are turned into an omen of something very, very bad. The first episode dangles this in front of you, but by the time it's brought back into prominence, there's been several examples to re-examine in a new light.
    Nikola as Jurgen Leitner, mockingly, before collapsing into laughter: I suppose you should have remembered that smoking kills.
  • Big Bad: After various Arc Villains, it's gradually revealed that Jonah Magnus, in the body of Elias Bouchard is this for the show as a whole.
  • Bigger on the Inside: In "Growing Dark" the narrator visits a small chapel where he believes a dangerous cult is based. It's empty and dark. When his torch goes out, leaving him in total darkness, he decides to walk until he reaches a wall or barrier. It takes him much, much longer to find one than it should given the size of the place. When he gets another torch working, the place again seems to be its normal, small size.
    • In "Killing Floor" this occurs when the narrator attempts to exit the slaughterhouse during his last day on the killing floor. It might be just him, except all the contractors hired to build expansions quit, with one shakily claiming it's already too big.
  • Bland-Name Product: Georgie Barker's "What the Ghost" podcast is fairly clearly based off of The Black Tapes. Basira even comments that it kind of went weird in the third season, a sentiment shared by some fans of that series.
  • Bloody Horror:
    • A character attacks a dead tree with a crowbar. The fluid that comes out is not sap.
    • The book The Bone Turner's Tale causes the books around it to bleed.
    • A character struggles to keep a door closed as something on the other side tries to open it. When it finally gives up and he takes his hand away, it's covered in blood, though he has no injuries and the door handle is clean.
  • Body Horror: Occurs in a number of episodes.
    • In "Skintight" Sarah peels the skin off her injured arm, then staples it back on.
    • Jared Hopworth is transformed into something Not Quite Human in "The Boneturner's Tale," multiple limbs included.
    • As recounted in "Cheating Death," those who win a game with Death become its successor, and the flesh that the winner formerly enjoyed is granted to the loser, and the new Death walks as a skeleton that cannot die.
    • In season 5, the residents of the plague village are infected by a persistent mold. One of the victims, Gillian Smith, tries peeling off her skin to find out where the corruption stops, but no matter how deep she goes, there's just more mold. When the fungus reaches someone's bones, as it eventually does to Gillian, they "bloom", exploding in a cloud of spores and spreading the infection further.
  • Body Surf: Maxwell Rayner and Jonah Magnus maintain their immortality by jumping between bodies over time. Rayner appears to do this by implanting some form of magical darkness into their host, while Jonah replaces their victim's eyes with their own.
  • Break Them by Talking: This is how Elias operates. He's able to read people's minds to find out what would disturb and hurt them most, then bring it up in conversation (and, if that doesn't work, implant images and feelings related to it into their heads). He does this to Melanie by revealing to her the horrible way in which her father died (and by forcing her to watch it), and to Martin by telling him the reason that his mother despises him.
  • Breather Episode:
    • Episode 100, "I Guess You Had To Be There". Jon is out of the office (on account of being kidnapped by Nikola), so the other archival staff have to take live statements... except the statement-givers are all hilariously godawful storytellers. They include a woman who "saw a ghost" and refuses to elaborate, a man who saw a spider in his house and is convinced it was supernatural, a crackpot conspiracy theorist, and a man who won't stop talking about his dog (and whose statement includes the line "So I got out of the Spiral and went to dinner"). The creators confirm that all of these statements are real, and they serve as a break from the grim tone of the rest of the season.
    • To a lesser degree, episode 198. While it's not as lighthearted as "I Guess You Had To Be There", it is the last "normal" episode before the finale, and comes after a major expository episode that both the cast and audience need to reflect on.
  • Bumbling Sidekick: This is how Jon regards Martin, though he becomes slightly more sympathetic after Martin’s encounter with Jane Prentiss.
  • Bugs Herald Evil: Hoo wee. Bugs showing up is almost invariably very, very bad news. There in fact exist two separate Fears that can cause these instances. Most of them have to do with the Corruption via the Flesh Hive, but spiders are often incorporated through the Web, essentially getting one all to themselves.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Though you may wish it didn't. In season 5, Jordan Kennedy, the statement-giver of a previous live statement, returns as a victim in a domain of the Corruption and a grim reminder that all the other non-avatars we've known throughout the series are probably suffering offscreen as well.
    • The unnamed police officer who arrested Elias at the end of season 3 also returns in season 5 as a victim of a domain centered around police brutality.
  • Call-Back: The penultimate episode has a callback to the very first one: "May I have a cigarette?" In the first episode, it's the lure used by the anglerfish. At the end, it's asked by Georgie as a genuine request, but Jon audibly hesitates as he remembers the similarity.
    • According to the writers, this parallel was initially completely unintentional on Jonny's part, but after Alex pointed it out it was decided that Sasha Sienna (Georgie's VA) should lay it on even thicker.
  • Captain's Log: Jon introduces himself and explains his job and the state of the archive at the beginning of the first episode.
  • Cassette Craze:
    • Part of Jon’s job is to record audio versions of the statements, and each episode consists of one such recording. He uses an actual tape recorder for the more “bizarre” statements (i.e. all the ones we hear) because for some reason they don’t record properly on computers.
    • Martin records some of his poetry on cassette tapes because he likes the sound.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Most of the characters are gay or bi.
  • Caught Monologuing: Not!Sasha really shouldn't have spent so much time pondering whether it would become the Archivist if it Took Jon, as that gives Jurgen Leitner time to sneak up on it and bind it yet again.
  • Celebrity Paradox: MAG 110: Creature Feature revolves around the eccentric movie director Dexter Banks, who is a parody of Quentin Tarantino. Despite this, Martin later references Kill Bill several times in Season 5.
  • Central Theme:
    • Choice and free will. When you factor in social pressures, power dynamics, and physical needs, how much free will does anyone truly have? The question remains very much ambiguous even in the presence of an Eldritch Abomination capable of Mind Control.
      Annabelle Cane (avatar of the Web): So how much free will was involved in that story? What could I have chosen to change? Would a different path have been possible? I felt no loss of control, no puppet strings guided me. And yet, the Mother got exactly the result she no doubt wanted.
    • Related to the above, there is a theme of complicity within corrupt systems larger than ourselves. When we are only cogs in a machine, how responsible are we as individuals for the actions of that machine? What power do we even have to change it?
      • Brought to a head in the ending, which is ultimately about the inevitable co-opting of radicalism by the oppressor. After spending most of Season 5 trying to wipe out The Powers by any means necessary, Jon is eventually persuaded into an apparently mutually beneficial arrangement with them that will restore the world to its former state in exchange for helping them gain access to The Multiverse. Jon ultimately condemns trillions upon trillions of people to the same suffering he originally sought to permanently end because from his perspective they are literally less real to him than the eight billion or so he saved by externalizing the problem onto other, unsuspecting timelines.
    • Also related to the above, what do people do when faced with a situation where they must become either villains or victims?
      Daisy: I don’t want to be a sadistic predator again. I don’t want to hobble around like some pathetic wounded prey either. I don’t know which would be worse.
  • Claustrophobia: This fear is embodied by one of the Dread Powers, the Buried. For specific examples:
    • Martin is a sufferer, and therefore excuses himself from investigating a caving-related case. Later he has to endure being trapped in his flat for two weeks by Jane Prentiss.
    • "Lost Johns' Cave" occurs in an underwater cave system.
    • "Held In Customs" invokes the feeling, though Vincent denies suffering from it.
    • "Entombed". Unlike previous episodes, this one is not a statement, but a live recording of Jon's experience in the Buried itself, giving it an extremely visceral quality unlike anything other episode. We can hear the walls crushing the characters as they gasp for breath.
  • Character-Magnetic Team: At the beginning of the first season, the main team consists of Jon, Martin, Tim, and Sasha. Over the course of the next two seasons, Tim and Sasha are killed off and Basira, Daisy, and Melanie join the team in their stead.
  • Chekhov's Armory: The series, with its intricate Myth Arc, introduces nearly all of its important characters in this way. An unimportant character in a seemingly isolated statement (as well as, occasionally, the statement-giver themself) will come back tens or hundreds of episodes later with much more plot significance. For example, take one of the earliest statements: "A Father's Love", the testimony of a woman who realized as a young girl that her father was a serial killer. Both she and her father are much more important than originally stated: she's a powerful Avatar of the Hunt that kidnaps Jon in season 3 and attacks the Institute in season 4, and her father was working for the People's Church of the Divine Host, one of the antagonists of season 4.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The spiderweb-patterned lighter Jon receives in season 1. It's both a tracking device that allows the Web to spy on Jon, and the crucial tool needed to ignite the gas main and destroy the Panopticon during the apocalypse.
  • Chess with Death: Discussed in episode 29, "Cheating Death". The statement-giver, as a former reaper, tells us that Death has perfect knowledge of every game, so challenging him to games of pure skill such as Chess will always result in your defeat. Only games of chance give you hope of victory. But Be Careful What You Wish For, because winning a game with Death means you take his place.
  • The Chewtoy: The whole cast. Out of the Loads and Loads of Characters appearing in multiple statements, you can count on two hands those who survive beyond a few episodes in which they are featured. It drops down to one hand if you count those who come out with body and mind fully intact as well.
  • Composite Character: Eccentric filmmaker Dexter Banks is mostly based on Quentin Tarantino, but his monomaniacal obsession with making a movie about a giant spider recalls John Peters, the producer of Kevin Smith's unmade Superman movie.
  • Confessional: Father Burroughs hears the confession of a troubled student before attempting an exorcism on her (naturally he will not reveal what she said). Later he himself confesses to a fellow priest, who proceeds to list every sin Burroughs has ever committed in his life, none of which the priest should have any way of knowing. It turns out that this was almost certainly not the real priest.
  • Continuity Creep: In the third season, the show starts focusing on a larger metaplot involving Gertrude's death and Jon's ascension as the new Archivist.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: A follow-up shows one narrator in a spider-related story was killed by asphyxiation on unknown organic material in his throat, and he was later found completely encased in spider web. Jon doesn't believe it's related.
    If I were of a more alarmist nature, I might think the appearance of Mr. Vittery's corpse lent some credibility to his tale. But as I told Martin earlier, he was there for over a week, so there is very likely a perfectly natural explanation for the fact that his body was completely encased in web.
    • The coroner literally doth protest in "Taken Ill" (36) when dealing with a death caused by an unusual illness in a nursing home. Then there's the fate of the other residents...
    • Oliver Banks's statement is season 5 is formatted as a coroner's report, and discusses the Fear Entities' lack of foresight and how the world will eventually run out of humans to feed from.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Humanity is a plaything for ancient and incomprehensible entities dwelling beyond the universe, which feed on/embody the fears of every living thing on the planet. They defy all attempts at rational analysis; even their own servants, human and otherwise, admit to not understanding what they are or why they do things. The Entities cannot be defeated or even meaningfully fought, any more than you could punch the concept of arachnophobia, and at any moment they might arbitrarily single you out for torment or death because you would be the right kind of afraid while it happens.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: Nearly all the Dread Powers have businesses or other organizations that operate as fronts. Some of them even do what they're actually supposed to when they're not luring in victims or performing rituals. Breekon and Hope, for example, worked as normal delivery drivers for a few years in between carrying around Artifacts. The most amusing one is probably the dating service run by The Beholding.
  • Crapsack World: As the statements continuously prove — and as Tim rants at one point — innocent people constantly have their lives destroyed either by eldritch beings or the Jerkass humans who serve said beings, due to the simple bad luck of talking to the wrong person, going to the wrong place, reading a certain book, etc. Even if those interviewed survived their initial encounter, many follow-ups done by the Archive reveal that lots of them either died or disappeared anyway after giving their statement. And when Gerard Keay explains the existence of the Fourteen Powers, he bluntly says that he hasn't seen evidence of any positive Powers, meaning the world is basically a buffet for unimaginable horrors with little or nothing that can stop them.
  • Creepy Basement: Martin's experience in "Colony" starts with him investigating one in the course of following up an earlier statement.
  • Creepy Cemetery: Several: the narrator of "Alone" finds herself in one after getting lost and the narrator of "Growing Dark" passes through one to reach a chapel he believes he needs to investigate. It looks as if we're going to see another one in "A Distortion" when someone asks Sasha to meet them there, but the trope is subverted when it turns out they just chose the cemetery as a convenient landmark close to the actual destination.
  • Creepy Child:
    • Agnes in "Burned Out". She stays that way into adulthood.
    • The students in "Anatomy Class" are actually young adults (undergraduates, so roughly 18-21), but their manner is very much that of the Creepy Child.
  • Creepy Doll:
    • The first of the strange bin bags in "Thrown Away" is full of detached doll heads.
    • In "Strange Music" Leanne Denikin finds in her dead grandfather's loft a trunk full of antique dolls with mouths like those of a ventriloquist's dummy, all but one of which are missing their lower jaws; the one with its jaw intact is a clown doll with a splash of red paint giving it an ugly smile. It seems to be able to escape from the closed trunk. Later she notices another doll, jaw intact, that resembles her ex-boyfriend - who is then found dead with his lower jaw torn off.
  • Creepy Good: Jon remarks that he is more disturbed by having "Michael" as a potential ally than as an enemy.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: A number of these occur throughout the series, including: a character is devoured from the inside by sentient worms, another has his bones pulled out of his body, and another has his head ripped off by living shadows.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Numerous statement-makers express regret at not simply leaving well alone or turning away and leaving and thus avoiding their frightening experience (or worse), or tell how other characters made the same mistake.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Unsurprisingly in a series full of horror and fantasy, this occurs a number of times. The most striking example is what "Michael" says to Sasha in "A Distortion".
    Sasha: I asked him what he was. He laughed at this, the first sound I’d heard him make, and it sounded… unnatural. Like he was laughing very quietly, but someone had turned up the volume up so I could hear it. He said it didn’t matter what he was, that he couldn’t describe it even if he wanted to. What was the phrase he used… "How would a melody describe itself when asked?"
  • Darker and Edgier: In-universe, The Bone Turner's Tale appears to be a very Dark Fic for The Canterbury Tales. In The Tale of a Field Hospital, the titular book is hinted to predate the Lighter and Softer mundane version.
  • Dark Is Evil: One of the Dread Powers is the fear of the dark. Its agents include Living Shadows that can extinguish sources of light and tear people apart.
  • Daylight Horror: Many examples, including "First Hunt," "Freefall," and "Lost in the Crowd."
  • Deadly Book:
    • Books marked with the nameplate "From the library of Jurgen Leitner," colloquially referred to by the supernatural community as "Leitners". Reading them or even just being in their presence causes horrific supernatural events to take place. They turn out to have nothing to do with the man himself — he was just a scholar with more money than sense who tried to collect them. The books are actually direct manifestations of the Powers.
    • The podcast itself is implied to be one, as the ending states that the Fears escaped into other universes through the medium of the Archivist's tapes... which comprise the entirety of the series.
  • Death Seeker: Martin states that the reason he starts working with/for Peter Lukas after his life is completely ruined (his mother is dead, everyone he works with ignores him at best, Jon goes into a coma from which it looked like he would never wake, and Martin was trapped into working for the Beholding and spreading its evil) was because he thought it would be a good way to get killed.
  • Demonic Possession: What Father Burroughs believes has happened to him in "Confession"/"Desecrated Host".
  • Devil, but No God: When Jon learns about the existence of the Dread Powers, and asks Gerard Keay about the possibility of any opposing, positive powers, Gerard bluntly says that he hasn't seen any evidence of them. When Martin asks about the possibility of gods and an afterlife in Season 5, Jon acknowledges that even the Eye doesn't know whether such things exist or not. Although, as he adds, 'I don’t know how kindly any god would look upon what we’ve done.'
  • Didn't See That Coming: Downplayed, but in episode 197, Annabelle seems genuinely shocked when Jon threatens to throw the spiderweb lighter into the rift. As always, however, it's unclear if this was an act, as Jon does eventually do what she wants regardless.
  • Dislikes the New Guy: In season 3, new hire Melanie gets a frosty reception from her new coworkers at the Magnus Institute; although in this case, it isn't necessarily because they dislike her presence, but more because the employees know that the Institute is a front for one of the Powers, and working there puts your sanity, soul, and/or life in danger, so they're not happy to see someone else dragged into it.
  • Distressed Dude: Jon develops an alarming propensity for being kidnapped.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!:
    • The coffin in "Do Not Open" has the three words from the episode's title scratched on its lid. Thankfully, the protagonist isn't Too Dumb to Live and is smart enough not to do so. Though it's not for lack of trying on the part of the coffin.
    • In "Breathing Room," Jon has to repeatedly tell Martin this about pretty much everything they find in Gertrude's storage locker, including a stack of probably-Leitner books and a box of explosives.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The show's title most obviously refers to the fact that the main characters are the archival staff of the Magnus Institute. But the post-season 4 Q&A reveals that "The Magnus Archives" is also the name of Jonah's ritual to bring all of the Dread Powers into the world, which he has worked towards throughout the show and finally pulls off in the season 4 finale.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • In Season 2, listeners know that Sasha has been replaced by Not-Sasha, who is potentially sabotaging the Institute's investigations. The archival crew, whose memories of the real Sasha have been completely wiped out in favor of her impostor, is unaware of this.
    • In Season 4, Peter Lukas reveals the growing threat of a 15th power, the Extinction, to Martin — but since Martin is deliberately isolating himself, the rest of the team have no idea.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Antonio Blake's statement in "Dreamer," addressed directly to the late archivist Gertrude, tells of the strange dreams he has had of various people's futures, including hers. Specifically, of their deaths.
  • Dream Walker: The true nature of the Archivist, revealed at the end of Season 3. Jon's bad dreams aren't a reaction to trauma. He haunts the nightmares of the people who he has personally taken statements from, watching them suffer. This is arguably his real 'archive'.
  • Driven to Suicide: Jason North in "Burnt Offering" eventually commits suicide by dousing himself in petrol and setting himself ablaze.
  • Driving Question:
    • Season 2: Who murdered Gertrude Robinson?
    • Season 3: What is the Unknowing?
    • Season 4: What is the Extinction?
    • Season 5: Can the apocalypse be reversed, and if so, what will it cost?
  • Dysfunction Junction: Every main character has a major character flaw or Dark and Troubled Past of some sort, even disregarding all of the terrible things that happen to them during the series.
    • Jon's parents died when he was little; he was raised by an emotionally distant grandmother and had no friends until he went to university. He also nearly died as a child after an encounter with the Web, and is slowly transforming into the Archivist.
    • Martin's father left when he was a child, and for the majority of his life Martin has been the primary caregiver for his ailing mother, who openly despises him because he reminds her of his father.
    • Tim was forced to watch his brother be skinned alive by agents of the Stranger.
    • Daisy murdered her childhood best friend after he was taken by the Hunt, and since then has killed countless other people that she believed to be monsters.
    • Basira has shut down emotionally as a result of PTSD from working for Section 31 (and, later, for the Magnus Institute).
    • Melanie has severe anger issues, and does not react well to the knowledge that she unwittingly condemned her father to a horrible death by putting him in a care home that was attacked by the Corruption.
    • Sasha seems to be the Only Sane Man of the archival staff, until it's revealed that she died at the end of Season 1 and was replaced by an evil Doppelgänger.
  • Easter Egg: Some of the official transcripts contain jokes or funny embellishments in the stage directions. Here's one example from episode 131:
    Jon: Is it, uh… Is it going to hurt?
    Jared: Dunno. Doesn’t hurt me.
    [THE ARCHIVIST MAKES IT BE KNOWN THAT IT DOES RATHER]
  • Elderly Immortal: Simon Fairchild and Peter Lukas are described as looking like old men, despite technically being The Ageless.
  • Eldritch Abomination: There are fourteen of these acting on existence.
    • With a fifteenth on the way!
  • Eldritch Location:
    • Many of the Dread Powers can manifest as this; it's speculated that this is the purest form of their existence. For example - the inside of the Coffin leads to the Buried, an endless, pulsating maze of cramped dirt tunnels, while the Distortion's doorways lead to the Spiral, a hallway that goes on forever.
    • The titular archives rise above labyrinthine catacombs that organize and contain manifestations of primal fear. The building itself is a place of power for the acolytes of one of those forces, the Ceaseless Watcher.
  • Electromagnetic Ghosts:
    • It is implied that this is why the “bizarre” statements (i.e. all the ones the audience hears) come out distorted when Jon tries to record them on a computer, so he has to use an old tape recorder. Some of those making statements seem to have had similar experiences.
    • Static appears on the tape recordings when someone they are recording uses a supernatural power.
    • In "Growing Dark" it is hinted that something supernatural is causing the lights to stop working in the narrator's girlfriend's flat. They replace the bulbs, check the fittings and call in an electrician but can find nothing apparently wrong. Then subverted when it turns out not to be supernatural, merely bizarre - someone (presumably his girlfriend's strange flatmate) keeps unscrewing all the bulbs just enough to break the connections.
  • Emotion Eater: Avatars of the Dread Powers, as they devote more and more of themselves to their god, begin to need to consume other people's fear in order to survive. They become tired and disheveled if they aren't exposed to fear, and have better command of their abilities after having fed; the method in which they take in fear is determined by the Power they serve. Jon, an avatar of the Eye, feeds by taking statements - he compels people that have encountered the supernatural to tell him about their trauma (and then relive it through nightmares). Daisy, an avatar of the Hunt, feeds by chasing and killing people.
  • The End of the World as We Know It:
    • Each of the Dread Powers has a ritual that will summon them fully into reality, allowing them to radically alter it to generate more fear. Stopping one such ritual is the plot of season 3, and Gertrude made a habit of stopping several others. One finally succeeds in the season 4 finale: a ritual to summon all the Powers at once. Season 5 takes place After the End in the new world of nightmares created by the Powers.
    • This fear is represented by one of the Dread Powers in particular, the Extinction, which is the fear specifically of humans becoming extinct and a new world rising in their place. It manifests itself in visions of environmental devastation creating an unrecognizable landscape.
  • Evil Is Burning Hot: This is embodied by one of the Dread Powers, the Desolation, which represents the fear of fire, pain, and destruction. This is foreshadowed in several earlier statements that tell of sinister goings-on being accompanied by a sharp and inexplicable increase in the ambient temperature.
  • Evil Is Visceral: This is embodied by one of the Dread Powers, the Flesh, which represents the fear of viscerality. For specific examples:
    • "Killing Floor" narrates horrifying events in a slaughterhouse.
    • In "A Father's Love," the streetlights in the narrator's neighborhood go out in succession, moving toward her house. Then there's a knock at the door, and then another, and another, with each one sounding less like a human, and more like wet meat slapping against the door.
    • Jared Hopworth uses a very gruesome method to get rid of his victim, with authorities officially ruling it a hit-and-run accident due to the mangled state of the body.
  • Evil Makes You Monstrous: It is implied that avatars of the Dread Powers lose more and more of their humanity as time goes on, eventually transforming into monsters if they give themselves over completely. In the course of the show, we see this happen to Daisy.
  • Evil Old Folks:
    • The season 1 episode "Piecemeal" features Angela, who looks like a harmless little old lady but talks casually about having someone horribly killed. The narrator, himself a hardened, violent criminal, recognises in her eyes the look of someone extremely nasty.
    • Many of the stronger avatars of the Powers are old men, including Maxwell Rayner, Simon Fairchild, Peter Lukas, and Jonah Magnus.
    • Mary Keay, an old woman who collected Leitners and used them for nefarious purposes. She murdered her husband and abused her son for decades, before forcing him to kill her so that she could bind herself to a Leitner.
  • Evil Parents Want Good Kids: Robert Montauk hides his murders and affiliation with the Dark cult from his daughter Julia, until, eventually, he is no longer able to.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: Though both sides are still villains. The End, as the fear of death, wants to end all life, including the Powers. The Web, as the only thinking Power, would prefer to keep existing. This conflict comes to a head in season 5, after the Powers take over the world; the Web's desire for survival brings it to the bargaining table, offering the protagonists a way to end the apocalypse at the cost of infecting other universes with the Powers.
  • Exact Words: In "Cheating Death", The Grim Reaper tells his victim that if he wins Chess with Death, he will "not die". When the statement-giver wins, he discovers that all he has won is the new role of Death. He cries, "You said that if I won, then I'd live!" Death responds only with, "No, I didn't."
  • Eye Motifs: Eye images are described frequently throughout the series. Eye symbols are associated with the supernaturally-inclined Keay family and the People's Church of the Divine Host, and one supernaturally aware individual was noted to go to unusual lengths to remove them from her possessions.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • This appears in certain statements, although they're just as likely to end in inelegant blubbering. More than once, this has caused whatever creature that is pursuing the statement giver to stop, as the monsters are generally after their prey's fear more than their prey's death. Characters like Jason North (MAG 37) and Robert Montauk (MAG 9) are less lucky.
    • Tim Stoker goes out like this at the end of season 3. After multiple seasons of him having a mental breakdown because of his friend's death and being stalked, their last words are to thank Jon for everything he's done for him and to crack an ironic joke before they blow themselves up in order to stop the Unknowing.
  • Faking the Dead: It turns out that Mary Keay, whom a narrator seemingly met, is on public record as having been murdered, allegedly by her son Gerard, though he was acquitted. Whether the murder or the person is fake is not clear until episode 111, which reveals Mary Keay is The Undead, and gruesomely killed herself in a way that bound her to a relic of The End. Gerard was horrified by this and refused to help her, making it look like he was responsible for her death.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Discussed in episode 29, "Cheating Death", where the statement-giver appears to have obtained Immortality at a terrible price.
    "So now I’m here, and I cannot die. I can barely live, either. Food and drink make me sick, and I cannot sleep. There is an aching inside of me. A craving for something, but I don’t know what. [...] I can’t decide whether this existence I find myself in is better than the death I feared so long ago. I sometimes wonder, but have decided that it is. A living hell is, after all, still living."
  • Fauxshadowing: Due to an Aborted Arc. Martin was originally intended to become a Web avatar, but this decision was changed during the show's run. The foreshadowing placed for this twist in early episodes — Martin's like of spiders being a particularly blatant one — ended up becoming this.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In episode 65, "Binary", the statement-giver notes that magnetic tape is not analog, but digital, just like electronic recordings. This is a hint that the reason statements can only be recorded on tape isn't due to an incompatibility with digital devices as everyone assumed, but a property of magnetic tape specifically. And indeed, the Web did this to force Jon to record everything on tape, the medium by which it chose to weave its web.
    • In episode 147, "Weaver", Annabelle Cane confirms that once Jon starts reading a statement, he can't stop, going as far as to say he can only hope that "I don't crash you." In episode 160, Jonah uses a statement to force Jon to recite the incantation that will bring about the apocalypse.
    • Many people touched by the Powers who end up caught by the normal authorities seem to die in prison soon after quite frequently. While in Robert Montauk's case this was the result of another supernatural creature attacking him, most seem to die of illness. This is because they are unable to generate the fear that sustains them, causing their health to decline and eventually dying of starvation. This foreshadows Jon's eventual dependence on statements.
  • Framing Device: Jon is recording the statements for the archive, thus giving the listener a different character’s story in each episode. As time goes on though, we get to hear what happens when Jon isn't recording a statement, but the framing device remains: the tape recorders start appearing on their own.
  • Fleeting Passionate Hobbies: Tim's brother Danny had a habit of this.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The finale strongly implies that the Fears were sent into our universe, as the means by which they travel is the tapes themselves.
  • Gambit Pileup: There are fourteen Entities - incomprehensible eldritch gods that feed off of fear. Each of these Entities has a ritual that, if successfully completed, will manifest it physically into existence (effectively ending the world), and a group of devoted followers that are trying to bring about their patron's ritual at any cost. This means that there are fourteen individual gambits going on at any given time, and it's up to the protagonists to try and foil all of them. Or not. Because the Magnus Institute was created to serve the Beholding, one of the Entities, the protagonists are unwittingly helping bring about the Beholding's ritual by disrupting the other gods' rituals. This culminates in Jon being compelled to start the apocalypse at the end of season 4.
  • Genre Savvy: Sebastian Adekoya from "The Bone Turner's Tale", who is a fan of horror novels and thus immediately realizes that the titular Deadly Book is bad news, especially considering its effects in the last guy who touched it. He's not even surprised when it starts making the other books around it bleed.
  • Glamor Failure: Whenever the Not-Them performs a Kill and Replace on someone, rewriting reality in the process, there are always one or two people who remain unaffected and realise they're not the same person. Of course, this is assuming the Not-Them isn't doing it deliberately to create more unease and dread...
    • "Michael"'s true appearance can be seen through warped glass.
  • Gluttonous Pig: Played for Horror. In the episode "Cruelty Free", a farmer discovers a massive, 400 kilogram pig, which devours anything that gets in its pen- starting with the other pigs and eventually moving on to humans.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Gertrude Robinson, although initially portrayed as an ineffectual paper-pusher, secretly devoted her life to stopping the powers of evil by any means necessary. She blew up inhabited buildings, murdered an astronaut and threw his dismembered body into a pit, consigned multiple people to fates worse than death, and planned to blind herself in order to thwart her own supernatural patron. All in the service of saving lives and doing good. Tragically, it turns out that the rituals she was thwarting never could have succeeded in ending the world regardless. Still, they might have had awful consequences.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Web. It is the only Fear capable of thought, and as such it itself fears the End, making it dissatisfied with the knowledge it will eventually starve as the apocalypse consumes all life on the planet. It manipulated both Jon and Jonah to carry out the apocalypse just so that it could get the leverage needed to pressure Jon into fulfilling its real plan: to escape into the multiverse, giving it access to potentially infinite feeding grounds.
  • Gun Nut: The season 1 episode "First Hunt" is narrated by Lawrence Mortimer, a British man visiting America to go on his first hunting expedition with internet-friend Arden Neally. He's keen on guns and shooting but is limited in pursuing his interest by the UK's restrictive gun laws. When he gets there, he's very excited by Arden's gun collection.
  • Hand Wave:
    • Statements depicting genuine supernatural events can't be recorded digitally, and must be recorded on tape, conveniently justifying the podcast's choice of aesthetic. This is ultimately revealed to be part of the Web's plan, as they needed Jon's voice captured on tape in order to make it part of their web.
    • Why are all the statement-givers miraculously eloquent storytellers? The Eye does it.
      • This is spoofed in episode 100, where the statement givers suddenly talk realistically (going on confusing tangents and spiralling discussions), due to Jon's absence suspending this power.
  • Healing Factor:
    • In "Piecemeal", a character starts mysteriously losing body parts. They don't grow back, but the wounds they leave behind heal instantly.
    • Jon gains this in season 4, after he fully devotes himself to Beholding and becomes the Archivist. He's able to completely recover from a six-month coma by reading a single statement, and when he tries to cut off his finger in "Flesh" (to create an anchor that will let him enter the Buried), he's unable to because the finger keeps growing back.
  • Hell Is That Noise:
    • The whistled tune that the narrator of "First Hunt" hears as he and his friend hunt portends something very bad. The tune is "A-hunting we shall go".
    • The sound of the eponymous "Boatswain's Call" when the mate blows it is unnaturally and disturbingly shrill and piercing, yet somehow also sounds far away.
    • Bagpipes, flutes, and other wind instruments are associated with the Slaughter.
    • Any Calliope organ.
  • Heroic Willpower: Becoming an avatar of one of the Powers gives you powerful supernatural abilities at the cost of gradually losing your humanity; most of the avatars encountered during the series have completely embraced their monstrous side and actively hate humankind. Except for Jon and Daisy, who have thus far managed to quell their Horror Hunger and continue fighting on the protagonists' side despite their status as unwilling servants of the Beholding and the Hunt.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The series has plenty of these. Characters that intend to use the abilities granted by the Dread Powers for heroic purposes inevitably end up succumbing to their monstrous side, while characters that avoid becoming tethered to the Powers remain physically human but often become more morally monstrous than the Avatars they fight.
    • Gertrude Robinson, despite her role as Archivist, refused to use her Beholding abilities and devoted her life to stopping the Powers' rituals, including the Eye's. She prevented countless rituals over her lifetime... but to do so, she had to betray and sacrifice her assistants, doom innocent civilians, and commit all sorts of other crimes. It's nearly universally accepted that Gertrude was a terrible person. Her actions are put into an even harsher light by MAG 160, which reveals that every ritual she destroyed was doomed to failure with or without her intervention, meaning the terrible acts she committed were All for Nothing.
    • Most Hunters fall under this trope. They feed their god by hunting and killing monsters, but as time passes and their connection to the Hunt grows, they start caring less and less about whether they accidentally kill innocents as well.
    • Jon becomes this in later seasons. As he settles into the role of Archivist, he gains several evil-seeming powers - a Compelling Voice, the ability to give people nightmares and then watch their dreams, the ability to rip information out of people's minds, and a Horror Hunger for others' trauma - but at first he intends to only use these powers for good. But over time, he starts losing his moral scruples regarding his powers, first using them when they aren't absolutely necessary and then feeding on innocent civilians. By the end of season 4, he's the lynchpin in a successful Beholding ritual to bring about the apocalypse, all because he couldn't overcome his hunger for statements.
  • Hidden Villain: For its first four seasons, the series appears to be a Rogues Gallery with no true Big Bad - there are fourteen evil Entities trying to bring about world-ending rituals, but none of them seem to be more or less powerful than each other, and the protagonists are able to disrupt all of their plans. Until the end of season 4, when the Big Bad is revealed to be none other than Jonah Magnus, the original founder of the Magnus Institute. He's been possessing Elias Bouchard since before the start of the series, and has orchestrated all of the protagonists' victories in order to make way for the Beholding ritual, which he forces Jon to successfully perform in the season 4 finale.
  • Hope Spot: The beginning of the season 4 finale. After a season of being tormented by various Entities, slowly losing his humanity, and watching Martin lose himself to the Lonely, Jon manages to save Martin, and they escape together to a safehouse in the Scottish highlands. They spend three weeks relaxing without having to fight any avatars; Jon seems to have managed to remain human and avoid succumbing to the Beholding, and the two of them seem genuinely happy. And then Jon reads a statement... which is actually a booby trap created by Jonah Magnus, who mind-controls Jon into reading an incantation that manifests all of the Entities, completing the first ever successful ritual and effectively ending the world.
  • Hostile Terraforming: The goal of at least two of the eldritch powers that the Magnus Institute encounters.
  • Humans Are Special: Zigzagged. While the Powers do apparently need human participants for their rituals, many if not most of them are actually primarily composed of the fears of animals and animals can also become Avatars, like the Monster Pig.
  • Humanoid Abomination: There's a lot of these.
    • Most human avatars of Entities (representations of fears such as the dark, isolation, being watched, Body Horror, etc.) eventually become these.
    • The podcast's version of vampires (humanoid creatures with long tongues for sucking blood that have mild hypnosis powers and little to no conscious thought outside of that regarding feeding).
    • The Not-Them are creatures that replace people despite looking nothing like them. Most other people will not notice the person's new appearance, and most photographs change to reflect the Not-Them's appearance. Though they appear to be regular humans, their actual forms are heavily distorted.
    • The being known as "Michael". It used to be a human assistant to Gertrude Robinson, but he was corrupted by The Spiral and the original person effectively no longer exists. "Michael" looks human, unless viewed through corrupted glass or a reflection, in which case it is extremely spindly except for its hands, which are as large as its torso. It can also distort its appearance at will.
    • The titular book in "The Bone Turner's Tale" transforms Jared Hopworth from an average guy into a vaguely humanoid, multi-limbed monstrosity that can twist people's bones around.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: In the season 1 episode "First Hunt", two men on a hunting expedition suddenly find themselves hunted by a savage Ambiguously Human hunter.
  • Immortality:
    • Avatars of the Dread Powers all possess some form of this, but the specifics vary by Power. Generally, they are The Ageless and possess Nigh-Invulnerability, only being vulnerable to attacks by other supernatural entities. However, the End, the fear of death, takes pleasure in reminding everyone that true immortality is impossible, and nothing escapes entropy in the end.
    • Jonah Magnus's immortality takes the form of Grand Theft Me. However, they are unsatisfied by this, as they understand it can't be maintained indefinitely and still leaves them vulnerable to mortal wounds. True immortality is their driving motivation.
    • This is also the motivation of the Web. It recognizes that the End will eventually kill all life in the world, and thus starve the Powers of fear, killing them. To prolong its own life, it seeks to escape into the multiverse, allowing it to outlive entire universes.
  • Immortality Inducer: The Dread Powers grant their avatars immortality, with a few caveats (see above).
  • Improv:
    • The statements in "I Guess You Had To Be There" were unscripted, and the parts were played by improv actors the team knew.
    • The script for the scene of Helen begging for their life in episode 187 was intentionally left blank to encourage the actor to ad-lib it.
  • Inconsistent Episode Lengths: Each standard episode includes a short prose story in the form of a "statement", typically about some luckless person who has a brush with the supernatural. Most episodes also include a "main plot" segment, being the story of the archivists and their ongoing investigations into the statements. The episodes generally last 20-25 minutes, but can be as short as 16 or as long as 36, depending on how much plot there is.
  • Internal Reveal: In "Nothing Beside Remains", Elias brings the rest of the team up to speed on what Jon and the audience have known since the season 2 finale: that the body found in Jon's office was actually Jurgen Leitner, Elias murdered both Jurgen Leitner and Gertrude Robinson, and Sasha died over a year ago and was replaced by one of the Not-Them.
  • Is This Thing On?: Jon utters the common "1-2-3" version at the start of the first episode.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet:
    • The hospital sporadically goes silent throughout the night in "First Aid."
    • The narrator of "Killing Floor" is unnerved by the strange absence of the usual sounds of the slaughterhouse.
    • In "Boatswain's Call" the crew of the ship strenuously avoid talking to each other, until after one of them disappears, seemingly having been chosen to be thrown overboard.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: The series is an example of this, with all of its five seasons having been fully planned out before the series began. On the surface, each episode is an isolated, one-off horror story (framed as a statement read by the archivist of the Magnus Institute), but every single episode ties back into the series-long Myth Arc, a centuries-spanning Secret War involving eldritch gods and their human devotees. This means that every episode contains seemingly innocuous details that are brought up again tens or even hundreds of episodes later as critical plot points (for example, the Monster of the Week of the very first episode is revealed to be working toward the Unknowing, the apocalyptic ritual of one of the eldritch gods in episode 119).
  • Kaiju: MAG 110: Creature Feature revolves around the ill-fated attempt of a Hollywood director to remake an obscure Japanese kaiju film about a giant spider. From what little information we get on the plot, such as it is, it appears to be a lose adaptation of the Leitner book Ex Altiora, although the giant monster in that one is not described and probably isn't spider-like.
  • Kill and Replace: This is the M.O. of the Not-Them. The twist is that the form they shapeshift into actually looks completely different from the original, but they alter records and memories to match their new appearance. One of the Not-Them eventually does this to Sasha James.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Robert Smirke dies of a stroke while writing a letter to the Magnus Institute; the letter still finds its way into the Archives, but it cuts off abruptly mid-sentence.
  • Killed Offscreen:
    • Julia Montauk is killed by Daisy sometime in the interim between the Hunters' attack on the Institute in 158 and the advent of the apocalypse in 160, but we only learn this from Trevor after the fact.
    • Simon Fairchild is mentioned in the epilogue to have been killed by an angry mob.
  • Kill It with Fire: Several supernatural entities, particularly servants of the Web and the Corruption, are vulnerable to this. It's implied this may be due to fire's connection to the Desolation, which, as the embodiment of destruction, is very effective at destroying other entities.
    • In the season 1 episode "Squirm", such is Timothy Hodge's horror at the infestation that suddenly appears in his bedroom that he immediately sets the place on fire.
    • Surprisingly, this appears to be one of the best ways to disrupt a ritual of one of the Dread Powers. Gertrude Robinson and Adelard Dekker had large quantities of explosives that they kept for the express purpose of blowing up rituals... and it worked. Several times.
    • In episode 157, "Rotten Core", Adelard Dekker kills John Amherst, an avatar of the Corruption, by lighting an enormous bonfire.
  • Killed Off for Real:
    • Discussed in the post-season 3 director's commentary in regards to Tim's death, where Jonny states firmly that they are dead. He emphasizes that he wants death to have meaning, and doesn't want to trivialize it by cheekily hinting that characters are Only Mostly Dead.
    • In season 5, no one is allowed the release of death thanks to the Powers' takeover. However, when Basira kills Daisy, she stays dead. Jon says this is because it "feels right" by the nightmare logic of the Powers.
    • On a minor level, this also happens to victims in the End's domain, who are truly killed unlike victims of the other Powers.
  • Killer Cop:
    • The season 1 episode "A Father's Love" is about a girl's childhood living with her serial killer father, who was also a policeman.
    • Daisy Tonner is one of these, on account of her servitude to the Hunt. Elias' comments imply that many of Daisy's coworkers, especially those that have signed Section 31, are this as well.
  • Kudzu Plot: There are no less than ten intertwining plots concerning the various horrors the Institute is documenting, and the achronological nature of the recordings means that following connections across episodes is difficult at best.
  • Living Shadow: A common monster employed by the Dark. Maxwell Rayner's true form appears to be one.
  • London Gangster: Lee Rentoul, the narrator of "Piecemeal", seeks revenge on a fellow criminal who double-crossed him.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: The world is inhabited by the Dread Powers, fourteen eldritch gods based on humanity's primal fears. Becoming an avatar of one of the Powers grants you powerful supernatural abilities, but also makes you increasingly inhuman, both in nature and in appearance.
  • Magical Flautist:
    • The mysterious titular figure in "The Piper".
    • The mate in "Boatswain's Call" - the title refers to the old-fashioned whistle he carries.
  • Magical Library: Jurgen Leitner's, whose books are of a particularly unpleasant nature.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Even though the Magnus Institute at least appears to have several additional, never-seen employees such as researchers and librarians, everything done during the story that advances the plot is centered around Jon, Martin, Sasha, Tim, Elias and other people brought into their group as the story progresses. Aside from them, the few Institute employees who are mentioned by name are almost never seen or heard and have no direct impact on the plot.
  • Man on Fire:
    • Acolytes of the Desolation must do this to themselves to become avatars. In the process, their flesh changes into candle wax, allowing them to do this on command.
    • Jason North commits suicide by this method at the end of "Burnt Offering".
    • Adelard Dekker commits suicide by this method in "Rotten Core", as a means of ensuring the rot placed in their body by the Corruption cannot spread.
  • Married to the Job: Jonathan Sims, Head Archivist of the Magnus Institute - he has no friends outside his workplace (to the point where he considers an ex-girlfriend he hasn't spoken to in years his closest friend), and he comes to work early and stays late, even sleeping in his office a lot of the time. It's hard to tell how much this applied prior to his life before being recruited to become an avatar of the Beholding and having his humanity stripped from him, but even early on in the series, it doesn't seem like he has much of a life outside of work.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Jon’s comments on the statements sometimes leave this an open question. However, (the real) Jonathan Sims claims that while most of the statements archived by the Institute are either fabrications or have mundane explanations, all of the statements read on the podcast are in fact supernatural in nature. Yes, including "I Guess You Had To Be There".
  • Meaningful Rename: As of Jon's Season 4 coma and revival, he's no longer the "head archivist of the Magnus Institute." Now, he is simply "the Archivist."
  • The Men in Black: Jon hints at their existence when he mentions that the Institute has contacts in government and law enforcement who appear to have taken considerable interest in at least one statement.
  • Meta Origin: Possibly. Almost every supernatural thing that happens in the series is connected to the Powers, though ghosts and vampires may exist independently of them.
  • Morality Chain: Basira serves as this for Daisy. They're close friends who formerly worked together as Sectioned cops, and Basira is the only reason Daisy hasn't fully given in to the Hunt and started killing ordinary humans as well as monsters. Daisy decides not to kill Jon only because Basira shows up at the last second and intervenes, and when Daisy loses her connection to Basira (for example, during the Unknowing), she embraces the Hunt and turns fully monstrous.
  • Mortal Wound Reveal: In episode 157, "Rotten Core", after subduing John Amherst, Dekker notes that his haz-mat suit was punctured during the skirmish. As he is in a domain of the Corruption, he knows this means he has received a fatal infection, and chooses to perform a Heroic Sacrifice by lighting himself on fire to purge it.
  • Mysterious Mist: Many episodes that center around the Lonely, including "Alone", "Boatswain's Call", and "The Last", feature characters that get lost in a thick, endless fog that, according to normal weather patterns, shouldn't be there.
  • Mysterious Stranger: "Michael", whom Sasha meets in "A Distortion" and who engages her in Cryptic Conversation about her colleagues, whose names it [sic] knows. Later in the episode it appears to become a Mysterious Protector when it removes one of Jane Prentiss's silver worms from Sasha's body which would otherwise have killed her, or worse. Then, in The New Door, it delivers that episode's statement giver to a horrendous fate, which along with its self-description and what has happened to Sasha since, casts a lot of doubt on its protection credentials.
  • Mysterious Watcher: Suggested in Observer Effect. Multiple episodes contain opening or closing remarks about feeling watched in the archives, despite people being left alone to make their statements and there being no cameras. It's heavily implied that they are watched by the Eye, or the Ceaseless Watcher, especially when it turns out that the Institute is in its service; but it is eventually revealed that the Web has been listening in - to the exact same audio as the audience. Apparently, magnetic tape is an ideal material with which to weave webs.
  • Narrator: Jon is one himself; so too, through Jon, is the subject of each statement.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The End's desire to kill all life, including the Dread Powers themselves, is the only thing that brings the Powers to the bargaining table and allows the protagonists to undo the apocalypse. Without that, they would have no leverage and the apocalypse could truly last forever.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Avatars of the Dread Powers possess an insurmountable Healing Factor that protects them from all mundane damage. They can still be killed by other supernatural entities (and sometimes fire), however.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Allan Partridge from "Thrown Away" starts out as being only somewhat curious about the garbage bags filled with random, grotesque things that occasionally pop up at 93 Lancaster Road, and gradually becomes downright obsessed with them, and discovering who leaves them. Unfortunately, he does.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • The sailor narrating "Boatswain's Call" wonders with dread what she will find inside the container she examines on the ship. It turns out to be completely empty. This does not reassure her.
    • Episode 173, "Night Night", is built around this trope. Because Night Street is so dark, they never actually see any monsters; but they are convinced that monsters are hiding in every shadow, scaring themselves with their own imaginations.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Every season finale after the first has majorly shaken up the status quo.
    • The season 2 finale acts as a Cosmic Horror Reveal. The statements taken by the Institute aren't disconnected one-off stories - they're all inspired by fourteen Eldritch Abominations based on humanity's primal fears, which manifest physically in our world in the form of supernatural encounters. And the Institute serves one of these entities. Also, Elias is revealed to be a villain, murdering both Gertrude Robinson and Jurgen Leitner and framing Jon for the latter.
    • The season 3 finale ends with Tim and Daisy dead, Jon in a coma (and also definitively no longer human), Elias in prison, and Peter Lukas as the new Head of the Institute.
    • The season 4 finale is the greatest change to status quo yet: one of the apocalypse rituals finally succeeds. Jonah Magnus compels Jon to complete a ritual which summons all the entities, effectively ending the world.
  • Numbers Stations: The season 4 episode "Decrypted" deals with one of these, which inexplicably broadcasts to the subject's iPod. Fans have decrypted the numbers using a Polybius square cipher: THE WORLD IS ALWAYS ENDING.
  • Oh, Crap!: In episode 132, "Entombed", Jon starts off clinically narrating his journey through the coffin and the Buried... until a short ways in, when the tape clicks on only for us to hear a series of grunts followed by, "Oh God, I'm stuck."
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: In one of the trailers a mysterious voice chants vigilo, audio, opperior. The tape picks it up when Jon leaves it running as he momentarily leaves the room.
    • Gets an Meaningful Echo in "The Eye Opens," the description of which reads vigilo, audio, supervenio - "I watch, I listen, I overtake." This works both as a description of the episode's premise - Jonah Magnus, who has been watching and listening throughout the series, overtakes Jon through a false statement - and its conclusion - in which the Eye, alongside the other Powers, overtake reality.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The End, as the fear of death, desires the extinction of all life. It pursues this even though that will end fear and thus kill it and the other Powers as well. One of its avatars believes that only then will it "at last, be satisfied."
  • The Omniscient: The Eye, true to its name, is capable of seeing and knowing everything. It can share this power with its human avatars, though their mortal minds can only handle a portion of it at a time. However, this omniscience can still be blocked by a dedicated effort by other Powers, particularly the Dark and the Stranger, as well as Anti-Magic such as the camera or Robert Smirke's architecture.
  • Omniscient Hero: Since Jon serves the Eye, he eventually becomes this in season 5. He even jokes at being used as "magic Google". However, he notes that he still can't hold an unlimited amount of information in his head, and that "knowing isn't the same as understanding".
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with the characters of "Michael Crew," and "Michael," both of whom are mentioned in multiple episodes and both of whom are avatars of one of the Powers (the Vast and the Spiral respectively).
    • Also Mikaele Salesa; although his name is pronounced differently, it is derived from "Michael" all the same.
    • Due to the sheer amount of statements, there are also plot irrelevant characters that share the same name, which is especially noticeable for the numerous Michaels (episodes 5, 13 and 23 at the very least) and Jon/Johns (episodes 2, 15 and 55 at the very least), as there are also plot relevant characters by those names.
    • Then there's Gerard Keay and Jared Hopworth— their names are phonetically similar enough that it can take a few listens to distinguish them.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Notably the only common horror creature to never explicitly appear in the series, though ghost hunters are still mentioned in a few episodes. It is likely this absence is because ghosts imply a soul or afterlife, which would diminish the significance of the End, which represents the fear of death.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: As Trevor Herbert describes them, vampires in the series are more like humanoid fleas or ticks than the Dracula or Anne Rice standards. They can dislocate their jaws, have extremely long tongues, and visibly distend while consuming blood. Additionally, they do not speak but can make themselves understood through some sort of telepathy or mind control, they are not hurt by sunlight, and their bite does not create more of their kind.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different:
    • One unfortunate hunter finds himself encountering one in the United States, albeit he looks like a normal human. A very sharp, drooling human capable of tracking and running through a forest with ease and surviving two rifles' worth of gunshot wounds.
    • This is the ultimate fate of Daisy and, it's implied, all avatars of the Hunt.
  • Painting the Medium:
    • Whenever a supernatural figure is quoted in a written statement recorded to tape by Jon, there tends to be a slight, but distinct static behind the spoken line. This effect becomes more blatant whenever a supernatural event happens to Jon in real time.
    • Several supernatural events generate associated sound effects even by being mentioned. Probably the most obvious is the squirming sound of Jane Prentiss' worms.
    • Whenever Peter Lukas is present (or The Lonely manifests some other way), the tapes tend to make a slight screeching sound.
    • Some overlap with The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You; during the episode that depicts the Unknowing, the intro music changes to the bizarre carnival music used as the background for the rest of the episode, to emphasize the Mind Screw nature of events.
    • Throughout Season 5, whenever Jon uses his Archivist powers to turn the Eye on an avatar and destroy them, the process creates a glitchy screeching sound similar to the sound of a magnetic tape being erased.
  • Panopticon of Surveillance: Not only is the Institute built on the ruins of Millibank Prison, which housed the earliest Panopticon in real life, but there is a remaining panopticon in the tunnels. This turns out to be vital to Jonah Magnus' plans, as part of the Eye's ritual.
  • Paranormal Investigation: What the Magnus Institute gets up to, at least in part; many of them prefer ivory-tower academia to the legwork of actual investigation, and they like think of themselves as serious scholars rather than silly ghost-hunters. Conversely, other paranormal investigators regard the Institute as a joke.
  • Posthumous Character:
    • Gertrude Robinson, the previous archivist, who Jon replaced after she died. She was responsible for the chaotic state of the archive, and seemingly for a great deal more. At the end of season 1 we find out that she was shot, and her body is in the archive's basement.
    • Several of the previous "generation" of the occult community is also dead by present day: Agnes Montague, Raymond Fielding, Adelard Dekker, and John Amherst, among others.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The End is one of the few Dread Powers to have never attempted a ritual. Peter Lukas states this is because since the End represents death, a successful ritual would end all life and thus also end fear, which the Powers need to exist. Such a ritual would therefore be self-defeating. He is eventually revealed to be wrong. After the Powers are successfully brought into the world, we learn that the End very much does desire the end of all life, including its own.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: When Jon finally takes out Jonah Magnus:
    Jonah: Please, Jon... I don't want to die.
    Jon: Neither did they.
  • Primal Fear: Pretty much every episode deals with a supernatural manifestation of a primal fear, e.g. death, fire, darkness, etc... In episode 111, we learn that the cosmic entities responsible for all these occurrences are, in fact, each the embodiment of a different primal fear.
  • Properly Paranoid: Jon in season 2, though he's often wrong about what to be wary of. Also, as a general rule, any statement giver or recurring character who is worried about something is right.
  • Psychic Powers: The abilities granted to high-level acolytes of The Beholding.
    • Elias has the ability to watch people remotely and to insert knowledge into their minds.
    • Jon, as Archivist, can understand languages they have never studied and compel people to answer questions against their will.
    • The Archivist also enters the dreams of those who give statements to the Magnus Institute, and watches as they relive their nightmares.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Crazy, evil, and dead, the lesbian trifecta: Jude Perry kills people for fun, is in love with her god, the Desolation, tortures Jon, and killed herself in front of her girlfriend, only to reanimate as a mobile wax figure.
  • Punch-Clock Hero: "Sectioned" officers are this at best. From what we see, the clandestine nature of their work only worsens the temptation to eventually become Dirty Cops of one sort or another.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: In Season 5, as a result of the Change, the world no longer works the way it's supposed to; the geography of the land is different, nobody necessarily needs food or sleep anymore, and the Powers are running rampant in the open.
  • Recurring Character: Several, on two different levels. The first includes people like Melanie King and Basira Hussain, who appear in multiple episodes interacting with Jonathan and the Institute itself. The second include people like Mikaele Salesa and Gerard Keay, who show up in multiple statements read by The Archivist.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: In the extended Season 3 Q&A, it was revealed that originally Tim was going to be the one killed and replaced by the "Not-Them" at the end of Season 1, but Sasha's voice actor couldn't commit to more than one season, and the creative team took advantage of the voice switch. Since this meant they were killing off their (at the time) only main female character, they also added/expanded the roles of several more female cast members in the following seasons.
  • The Reliable One: Sasha, who Jon considers the most "level-headed" of his three assistants.
    • Notably, though, Tim is the one Jon trusts to not have written a prank statement as a practical joke in season one: it's why Jon asks Tim to look into "Antonio Blake's" statement in episode 11, Dreamer.
  • Relieving the Reaper: With elements of You Kill It, You Bought It. Winning Chess with Death does not actually save your life; it merely turns you into a reaper yourself. It's only after losing a game as a reaper that you can return to normal life, but you're still not quite the same; you can't sleep, eat, drink, or die.
  • Religion of Evil: The People's Church of the Divine Host and The Cult of the Lightless Flame.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Employees at The Magnus Institute, or at least in the archives physically cannot quit their jobs, no matter how much they might wish to, except by gouging their eyes out.
  • Retconjuration: Once the "Not-Them" Kill and Replace their victims, people's memories and photographic records are magically altered showing them instead of their victims. While a few remnants of the prior person, either in records or memories still remain, given their habit of tormenting those who know that they are impostors, they are clearly doing this on purpose. Magnetic tape manages to consistently escape their powers, though.
  • The Reveal:
    • Episode 111 is the first time the Dread Powers are explicitly named and listed. It also reveals the true fate of Gerard and Mary Keay, characters who featured in many statements prior.
    • Episode 158 has two reveals: One, Peter has been lying to Martin the whole season to manipulate him into killing Jonah Magnus; two, Elias is Jonah Magnus, who has been Body Surfing through the centuries.
    • Episode 197 reveals the secret of Hill Top Road: It is a portal to Alternate Universes, which the Web wishes to enter. The episode also comes with the reveal that the tape recorders are not a tool of the Eye like everyone thought, but the Web, which plans to use them as the medium by which it can cast itself through the portal.
  • Rewatch Bonus: A lot of things appear in a much different light once you know that the Institute itself serves a Power, Gertrude was actively fighting nearly every supernatural entity in range including the one she technically belonged to, and "Elias" is actually Jonah Magnus himself.
  • Rule of Symbolism: In-Universe, the Entities work on this rather then conventional physics — they're described as making "as much logical sense as a nightmare." In season 5, after the Entities are summoned into our world, the entire world now runs on this.
  • Safe Under Blankets: In episode 86 "Tucked In". The victim of the episode goes to look for an old friend but finds him dead and rotten- with his body under a blanket like he was hiding there. Soon the victim starts seeing a foul-smelling, shadowy creature sneaking around his room at night, that only stops moving when he hides under his blankets. The blankets don't save him, though.
  • Sanity Slippage: In "Thrown Away", Allan Partridge becomes increasingly obsessed with the garbage bags filled with grotesque things, with the unfortunate side effect of him becoming increasingly unpleasant and grumpy.
  • Scarily Specific Story: The Leitner in episode 70, "Book of the Dead", describes the deaths of all its previous holders in gruesome detail... and the future death of its current owner. Making a conscious decision to avoid the location or circumstance described in the story causes the book to generate a new story, and moves the date of your death closer.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: A lot of the people giving the statements are still alive to do so because they ran like hell as soon as possible when things started going wrong. (Not that this does some of them any good in the long run.)
  • Scully Syndrome: Jon's initial skepticism is unwavering, to the point where Martin points out in-universe how some of Jon's "rational" explanations are shaky at best.
  • Secret War: Over the course of the show, it becomes apparent that many of the supernatural forces at play are in conflict with one another. Eldritch spiders and Cult of the Lightless Flame appear to have fought over a house on Hill Top Road, and the Flesh Hive attacks the Archive because it is a seat of power for the Beholding, and the Flesh Hive hates being watched.
  • Semantic Superpower: Avatars of The End cannot die by natural means because of their connection to death itself, while Avatars of other powers cannot die by natural means because they are not under death's jurisdiction anymore, as Jon finds out. But an Avatar of The Hunt or The Slaughter can kill other Avatars anyway, since the act of killing is in their portfolio, as is the case for Basira and Georgie. As for the Dread Powers themselves, The End must genuinely kill people in its domains After the End, and there is nothing the other powers can do to directly impede it taking victims from other domains and causing the end for even the powers themselves. Except that The Web, being the fear of being manipulated, gained the ability to coherently think and plan, so it was able to devise and execute an Evil Plan to spread the powers into The Multiverse for infinite victims. Oddly, The Web is explicitly unique among the powers for its ability to think, so The Eye doesn't have the same need for "authenticity" when preying on the fear of being known and judged.
  • Sentient Cosmic Force: In the last episode of season 2, we learn that there are eternal beings of vast power existing "next" to our world that are essentially responsible for all of the monsters, as well as all of Leitner's books, that have appeared on the show. One of them — the Beholding — is the direct patron of the Magnus Institute.
  • Serial Killer: "A Father's Love" is a statement about the actions of one, given by his daughter. Later in "Exceptional Risk" we hear about his time in prison.
  • Sinister Minister: Maxwell Rayner, the head of the People's Church of the Divine Host.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Helen throughout most of season 5 enthusiastically ships Jon and Martin, making a lot of jokes that assume a level of familiarity they are both uncomfortable with.
    • Out of universe, Alasdair Stuart (voice of Peter Lukas) enthusiastically ships Peter and Elias, a view the rest of the cast has run with in bonus content.
    • Frank Voss (voice of Basira) has jokingly referred to Daisy as Basira's "wife" in commentary episodes.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns:
    • Tim Stoker provides much of season 1's Comic Relief; even after being injured in the Jane Prentiss attack and finding out he can't quit his job serve as his Cynicism Catalyst and he begins to hate the Institute, he's still a Deadpan Snarker who brings levity to many of the darker scenes of seasons 2 and 3. When he blows himself up in order to stop the Unknowing at the end of season 3, it paves the way for the much darker, grimmer tone of season 4.
    • Helen fills the role of the comic relief for much of season 5 with their dry humor and by acting as a Shipper on Deck for Jon and Martin. In episode 187, Jon is forced to go through her domain alone and is confronted with how dangerous and manipulative she really is, deciding to destroy her. This immediately precedes his arrival in London, setting the stage for his confrontation with Elias.
  • Shout-Out: The series is filled to the brim with these.
    • Clive Barker. Not only is the character of Georgie named after him, but episode 174, "The Great Beast" is directly taken from his short story "In the Hills, the Cities" - as both tell of a male gay couple having to confront a giant entirely composed of thousands of human people tied together in one organism. Other references to Barker's works are scattered throughout the series, such as episode 103, "Cruelty Free", evoking "Pig Blood Blues".
    • H. P. Lovecraft. Both Lovecraft's work and the Magnus Archives share a world of secret cults and occult grimoires crushed by the powers of maddening unknowable Eldritch Abominations, with a specific emphasis on the fear of the vast unknown of space or the deep, coupled with the insignificance of humanity's place in the universe.
  • Shout-Out Theme Naming: All the archival assistants except Basira share last names with horror writers (Algernon Blackwood, M. R. James, Stephen King, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker).
  • Shown Their Work: Whether the subject is 1980's club culture in Britain or satellite graveyards, the writers make a point of being as accurate as possible.
  • Someone Has to Do It: Typically, when you're deeply unhappy in a monstrously dangerous job, you'd quit. The Eye's grip on the employees of the Archive is so pervasive yet so subtle that this option doesn't even occur to most of them until it's brought to their notice. When Tim tries to run away, he gets so sick that he has to return.
    • Even worse for the Archivists themselves, who, unless they die violently, are immortal - but never stop aging, and are replaced once they're too old to be useful.
  • So Proud of You: Elias has been grooming Jon to become the new Archivist for quite some time, and is delighted whenever he makes progress.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": A non-translation related example. Whether the main character is Jon or John is surprisingly controversial, due to clashes between the official answers (John with an H) and the fandom consensus (Jon without an H).
    • The in-universe Word of God reason is apparently that since Johnathan (with an H) is more common than Jonathan (without an H) in Britain, everyone has assumed the H is there and Jon has resigned himself to this.
    • Jonathan Sims (the author) has also stated that the Doylist reason for this is to maintain separation between himself and his character.
  • Spiders Are Scary: Multiple episodes deal with spider-related horror; one is even titled "Arachnophobia".
    • One of the Dread Powers, the Web, is closely associated with spiders; however, in a twist, it's not the fear of spiders as pests (that would be the Corruption), but the fear of being metaphorically caught in a spider's web.
  • Spider Swarm: More than one character gets spooked by one suddenly emerging from an object.
  • Spiritual Successor: To The Black Tapes. Acknowledged by the creative team in the season 1 Q & A episode.
  • Story-Breaker Power: The post-finale director's commentary discusses this in regards to multiple characters being The Omniscient, and that they were very careful to figure out what the limitations on that omniscience was before they started writing in earnest. It's mainly held in check by saying that mortal minds can't hold all the knowledge of the universe at once, so just because the character knows something doesn't mean they can piece together the implications; as well as several explicit points of Anti-Magic Holding Back the Phlebotinum.
  • The Swarm: Worms, spiders, mosquitos, ants, flies... they all show up as swarms in different episodes.
  • Switching P.O.V.:
    • In "Burned Out" (8), Ivo Lensik tells of a priest, Father Burroughs, visiting the house during his strange experiences there. Later, in "Confession" (19), we see the same visit from Burroughs's viewpoint. In "Pest Control" (55), Jordan Kennedy visits Jane Prentiss's home from "Hive" (32) shortly after she leaves.
    • "Personal Space" (57), "A Matter of Perspective" (105), and “Dark Matter” (135) are seen by the crewmembers of a three-person mission on board the space station Daedalus. The third reveals the station was funded by multiple Avatars for the purpose of experimenting with Rituals in space.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The entire Archives team has fallen into this as of season 4. Half of the protagonists are transforming into eldritch monsters as a side effect of their unwilling servitude to the Powers, and the other half have started using increasingly unscrupulous methods (Basira making deals with Elias to get information, Martin's involvement in Peter's secret plans), leading to a dynamic where none of them trust each other enough to work together and get anything done.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • In "Anglerfish", a young man named Nathan encounters a creepy stranger standing in a dark alleyway who asks him for a cigarette—without moving their mouth. Nathan does not count as this, as he wisely books it, but the six disappearances in that area around that time were the result of six people who didn't think approaching was a bad idea.
    • Inverted in Uncanny Valley, in which the main character, Sebastian Skinner, was too dumb to die: his failure to notice anything amiss about a shower drain being clogged with flesh was funny enough to "Megan" that she let him leave, then invited him back to show Jude Perry and to presumably kill him for real. Luckily for him, Jude also (presumably on a whim) lets him leave with nothing more that a burned shoulder, even holding his car door open for him.
  • The Undead:
    • The fate of those who become pages in the Book of the End, including Mary Keay and Gerard Keay.
    • Also the fate of Jon at the end of Season 3. His body is clinically dead. His lungs do not breathe and his heart does not beat. But his brain activity is off the charts, as he lies in a 'coma' and communes with The Eye.
    • It is strongly implied that all avatars are this in some form, as they must suffer a death or death-like traumatic event to make the full transition into avatarhood. Many of them have their bodies replaced with biologically impossible materials, such as wax (the Desolation), plastic (the Stranger), or spiders (the Web), and they cannot be killed by mundane means.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Jon, Elias, and the Eye itself, to the Web. All of them were played like fiddles not just to bring about the apocalypse, but to carry out the Web's real plan: to spread into the multiverse.
  • Tyke Bomb: Agnes Montague, who was created for an attempted Desolation ritual. This fails miserably due to, of all things, a coffee shop romance.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Jon often indicates that he thinks the statement-maker either wasn’t entirely truthful or was affected by drugs, a mental health condition or similar. In "Lost Johns' Cave" his assistants' research proves that statement is full of inaccuracies. Later we learn that Jon himself has been an unreliable narrator in his comments.
  • Villain Has a Point: If Daisy had finished the job she started in MAG 91, that is, quietly murdering Jon and leaving him in an unmarked grave, the world would have been a much safer place.
  • The Virus: The silver worms apparently controlled by Jane Prentiss, which infest people and either kill them or turn them into zombie-like servants (or both).
  • Walking Spoiler:
    • Saying anything about Jonah Magnus will inevitably lead to at least one of three things being spoiled: that he founded the Magnus Institute in service to Beholding, that he's currently possessing Elias Bouchard, or that he's been working throughout the series to cause the apocalypse, which he finally achieves at the end of Season 4.
    • To a lesser extent, it's impossible to talk about Oliver Banks without revealing that he is also Antonio Blake, one of the earliest plot-relevant statement givers.
  • Weakened by the Light: Monsters of the Dark, naturally. However, they can fight back with supernatural darkness that extinguishes artifical light sources.
    • The true form of Maxwell Rayner is killed by being exposed to light during an attempted Body Surf.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: More than a few characters get popped off within an episode or two of their appearance. Sasha, Jurgen Leitner, Michael Crew, and Gerard Keay all suffer this fate.
    • Subverted with Trevor Herbert, who was listed as having died immediately after giving his statement, only to somehow have given a later statement. Turns out, he belongs to the Hunt, and it's keeping him alive.
  • Wham Episode:
    • MAG 80 has two huge twists that alter the course of the entire series. The first is a Cosmic Horror Reveal: according to Jurgen Leitner, all of the cases the archival staff have dealt with thus far have been the work of eldritch beings modeled after humanity's primal fears... and the Magnus Institute is essentially a cult created to serve one of these eldritch beings. The second is Elias being revealed as Gertrude Robinson's killer, then proceeding to murder Jurgen Leitner and framing Jon for it, forcing Jon to go into hiding.
    • MAG 119 and 120. The world almost ends, Tim sacrifices himself to stop the Unknowing, Daisy kills Hope and then gets trapped in the Coffin by Breekon (she's presumably dead), Jon ends up in a coma (and is definitively no longer human), Elias goes to prison, and Peter Lukas becomes the new Head of the Institute.
    • MAG 142 reveals that Jon's been an Unreliable Narrator - he's stated on tape that he's only been using his powers for the greater good (i.e. on villains and people with information so crucial that the benefits of learning it outweigh the costs of hurting the person), but in reality he's been going out between episodes and feeding on innocents.
    • MAG 160 is probably the biggest Wham Episode yet: a ritual finally works. Jonah Magnus's plan for immortality succeeds when Jon, who has been marked by every Entity, reads an incantation hidden in a statement that completes a ritual to summon every Entity, causing the apocalypse.
  • Wham Line:
    • At the end of MAG 38, we seemingly end on a lighthearted moment with Jon accidentally knocking over a bookshelf while trying to kill a spider... and then he and Sasha find a hole in the wall that seems to go all the way to the exterior. And then we hear something starting to squirm...
      Jon: Sasha, run. RUN!!
    • In episode 86, "Tucked In", the statement-giver recounts being stalked by a shadowy monster each night, but that he is Safe Under Blankets. Until one night, the monster comes up close, and he hears it say: "The blanket never did anything."
    • In "The Masquerade", when the team learns what's really powering the Unknowing:
      Jon: Oh god... oh god, they're not waxworks.
    • In episode 158, when Elias reveals himself as Jonah Magnus:
      Martin: Where are [Jonah Magnus'] eyes?
      Elias: Exactly where they’ve always been, Martin: Watching over my Institute.
    • The first five minutes of MAG 160 start out as a Breather Episode, especially after the harrowing events of 159, with fluffy interactions between Jon and Martin. Jon absentmindedly picks up a statement to read while he's on his own, setting up a relatively mundane-sounding story about a fire in a woman's childhood home. Then he reads the first line.
      Jonah-As-Elias: Hello, Jon.
    • One of the next lines is even whammier.
      Statement of Jonah Magnus regarding Jonathan Sims, The Archivist.
    • The line that precedes Jon summoning the 14 Fears under Jonah's control:
      I... open... the door!
    • The episode descriptions themselves can be this if you read them before listening to the episode. Any time the statement giver is a name you recognize, like Jane Prentiss, Jurgen Leitner, or Jon himself, you know you're in for a heavy episode.
    • Episode 39, the finale of season 1, also throws a curveball in the episode description: Up to that point, all the episode descriptions were descriptions of the statements they contained, but the episode 39 description is "Original recording of Jane Prentiss' attack on the Magnus Institute." This pattern continues for all future "live" episodes, most of which are Wham Episodes.
    • Episode 82 throws another curveball in the description: "Statement of Alice 'Daisy' Tonner, regarding the crimes and death of Calvin Benchley. Statement never given."
  • Who You Gonna Call?: The Institute advertises itself as a place where anyone who has had a supernatural experience can come give a statement, and many people assume that it also offers aid or information on what might have happened to them or why. It does not, and the only thing people get for their business is a lifetime of nightmares and paranoia if they're lucky.
    • The London Metropolitan Police's paranormal division, known as "Section 31" appears to be a straighter example, but at least one of the officers ends up becoming an Avatar of The Hunt and it's possible the entire organization might ultimately serve it. In fact, given the way the Powers work (not to mention the overall leftist ethos of the series as described above), it's not impossible that the entire concept of policing itself may be connected to The Hunt.
  • Worshipped for Great Deeds: In season 5, Melanie and George get a cult around them, because they have enough knowledge to evade the Fears and try to save all the people they can. Georgie in particular is viewed as some sort of Messiah because their supernatural experiences have left them literally unable to feel fear. They also dub Melanie "the blind prophet," which annoys them to no end, although they do play along and lie about having seen a vision of the world restored to normal, not wanting to rob the survivors of hope. In general, the two have a distinct "please quit calling us saviors" attitude, but can never quite shake the cult due to their genuine desire to help protect them.
  • Your Head Asplode: Though it's not explicitly described, this is widely believed to be how Jon kills Peter Lukas by attempting to compel a statement too hard.

"End recording."
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