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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.

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 Jonathan 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, Jonathan 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 Jonathan 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 Jonathan 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, two other podcasts made by Rusty Quill.

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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:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: The Magnus Institute's choice of archival media. There's virtually no reason to keep records in the unwieldy form of audio recordings (whether analogue or digital), especially when they don't even feature the original interviewees' voices. The transcripts the narrators read from should be all the archive anybody needs. On the other hand... insist on this point, and you won't be left with much of a podcast. It's eventually revealed to be a plot point, since the Archivist is compelled to record statements, and it's Played for Drama when Jon's role as an avatar makes him hungrier and hungirer for statements, eventually forcing him to seek people outside the institute and Compel them to give him a statement.
  • 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: When Jon falls into a coma-like state at the end of season 3, he communes with The Eye and stalks the nightmares of the people who he's personally collected statements from. Although it is heavily implied that this happens every time Jon sleeps, and the only difference is that he's bouncing from nightmare to nightmare for *months*
  • The Ageless: A couple of characters reappear after they should have died of aging, or seeming far younger than they should be, though in most cases it could just be a coincidence of names and descriptions, save for narrative principles. The second stage of existence for those who gamble with Death and win, after encountering a successor. Hinted to be the ultimate fate of each head archivist of the Magnus Archive.
  • Agent Scully: Jonathan 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.
  • 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 Jonathan. 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: 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 actually, really kill people. As no new humans are being born, eventually it will kill everyone. So there's that, at least.
  • 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 Jonathan 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.
  • 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 2 of season 4, 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 Villians, 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.
  • 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"). Word of God confirms that all of these statements are real, and they serve as a break from the grim tone of the rest of the season.
  • Bumbling Sidekick: This is how Jonathan 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.
  • Captain's Log: Jonathan introduces himself and explains his job and the state of the archive at the beginning of the first episode.
  • Cassette Craze: Part of Jonathan’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.
  • Caught Monologuing: Not!Sasha really shouldn't have spent so much time pondering whether it would become the Archivist if they Took Jon. Jurgen Leitner sneaks up on it and binds it yet again.
  • Claustrophobia: 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 John's Cave" occurs in an underwater cave system.
    • "Held In Customs" invokes the feeling, though Vincent denies suffering from it.
  • 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 main antagonists of season 4.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Continuity Lockout: The series embodies this in its later seasons. Seasons 1 and 2 are, for the most part, episodic, with each episode consisting of a standalone horror story and a few minutes of commentary at the end. But starting with season 3, the show begins to embrace an intricate Myth Arc and focus more on a recurring cast of characters, and by season 4 it's nigh-impossible to know what's going on in any given episode if you haven't listened to all the previous ones. (Each episode still includes a standalone horror story, but it's usually a backdrop to whatever the main characters are doing that episode, and will probably reference characters and events first introduced tens or even hundreds of episodes before.)
  • 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, found encased in spider web. Jonathan doesn't believe it's related.
    • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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: Jonathan 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".
  • Darker and Edgier: In-universe, The Bone Turner's Tale appears to be a very DarkFic for The Canterbury Tales. In The Tale of a Field Hospital, the titular book is hinted to predate the LighterAndSofter mundane version.
  • Daylight Horror: Many examples, including "First Hunt," "Freefall," and "Lost in the Crowd."
  • Deadly Book: Jurgen Leitner's books.
  • 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.'
  • 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.
    • 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'.
  • Driving Question:
    • Season 2: Who murdered Gertrude Robinson?
    • Season 3: What is the Unknowing?
  • 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 completely 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.
  • 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 Jonathan 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 also 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.
  • Evil Is Burning Hot: Several statements tell of sinister goings-on being accompanied by a sharp and inexplicable increase in the ambient temperature.
  • Evil Is Visceral: the episode "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.
  • 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.
  • 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 and taking his rage out on everyone in the Archives, especially Jon, his last words are to thank Jon for everything he's done for him and to crack an ironic joke before he blows himself 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.
  • Framing Device: Jonathan 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hate Sink: Elias Bouchard/Jonah Magnus is insufferably smug, casually hurts various fan favorite characters, worms their way out of any consequences for their actions and ultimately reveals themselves to have orchestrated all the suffering Jon and his friends have gone through, takes sadistic glee in rubbing it in his face, and forces him to destroy the world during the one moment in the whole podcast he felt truly happy. Suffice it to say, most of the fandom are very much looking forward to him getting his comeuppance.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Inducer: Avatars of the Powers are immortal or at least very tough and long-lived.
  • Interface Screw: When Sims asks someone a direct question the cassette tape crackles slightly, which is presumably a supernatural effect of his status as The Archivist.
  • 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?: Jonathan 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).
  • 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.
  • Kill It with Fire:
    • 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.
  • 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: Featured in "A Sturdy Lock" and "The End of the Tunnel."
    • As of season 3, "Tucked In" as well.
  • 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.
  • 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: Jonathan’s comments on the statements sometimes leave this an open question.
  • Meaningful Rename: As of Jonathan'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: Jonathan 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Narrator: Jonathan is one himself; so too, through Jonathan, is the subject of each statement.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: In one of the trailers a mysterious voice chants vigilo, audio, opperior. The tape picks it up when Jonathan 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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, whom Jonathan 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.
    • Agnes Montague, Raymond Fielding and John Amherst as well.
  • 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 he has never studied and compel people to answer questions against their will.
  • 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.
  • 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 georgraphy 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 Johnathan 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 Season 3 Q&A, it was revealed that originally Tim was going to be the one killed and replaced by the "Not-Them", 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.
  • The Reliable One: Sasha, whom Jonathan considers the most capable of his three assistants.
  • Religion of Evil: The People's Church of the Divine Host and The Cult of the Lightless Flame.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Raynor
  • 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 her dry humor and by acting as a Shipper on Deck for John and Martin. In episode 187 John is forced to go through her domain alone and is confronted with how dangerous and manipulative she really is and decides to destroy her. This immediately precedes his arrival in London, setting the stage for his confrontation with Elias.
  • 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.
  • 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": An non-translation related example. Whether the main character is Jon or John is surprisingly controversial, due to clashes between the offical answers and the fandom consensus.
  • Spiders Are Scary: Multiple episodes deal with spider-related horror; one is even titled "Arachnophobia". Also, one of the Dread Powers, the Web, is closely associated with spiders.
  • 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.
  • 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' 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.
  • Tyke Bomb: Agnes Montague, who was created for an attempted Desolation ritual. This fails, miserably.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Jonathan 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 Jonathan himself has been an unreliable narrator in his comments - see Agent Scully above.
  • Villain Has a Point: If Daisy had finished the job she started in MAG 91 , that is, quietly murdering Jonathan Sims 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 Antonio Blake (one of the earliest plot-relevant statement givers) is a fabricated persona.
  • 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 Jonathan 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 "The Masquerade", when the team learns what's really powering the Unknowing:
      Jon: Oh god... oh god, they're not waxworks.
    • 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!
  • 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.

"End recording."
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