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Podcast / The White Vault

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In the summer months, arctic cyclones are the foremost type of hazardous weather present in areas across the Northern Atlantic, Northern Pacific, and North Seas. Capable of developing tumultuous sea conditions, impacting sea ice, dropping heavy precipitation, and resulting in avalanches, these arctic cyclones can severely impact the lives of local populations. During these storms, travel is not advised.
— from the Documentarian's Opening Narration in the first episode of Season 5

The White Vault is a horror podcast by Fool and Scholar Productions. The podcast consists of audio recordings, notes, diary entries, reports, and radio transmissions, gathered by an anonymous documentarian voiced by Hem Cleveland.

Seasons 1 and 2 revolve around the uneasy tale of a repair team of five hired by the Sidja Group, an independent mining contractor operating in northern Europe, as compiled by the Documentarian and her team. The repair team was sent to Outpost Fristed in Svalbard to investigate an apparent equipment malfunction. The team is composed as follows:

  • Dr. Karina Schumacher-Weiß: A German geologist, hoping to use the repair mission to secure a job with the Sidja Group. Voiced by Kessi Riliniki.
  • Walter Heath: An English IT specialist and recent divorcee. Voiced by David Ault.
  • Jónas Þórirsson: An Icelandic father of two, and a representative of the Sidja Group. Voiced by Eyþór Viðarsson.
  • Dr. Rosa de la Torre: A Mexican physician sent with the group in case of any medical emergencies. Voiced by Lani Minella.
  • Graham Casner: A Russian-Canadian hunter and travel escort, whose job it is to ensure the team's safety. Voiced by Peter Lewis.

The equipment issue is fixed quickly, but the team becomes trapped by a storm. As they wait for the weather to clear up enough for them to make their way back to civilization, they find something ancient and inexplicable in the caves below the ice, and soon realize they are not quite alone here at the end of the earth...

Season 3 follows the Documentarian's efforts to compile information from a group of archeologists sent to Base Camp Piedra, in the Patagonian Andes. Though seemingly unrelated on the surface, events eerily similar to the Outpost Fristed incident rear their heads—especially with the information that the narrator has recieved in the first two seasons directing her attention there. The team in this season is composed as follows:

  • Dr. Carito Ureta: An Argentinian professor from the university of La Plata and the first to notice the presence of something spooky happening. Voiced by Alli Smalley.
  • Lucas Criado: A field guide for a tourist association who discovered the petroglyphs the team was sent to investigate. Voiced by Danilo Battistini.
  • Eva Olivia Moreno: A doctoral candidate working under Dr. Ureta. Voiced by Diane Casanova.
  • Dr. Josefa Guerrero: A Chilean professor of archeology currently working at the university in Pittsburg. Voiced by Carla García.
  • Simon Hall: A graduate student working under Dr. Guerrero. Voiced by Eric Nelson.
  • Dr. Zhou Liu: A guest epigrapher from Beijing who investigated similar glyphs found in the Greater Khingan Mountains, and the epigrapher the Fristed glyphs were shown to. Voiced by Sophie Yang.

Season 4 follows immediately after Season 3, featuring a rescue team sent by the Documentarian to retrieve the survivors from the archeological team: Simon Hall, Dr. Guerrero, and Dr. Liu.

  • Eva Olivia Moreno: The only member of the Season 3 team to successfully escape the mountain, though she may be affected by the anomaly more than she lets on. Voiced by Diane Casanova.
  • Graham Casner: A Russian-Canadian hunter and travel escort, and the sole survivor of the Fristed incident. Voiced by Peter Lewis.
  • Raimy Armstead: Simon's partner, who managed to get roped into the mission by pure chance. Voiced by L. Jeffrey Moore.
  • Dragana Vuković A field guide brought onto the mission by Graham. Voiced by Tanja Milojevic.
  • Maheer Issa: An associate of the Documentarian and a veteran of such missions. Voiced by Haytham Alwan.

Season 5 follows the expedition team's return to Svalbard to investigate the source of the incidents and put a stop to them, presumably.

  • Graham Casner: A Russian-Canadian hunter and travel escort, and the sole survivor of the Fristed incident. Voiced by Peter Lewis.
  • Dragana Vuković;: A field guide brought onto the mission by Graham. Voiced by Tanja Milojevic.
  • Dr. Josefa Guerrero: A Chilean professor of archeology and one of two survivors of the Patagonia incident. She seems adamant about getting to the bottom of the mystery and finding out the truth. Voiced by Carla García.
  • Dr. Amelia Murray: An oceanographer working in Svalbard who lends the team her helicopter on the condition that she joins them on their journey to Ny-Ålesund. Voiced by Beth Eyre.

Every episode of the White Vault is narrated by The Documentarian, voiced by Hem Cleveland, who offers her own commentary on events and in later seasons conducts her own investigations.

The White Vault can be listened to on its website. The show is complete, with the fifth and final season having ended in March 2022. It also has multiple mini-serieses set in the same universe: Artifact, Imperial, Iluka, Avrum, and Echoes.

The White Vault contains examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The Season 2 finale reveals the bulk of the events regarding the repair team took place in 2010, seven years before the series was first released.
  • Agony of the Feet: Near the end of season 3, Simon is pushed over by Lucas and impales his ankle on a large bone. Eva pulls out the bone and is able to perform some degree of first aid, but shortly afterwards, he is trapped alone in the antechamber cave for about a week. By the time he is rescued and brought back to where he can receive medical help, the wound has become so infected that his foot has to be amputated.
  • Ancient Tomb:
    • The town under the ice contains a mausoleum containing bizarre animal skeletons and stairs floored with human teeth.
    • The Patagonian site from seasons 3 and 4 has a similar mausoleum, which Josefa refers to as an ossuary.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different:
    • With the fates of the Fristed repair team ostensibly tied up, Season 3 switches to another missing group that dealt with eerily similar circumstances: a group of archaeologists in the Patagonian Andes.
    • Each of the miniseries deals with a different group or people encountering either an artifact or one of the strange locations, although two characters from the miniseries, Dr. Zhou Liu, the narrator of Imperial and Amelia Murray, who was being interviewed about the incident in Iluka, became characters in later seasons.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The central conceit of the series is that it is a collection of documents and recordings of people who got stranded somewhere cold and isolated and (mostly) didn't make it out.
  • Arc Words: "When you see it, it sees you, too."
  • Bilingual Bonus: Most of the non-English dialogue is translated for the audience's benefit, but some spats of it — particularly bits of throwaway dialogue when the team is distressed or panicking — are left untranslated (although translations are available on the transcripts).
  • Broken Record:
    • Walter makes the same distress call multiple times, hoping this time, someone will hear it and respond.
    • Karina starts fearfully babbling in German, eventually repeating, "When you see it, it sees you."
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Karina actually sees the monster early on, but partly because she got injured at that moment, everyone assumes her concussion is confusing her memory. She eventually gives up on trying to convince them. Later on, Graham acknowledges they're all partially to blame for their current situation, saying they should've believed Karina from the first.
    • In season 3, Dr. Liu is insistent that the glyphs at the Cerro Torre site are the same as the ones in Svalbard and the Chinese site that she had studied, which the rest of the archaeological team is understandably skeptical about, given how far apart the sites are and how old the glyphs are. Due to her research on the Chinese site, she's also very wary of the statues, and tries to convince the others that they're dangerous. Not only is she correct about the Guardians—who manage to kill her, Dr. Ureta, and Lucas—but she also was right about the sites, as each one is connected to the vault.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the first episode, Graham mentions polar bears being a possible threat. In “Familiar”, while trying to walk to Ny-Ålesund, the team is attacked by a polar bear.
  • Connected All Along: The Season 2 finale reveals that the Documentarian is investigating the disappearances of the team because she received a mysterious package—among its contents was a message revealing she had a recently deceased half-sister whose death was connected to the events at Outpost Fristed. The package points to both Fristed and another location (the setting for Season 3).
  • Creepy Long Fingers: The creature has very long fingers, one of the few physical details confirmed by the team.
  • Dead Man Writing:
    • As the situation worsens, several members of the Outpost Fristed team write last letters to their loved ones: Rosa to her parents, Jonas to his daughters, Karina to her boyfriend. They also later find a journal of a World War II-era Finnish soldier, who met a similar fate as them.
    • When he discovers that she's turning into one of the creatures, Graham suggests that Eva write something down for her loved ones, only for her to respond that she did but is afraid it won't be enough.
  • Defiant to the End: Heath's last words to the monster before it fatally disheartens him are, "Kill me then, you cunt! Do it!"
  • Despair Event Horizon: Jónas hurdles over it after Rosa is taken and he is left alone, accepting that he will either starve or freeze to death in the caves, or be found and killed by the creature. His actual fate is much worse than that.
  • Distress Call: The team makes several increasingly desperate calls for aid, mostly by Heath.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: When the black stone statues appear before the Season 1 finale, Jónas makes physical contact with it, cutting his hand through the glove material. The resulting wound starts to spreadt across Jónas' arm, turning it into a limb similar to the monster's.
  • Driving Question: What did happen to the repair team sent to Outpost Fristed?
  • Dwindling Party: Members of the team are picked off by the creature one by one.
  • Eerie Arctic Research Station: The first two seasons of the podcast take place in and around Outpost Fristed, a geological research station in the far north.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: As implied by the Documentarian, the entire repair team is doomed. The horror lies in how each one meets their demise.
  • Flare Gun: One is repeatedly used as an improvised weapon.
  • For the Evulz: Subverted. Early on Graham comes to the conclusion that the monster isn't torturing and killing them for food—it just likes this, but in Season 5 Mor specifically states to the Documentarian that the guardians are not toying with the people that come to the sites for fun, although she doesn't elaborate beyond stating that people have to die to keep the sites inactive. In season 5 episode 9, one of the guardians implies that they are, in turn, trying to keep something else “docile and fed”.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The team doesn't escape Outpost Fristed. The records of their trip have been compiled by an outside party, who acts as the narrator - clearly implying that they themselves are not here to tell the tale. Even the one who is wants nothing to do with it anymore, and his team's story has been concluded previously.
  • Found Footage: Much of the narrative is made up of video and audio recordings of the team that the Documentarian received. With The White Vault being an audio podcast, we only get the audio part.
  • Ghostapo: Downplayed; the diary of a Finnish ex-soldier from World War 2 mentions that the Germans were investigating the weirdness in the vicinity of the future Outpost Fristed. It's implied that they just wound up being another group of sacrifices like everyone else.
  • Given Name Reveal: In the final episode, the Documentarian's and Mor's names are revealed to be Linnea and Agnetta, respectively.
  • Going in Circles: This happens twice. It’s left ambiguous whether it’s just human error due to poor visibility or an unfamiliar environment, or if it’s part of the supernatural strangeness, although later seasons imply the latter.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Nearly all of the White Vault theme tracks have a two-beat pulse as its base, using various instruments. The significance becomes clear during the events of Season 2.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The responses that Jónas and Walter get from the receiver, from the monster.
  • Human Disguise: The Guardians can use the appearances and voices of their victims, which they use either to draw in their prey, like the one that imitated Dr. Liu to draw the rescue team in season 4 further in, or to communicate, as the one who appeared to Rosa to talk to Graham in Season 5.
  • I Lied: In Season 2, Casner lied about intending to go only so far into the caves to find Karina and her killer. Then he reveals that he lied about the snowmobiles being a viable means to escape when he and Jónas checked in Season 1, if only to not rob the others of hope.
  • I Shall Taunt You: The monster clear gets a kick out of tormenting and taunting its prey, from destroying their food supply to mimicking Walter's screams for help.
  • It Can Think: While the team is down in the village, the creature takes the opportunity to destroy all the stored food in the bunker. It also disables all of the snowmobiles in exactly the same way, ensuring that they can't be repaired by swapping parts.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Defied. Once it becomes clear that they're dealing with more than bad weather, the group quickly adopts a policy that no one be left alone. It doesn't save them.
  • Monstrous Humanoid: The monster hunting the team is a tall, spindly humanoid, with wicked claws and extremely long fingers.
  • Mood Whiplash: The utterly creepy scene where Walter and the team get the box open and discover it's filled with human teeth is immediately followed by the Documentarian, deadpan as ever, revealing that the audio file containing this information was titled "FUCK THAT BOX." Ah, Walter...
  • Multinational Team:
    • Each member of the Outpost Fristed repair crew is of a different nationality; Rosa is Mexican, Walter is English, Jónas is Icelandic, Karina is German, and Graham is Russian-Canadian. Everyone except Walter is bilingual.
    • The archaeological team sent to Base Camp Piedra in season 3 includes American Simon Hall, Colombian-American Eva Moreno, Argentinian Dr. Ureta, Chilean Dr. Guerrero, Chinese Dr. Liu, and Brazilian Lucas Criado. While they all know enough English to use it as a common language, much of the documentation and conversation is in Spanish, which Simon is comically bad at speaking.
    • The miniseries Imperial features a cartography expedition including Italian and Portuguese missionaries, their servant who is implied to be from somewhere in the vicinity of India, and a Chinese official and his servant.
  • Mysterious Benefactor:
    • The Documentarian serves as one in the overarching narrative. The audience is given almost no personal information about her, but it's clear that she has the funds, resources and connections necessary to conduct this investigation and later put together the Piedra rescue effort, suggesting that she is in a very wealthy or at least powerful position. The little we do know about her—such as her learning of her late half-sister—is only divulged for context regarding the investigation. Some people, like Graham Casner, have met her in person, so there's a chance they know who she is, but the audience is left in the dark.
    • The Documentarian herself has one who initially sent her the information about Outpost Fristed and Base Camp Piedra, along with a mysterious artifact and an enigmatic note about her dead half-sister. She finally meets with them in season 4 and discovers that her benefactor is her biological mother, the CEO of a Swedish shipping company whose family has a connection to the sites.
  • Never Found the Body:
    • The fate of most of the repair team. A box with a freshly-removed heart, most likely Karina's, is discovered by the team in their pursuit. Later, Walter's death is confirmed via his camcorder.
    • Eventually subverted in Season 3: First, Graham Casner is alive. He was dragged into the cavern waters, yes, but he freed himself and resurfaced, separated from Rosa and Jónas. Tired and afraid, he eventually got out of the caves and onto the Svalbard shore, where a Russian ship discovered him and picked him up. The Season 3 finale reveals that the Documentarian's teams had discovered Dr. Rosa de la Torre's body—and that...whatever had happened to her finally convinced a reluctant Casner to lead the Piedra rescue efforts.
    • In one of many parallels between the incidents at Outpost Fristed and Base Camp Piedra, the bodies of Dr. Ureta, Dr. Liu, and Lucas are never found, with the only indication of their fates being the distant sound of three heartbeats in the site's auditorium and the Guardians using Liu's and Ureta's voices and Liu's form.
  • "No. Just… No" Reaction:
    • Everyone, especially Walter, very understandably has this reaction when they get the box open, and find a human heart and several teeth inside. Walter even named the audio file of this event "FUCK THAT BOX."
    • Played for laughs in the patreon-exclusive The White Vault: the Musical where Rosa, Jónas, and Graham find Walter's camcorder. Jónas comments that Walter may still be alive only for everyone to declare some version of "Nope" upon checking the footage.
  • No Name Given:
    • The Documentarian keeps her personal information out for the duration of the series. What little she does reveal is done so only for their relevance to her investigation.
    • When the Documentarian meets her mother in season 4, she doesn't give a name either, asking instead for the Documentarian to call her "Mor" (Swedish for Mother).
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Walter Heath has made some shit life choices in the past, and still has the traffic cone to prove it.
    • In a phone conversation at the beginning of Season 3, Eva alludes to some sort of conflict between her and Dr. Ureta that her relatives seemed concerned would lead to her being removed from the expedition, but no further detail is given regarding it (aside from Eva commenting that Dr. Ureta has "some ill-informed ideas").note 
    • Dragana mentions that SOMETHING happened in Bucharest that Graham doesn't want his daughter knowing about. Whatever it was, it's enough to make him give into her demands.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several from the team, as things go increasingly pear-shaped. Many of these are a Mass "Oh, Crap!", as well.
    • The first big one is when Graham realizes their power was cut deliberately.
    • The collective reaction when Karina is taken... and later, when the team comes back to find their food destroyed.
    • Graham's reaction when he realizes they've gone in circles chasing the monster, which had taken Heath.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Two cases for Karina:
    • First, Karina is very keen and enthusiastic on studying the geological makeup of Svalbard, especially in the under-ice village. But her encounter with the monster shakes her so badly that she insists that the team leave Fristed as soon as possible. In fact, her behavior following her escape from the monster is clouded by fear and anxiety. By the time the team realizes that she really had encountered a monster, as her behavior post-jump points to, it's too late for her.
    • Second, the team sees someone outside of the bunker. It appears to be Karina in the snow, and Rosa's first thought is to let her in...but Casner and Heath realize that it's not Karina at all—the monster has taken her form, and taunts them to let it inside. "It's so cold...and you're so warm..."
  • Perpetual Storm: Shortly after the repair team’s arrival, a snowstorm rolls in and refuses to pass, keeping them trapped at Outpost Fristed. By the end of the first season, everyone's pretty well convinced the storm is supernatural in nature, Jónas pointing out that even the worst winter storms don't last this long.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: Jónas, after Rosa is taken, begs, "Please don't leave me alone!"
  • Radio Voice: When the creature speaks, they all hear it in a different language.
  • Sacrificial Lion: At the end of the first season, Karina is taken. Season 2 Episode 2 ends with a quick confirmation of Karina's death. Just in case you had any doubt that this monster is playing for keeps.
  • Sadistic Choice: In season 5, after discovering what is known of the truth behind the sites, the Documentarian must choose between sending Graham to his death to appease the vault or trying to save him, which would keep the storm on Svalbard from stopping and likely cause other natural disasters.
  • Sanity Slippage: Karina, after her first encounter with the monster, which the others at first chalk up to a concussion and stress. Walter, too, becomes irate and erratic, especially as he becomes increasingly stir-crazy.
  • Scrapbook Story: The aural version of this. Much of the narrative is put together from emails, reports, diary entries, and notes written by the team. For our listening pleasure, we hear them fully voice-acted by the cast. Presumably, in-universe, the Documentarian is simply reading them herself on her records.
  • Ship Tease: Although it's never explicitly confirmed, Graham and Rosa become very close during their time at Outpost Fristed (both emotionally and, it's heavily implied, physically) to the point that he is affected enough by her death to agree to go to the Patagonian site once he discovers that her corpse is there when he'd previously adamantly refused.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Heath's movie collection on his laptop includes Shaun of the Dead, The Village (2004), and Lord of the Rings ("The Return of the King, to be specific").
    • Marion's nightmare in Artifact where a creature climbs out of her professor's mouth is a reference to the Silent One from Dark Dice, another Fool and Scholar production, who first appeared in a very similar fashion and was itself inspired by the Guardians.
  • Sinister Geometry: The box that Jónas retrieves from the village is impossibly smooth save for a seam that implies that it can be opened. But when they do get it open, they find several human teeth and a shriveled human heart.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: None of them are particularly shy about swearing, especially as the situation gets worse, but Walter in particular is prone to dropping F-bombs when he's scared or frustrated (i.e., half the show).
  • Sound-Only Death: Walter manages to hang onto his camcorder as he's abducted by the creature. When the camera is found by the rest of the team, they see Walter's perspective and hear his terrified screams as he's dragged through the caves, followed by the sounds of his evisceration as the creature removes his heart. While he's still alive. Due to the nature of the podcast, we only hear the video's audio track.
  • Suicide by Sea: Twice in the miniserieses
  • Suicidal Sadistic Choice: Would you rather stay in an isolated bunker to starve to death, knowing an intelligent, malicious monster knows you're there and how to cut your power? Or would you take your chances out there with the damned thing, trying to make it to civilization through a horrific storm in subzero temperatures?
  • Superpowerful Genetics: According to Mor in season 5, the connection to the sites is passed down the Families through mDNA from mother to daughter. While the full effects haven't been stated, they seem to include immunity to the effects of the sites and artifacts and possibly an extended lifespan.
  • Switch to English: Most of the conversation at Base Camp Piedra is in Spanish, but at one point as she's leaving a conversation, Dr. Ureta suggests that Eva and Dr. Guerrero switch to English for the sake of Simon, who struggles with Spanish and Dr. Liu, who doesn't speak it at all.
  • Tagline: Travel Not Advised
  • Taking the Kids: In the miniseries Avrum, it is eventually revealed that Zelig abducted his daughter Rivka away from her mother, who was in charge of one of the sites (and thus also feeding people to it).
  • Tempting Fate:
    • In the first episode, Walter comments that he won't return to Reading after the job at Outpost Fristed is completed, as there's nothing left for him there. Of course, the series' setup makes it clear he won't return at all.
    • The musical has Jonas outright state that he is certain to live because he has children to come home to, but anyone who has listened to the series knows that is not the case.
  • Title Drop: Every episode sees the narrator use the podcast title to end her introductions and the episodes as a whole, but it's not until Season 4 Episode 10 that a "Vault" is referenced by Mor.
  • Token Religious Teammate: Rosa was raised Catholic, and is still devout enough to pray for guidance and protection, as well as the souls of the deceased, to Jónas' surprise.
  • Tragic Dream: Karina will never marry Rolf. Rosa will never be an oncologist. Jónas will never see his daughters again.
  • Translation Convention: Many of the recorded conversations and documents are in languages other than English. When the recordings are played back or the documents read, typically the characters begin in the language actually being used before it fades into English for the sake of the audience.
  • Uncertain Doom: Technically, we never hear any of the team's deaths besides Walter's, and the team members don't actually see any of their companions die—they see them get dragged off, and sometimes find evidence later on. However, there is basically no reason to believe any of them survived.
    • Season 3 reveals that of the five members of the Fristed team, one survived, is now with the Documentarian and is not happy about being dragged back into it: Graham Casner.
  • Unnaturally Blue Lighting: The underground village is lit by blue light. Given that the events take place in the middle of the polar night, it is not clear where the light is coming from.
  • Wham Episode: Season 3, episode 5 reveals that the Documentarian has brought a guest when he interrupts her outroduction: Graham Casner. He is still alive after he disappeared into the cavern waters, and he is clearly not happy to be dragged back into the mystery of what happened to his team and the team of Season 3.
  • Wham Line:
    • Season 2, Episode 9. "Yes. ... Yes." "Rosa! Rosa, that's not me!"
    • A line in the Season 2 finale, which reveals that the recordings covered in Seasons 1 and 2 all date from 2010. Another line shortly thereafter reveals that a rescue team was sent after the main characters, but never seen again.
    • From the same episode: "Sister dead. Come home." The Documentarian's sister—half-sister, to be precise.
    • And again from the same episode: "We found one of them." This may be referring to the sole survivor of Seasons 1 and 2.
    • The Season 3 finale shows that not only was Casner finally convinced to lead the Piedra rescue effort, but that the thing that convinced him to do it was a picture of Rosa's dead body, sent by the narrator.
  • White-and-Grey Morality: The team members are flawed to varying degrees, but they're all good people who definitely did not deserve what ultimately happens to them. The narrator is the grayest of the characters, sparing no expense to get to the bottom of this mystery, and to convince the sole Svalbard survivor to return and help.

This is Walter Heath at Outpost Fristed, approximately thirty-three kilometers northeast of Ny-Ålesund, south of the border to the national park. There are five people here, stuck due to the storm. Looking for assistance. Please respond...