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

A secret government warehouse where various items are stored of whose existence the government wants to keep secret from the general populace.

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

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

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

The trope can also apply to the secret archives and storage facilities of villains or other organizations who are Collectors of the Strange. If the collection were on sale, it would be a Bazaar of the Bizarre.

The term secret distinguishes the trope concerning similar collections, who are generally more accessible. A smaller, personal mundane collection of simple mementos is a Trophy Room. Likewise a smaller, personal, more benign collection of mementos is a Superhero Trophy Shelf, and only when the collection is maintained by superheroes. The Secret Government Warehouse can also have many of the same qualities of a Library of Babel as both are repositories of knowledge kept hidden from the world.

Not to be confused with Abandoned Warehouse, even though the two can overlap. VERY frequently overlaps with Area 51 for obvious reasons. Most such warehouses are operated by an Artifact Collection Agency.

Examples of Secret Government Warehouse include:


Comic Books

  • The comic book Area 52 ("a storage facility for Area 51") is based entirely on this premise.
  • The Research Technical Institute, the main setting of Creature Tech.
  • Both the Four and members of Planetary maintain large collections of the world's secrets, including mementos from dead superheroes and alien artifacts. As Mr. Snow observes when visiting a parallel earth "They killed an entire world so that they had somewhere to store their weapons."
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a secret wing of the British Library acts both as this, and the headquarters of the eponymous League.

Film

  • The conclusion of Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most famous uses of this plot device: the ending of the film is a shot of the Ark of the Covenant, in a crate, being filed in a massive warehouse. Filled with identical crates. This same warehouse was eventually revisited in the opening of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Three guesses where this warehouse was located...
  • In the Hellboy films, the BPRD facility holds (amoung other things) artifacts and books relating to the occult--including Hellboy himself.
  • The Librarian, featuring the Metropolitan Public Library.

Literature

  • Scott Westerfield's book Specials includes one of these. The two main characters sneak in to steal a specific tool, and end up finding vast shelves of forgotten "Rusty" (present-day) technology and artifacts as well as extremely dangerous weapons of more modern make. The example is both subverted and played straight: the government IS hiding these tools from the general populace, because the cities are all supposed to be at peace and war is unheard of, and subverted because the two main characters are themselves special government agents (and arguably living weapons) that the general populace is unaware of.
  • Not run by a government, which doesn't seem to exist in the Nightside, but the Collector's vast collection of, well, everything rare and legendary meets most criteria for this trope. Definitely secret, because he's a selfish Jerkass who's paranoid about people stealing what he's stolen.
    • Also, reference is made to a "House of Blue Lights" beneath the Pentagon, from which the Unholy Grail was stolen. Possibly a subversion, as it's unclear whether this facility houses other items or just the one.


Live Action TV

  • The X-Files is replete with characters and objects with unusual properties and powers that would complicate the fictional setting, or make it too simple for characters to achieve the goals that they quest for, and the Secret Government Warehouse trope is heavily used to explain the absence of the characters and objects, and to make the goals difficult to achieve. The plot device is in fact a central element of the series.
  • In the first episode of War of the Worlds a triad of war machines are collected from a Government Warehouse ("Hangar 15") where they had been stored since an invasion in 1953, thus linking the television series to the 1953 film The War of the Worlds.
  • The Sci-Fi Channel series Warehouse 13, not to be confused with the GURPS sourcebook.
  • The town in Eureka could be regarded as a Secret Government Warehouse for super smart people.
  • Likewise, the Sanctuary could be regarded as a Secret Government Warehouse for "people."
  • In the second season of Heroes, we have the Vault, where the Company keeps various important items including a human brain, a figurine of the Trojan Horse, a gold key, a gray pyramid model, a kris similar to that carried by St. Joan, a strain 138 of the Shanti virus, and three playing cards (the Queen of Diamonds, the Queen of Spades, and the Queen of Hearts).
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures had UNIT's "Black Archives".
  • By extension Torchwood One and its hub in the Cardiff Division, as found in Doctor Who and Torchwood respectively, functioned similarly, although they did salvage and use the alien tech. Of course, they've both now been destroyed.
  • Chillingly used on Criminal Minds, where an episode about a lone anthrax terrorist ends with his pathogen getting locked in a U.S. military vault. Dozens of similar vaults are seen, each presumably housing samples of a different biological weapon that the public doesn't know about.
  • In Lexx, the US government has a secret warehouse where dangerous individuals -- like the child who spotted a UFO with his telescope -- are clamped to the middle of a wall several stories high.

  Child: Don't worry. After a few weeks you get used to it.

Real Life

  • The Vatican Secret Archives and the storage areas of the Smithsonian Institution are claimed to be real Government Warehouses.
  • Indeed, almost any fairly large institution (ranging from everything from the above-mentioned Smithsonian all the way down to the Baseball Hall of Fame's Museum and then some) will have far more stuff out-of-sight (either being restored, studied or just plain old stored away) than it has on display. The Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum alone had such a problem that they built a Annex Museum and so much interesting stuff is still behind closed doors that they are now working to build a whole new wing onto that Annex which will allow people to actually look at the stuff that is being restored.
    • This troper got a backstage tour of a zoo that operated certain exhibits like a Secret Government Warehouse, in that they kept a dozen or more animals of a given species, but only put one or two on public display at a time. This was so the more active animals, like weasels or small birds, wouldn't exhaust themselves darting around their exhibits first thing each morning, then do nothing but snooze for the rest of the day.
    • This also applies to smaller private institutions. This troper was at a private aircraft museum, and got a backstage tour, where there was an entire hangar just filled with engines. For one type of plane. A type of plane that the owner didn't even HAVE at that time. Just in case.
  • Shane McMahon once let slip in an interview that the WWE never throws anything away; somewhere in Stamford, Connecticut is a warehouse filled with old stages, props, and other assorted gimmicks. One of the reasons behind this is the desire to construct a museum/hall of fame at some point.

Tabletop Games

  • Warehouse 23 is a role playing book based on a warehouse run by Secret Masters. Steve Jackson Games also calls its online store "Warehouse 23".
  • The Green Box Generator is based on this concept.
  • This thread.
  • In Shadowrun the Atlantean Foundation has a treasure trove of ancient magical artifacts obtained from archeological digs all over the world. It keeps them in various well-guarded sites in North America and Europe.

Video Games

Web Comics

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Family Guy shows one of these in the episodes "Peter's Got Woods," and "Back To The Woods." Both of them end with James Woods being trapped in a crate and placed among many identical ones, a a shout out to the Indiana Jones example above.
  • Aeon Flux begins in one of these.
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