In the Fallout series, the American landscape is littered with underground vaults. The nature of these enormous bomb shelters was assumed to be for the protection of specific American citizens, but the truth is far more sinister: The vaults in Fallout were designed with experimentation in mind.
From vaults with fire nozzles built into the walls to one that had thirty human and one panther, there are some deeply disturbing corners of the Wasteland to explore. Put on your Sexy Sleepwear and crack a Nuka Cola as we explore ten of the spookiest vaults.
10) Vault 19 from Fallout: New Vegas
By the year 2281, this location is occupied by Powder Ganges and fire geckos, but it was once filled with paranoid vault dwellers. The “social experiment” that caused the descent of the original occupants was one of segregation. The vault was divided into two sectors, Red Sector and Blue Sector, each with their own overseer. That might sound innocuous enough, but just imagine how quickly the two groups could grow to distrust one another under the desperate circumstances of nuclear war ravaging the earth.
Browsing through the terminal entries reveals various levels of paranoia on both sides. Some entries state that people could hear high-pitched sounds and some saw lights blinking, presumably in code. In the end, they residents likely destroyed one another. Or the fire geckos and sulphur fumes did them in. Either way, this was not a pleasant place to rest your weary head.
9) Vaults 68/69 from “One Man, and a Crate of Puppets”
These two vaults do not exist in any game, but they do appear in the Fallout Bible and “One Man, and a Crate of Puppets,” the official Fallout web comic from the geniuses behind Penny Arcade.
I grouped them together because one is a vault occupied by 999 nine hundred and ninety-nine women and one man, and the other is the opposite. Now that might seem like a comical idea at first, but when you really sit with the implications, it’s horrifying.
Not much is known about these vaults, but I can only imagine how frightened the one man and one woman would be. Statistically speaking, there are bound to be a handful of people in each vault that have no interest in the opposite sex, but that doesn’t outweigh statistics for violent sexual behaviour among both men and women. I’m glad these aren’t an explorable part of the games; I’d hate to read the terminal entries for this vault.
8) Vault 22 from Fallout: New Vegas
This lush location is a peculiar combination of beautiful and eerie. Signs outside the vault entrance door warn explorers to stay out, and that the plants kill. Warnings of imminent death surrounded by dense greenery is a usual sight, but it only gets crazier from there.
While on your quest searching for lost data and a fellow mercenary, you have to cover lots of territory in this underground garden of terror. This vault’s purpose was botany experimentation; the goal was to keep the population alive solely with plants grown in the vault. Scientists brought live mantises, Venus flytraps, and the Beauveria mordicana fungus into the vault. The latter would eventually prove to be the downfall of Vault 22, as the spores from the fungus were toxic and caused the inhabitants to mutate into the resilient and exceptionally creepy spore carriers. The most frightening thing about the spore carriers is how still they remain until it’s too late and their freaky green bodies are right up in your face.
7) Vault 92 from Fallout 3
Located near the deathclaw-infested Old Olney, this place had a lot working for its creep factor. The proposed idea for the vault was to preserve exceptional musical talents, but the truth was diabolical: White noise generators were where implanting subliminal messages into the minds of the residents. The disturbing effects can be seen in the diaries of some unfortunate minstrels.
Vault 92 could be on a list of the top ten most romantic vaults as well as this list. Actually, scratch that — it would probably be the only one on that list. There is just something hauntingly enchanting about a bomb shelter packed to the gills with brilliant, young musicians.
6) Vault 112 from Fallout 3
Also known as the virtual reality vault, this one’s a doozy. Dr Stanislaus Braun created the G.E.C.K (Garden of Eden Creation Kit) and vault 112 was built to house him and his experiments. Calling what he did experiments is actually a bit of a stretch, as the occupants were cryogenically frozen and put through virtual simulations with no control over their lives. These poor souls were essentially Braun’s playthings; he would put them through simulated “utopias,” ending with one called. Tranquillity Lane. It is in this fictional cul-de-sac that Braun’s madness comes to an end.
Braun instructs the player in a number of increasingly savage tasks, including making a child cry and escalating to murder, all so they can free their father from the simulation. Users are able to either activate the failsafe and mercy kill Braun’s witless victims, or they can throw on the Pint-Sized Slasher mask and cut a bloody path through Tranquility Lane. The former grants good karma, by the way.
Everything about this location is unsettling, but the Pint-Sized Slasher element really brings it home for me, as I am deathly terrified of clowns.
5) Vault 108 from Fallout 3
Talk about attack of the clones! And not unlike the Star Wars prequel, this vault is troublesome. Vault 108 was designed to malfunction. The overseer had cancer, the power was scheduled to breakdown 18 years before the vault was supposed to open, and, as if that wasn’t enough, there was a surplus of guns and ammo but zero entertainment. And then there are the clones, the Garys. The Vault Dweller can glean from files found by searching the cloning lab that every time a new clone was created, their hostility towards non-clones would grow stronger. By Gary 54, the clones become violent until eventually, only the clones remain.
When you enter the vault, you are treated to some of the menacing yet simple dialogue in the Fallout universe. Each clone will attack you while pulling a Groot — the Garys basically only say Gary. I can’t do it justice with my words, so check out the video above from YouTuber Hamsteiner.
4) Vault 87 from Fallout 3
This location plays a very important part in the main quest of Fallout 3, which means it had to be exciting in some way. Unfortunately, this place is interesting for the wrong reasons.
Vault 87 is the birthplace of super mutants in the Capital Wasteland. The vault entrance is so highly irradiated that it takes less than a second for the radiation sickness to kill you. But that’s not even the worst part. As previously mentioned, this is the origin point of one of the tougher baddies in the Wasteland, and there is no shortage of every variety here.
In the depths of this vault, the dwellers were unwittingly exposed to the Forced Evolutionary Virus (FEV), which turned them into the violent and brawny mutants we are so familiar with. The idea that the American government is responsible for not only creating this dreadful species but also for doing it to its own people is disquieting. Plus, the place is crawling with nasty centaurs. Yuck.
3) Vault 106 from Fallout 3
What could be more nerve-wracking than nuclear war? Perhaps being crammed into an underground bunker with strangers, completely unaware that psychoactive drugs are being released into the general air supply? That is pretty damn bad, but how about we add an overseer that is fully aware of the drugs and instructs his staff to reassure the inhabitants that everything is fine?
Upon entering the vault in 2277, the Vault Dweller is exposed to the very same drugs as they are still being pumped through the air filtration system. Your journey through the vault becomes a blue-tinted hellscape filled with hallucinations of your past and attacks from the remaining insane survivors. If you manage to make your way to the end of the vault, you find a cave area that is littered with skeletons and a mini nuke, insinuating that some of the residents tried to blow their way out.
2) Vault 75 from Fallout 4
Located under a middle school in the Commonwealth, this vault was conceived of by monsters in an already bleak world. Vault 75 was proclaimed to be for the safety of the families of students from the school, but once they were ushered into the vault, the parents were separated from their children and killed by the security team. The goal was to refine the gene pool and breed a higher standard of human beings. By the time they turn 18, humans go through a graduation ceremony that ultimately leads to either being assigned to the science team or being harvested for their strong genes. Those deemed insufficient were killed abruptly, and it is suggested in the terminals that even those taken for harvest were killed afterwards.
Experimenting exclusively on children is what makes this vault a real nightmare. Imagine how terrified they would already be, now add the intentionally frightening tales told to the children about Uptopland, and you have a recipe for rampant terror. When the Lone Survivor enters the vault in 2287, it is a stronghold for the Gunners, so it’s still kind of frightening.
1) Vault 11 from Fallout: New Vegas
Some may disagree with me on this, but the backstory of this vault bothered me so much I was left needing a hot shower to wash away all my disgust for this scenario.
Vault 11’s experiment was, forgive my language, deeply fucked on a level I hope to never comprehend. The citizens were told they must sacrifice one among them every year and if they fail to do so, the entire population will be killed. When it came time for the first sacrifice, the Overseer, having had prior knowledge of the sacrifice, was accused of betraying his people and subsequently chosen as the first sacrifice. Because of this, the role of Overseer was forever tied to being the one to die.
Over time, voting blocs popped up and began manipulating the vote for Overseer. The real horrors of this vault are revealed in the personal diary entries of Katherine Stone, as they detail her crusade against the corrupt Justice Bloc. Stone is coerced into performing sex acts on members of the Justice Bloc in an effort to save her husband from being selected as Overseer. When she discovers her husband is up on the chopping block anyway, she goes on a murderous rampage, taking out the Justice Bloc and making herself the more appealing candidate for sacrifice.
If you listen to a log, it is uncovered that after much infighting, there remained only five vault dwellers who all refuse to send anyone else to their deaths. Upon their refusal, the computer reveals that this act of defiance is precisely the intended outcome and they are told the door to the surface is open and they may now come and go as they please. Four out of the five remaining residents kill themselves, and their bodies can still be found at the entrance. This is the video game equivalent of the ending of Frank Darabont’s 2007 adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist: it is brutal and unnecessarily heartbreaking.
That wraps up this list folks! We dredged up the worst of the post-apocalyptic landscape afforded to us by the magicians at Interplay and Bethesda.