|Location:||Detroit Wasteland, Michigan|
|Notable Individuals:||Roscoe Muckwaller|
|Current status:||Functionally abandoned, sealed|
- "I win! I always win! And when the rest of you are burning in hell, I’ll be in here, safe from everyone"
- ―Overseer Roscoe Muckwaller on the sealing of Vault 61
Vault 61 is a Vault-Tec Vault located under the ruins of central Detroit. Conceived as a part of the pre-war Vault Program, Vault 61 never became fully operational, either as a functioning vault or a part of Vault-Tec’s social experiments.
Vault 61 was conceived as a part of the Vault-Tec social experiment program before the Great War. Like many other Vaults, it was geared towards a specific experiment, in this case to measure human responses to extreme duress and the degree of sacrifice one would make for a guarantee of safety. While it would be fully functional and sealed from the outside world, Vault 61 was designed with minimal comforts and a deliberate lack of space for its inhabitants.
Instead, the intent was that Vault 61 would be run more akin to a maximum security prison. Once inside, the population would be stripped of any personal goods they possessed, separated and organised into shifts and rosters by the staff that were intended to break up pre-existing groups. The population would be forced to perform labour inside the Vault and then confined to cell-like quarters otherwise. Those cells would contain a minimum of personal comforts, afford very little privacy and be subject to random searches in order to check for any contraband substances.
Meals would be strictly rationed and exchanged for good behaviour and continued labour, and could be withheld as punishment for any slight, real or imagined. Similarly, entertainment would be minimal, and treated as being more of a privilege or a reward then anything else. Likewise, visits with friends and family were to be treated as a reward, and were entirely dependant on the behaviour of all parties involved.
At the same time, the staff of Vault 61 were to be encouraged to be as brutal, harsh and unforgiving as possible, and to lord over their charges. Unfair and preferential treatment was to be actively encouraged, with the hope of building an ‘us against them’ mentality of the staff versus the general population. The staff would also be given visibly better quarters, facilities, entertainment and rations in order to emphasize how much better off they were.
The key focus of the experiment was that members of the population would be free to leave at any time once the Vault had passed the one hundred and eighty-day minimum safety period. However, they would also be fed a healthy dose of propaganda in the form of ‘scientific reports’ that would indicate that the surface was a completely uninhabitable irradiated wasteland, and that to leave would mean an agonizing and painful but inevitable death. Thus the population would be given a choice between their harsh lives of deprivation in safety and the fear of the unknown. The Overseer and their staff were also to be given the option of extending the all-clear period if they thought it would serve the experiment’s purposes.
However, the Vault was not completed before the Great War broke out. Originally slated for a 2075 opening, the schedule slipped constantly as it was subject to numerous delays and other problems. Mechanical and electrical faults occurred throughout the construction, with a Vault-Tec internal investigation revealing that the Vault was using substandard materials and the team were pocketing the change. A forced reorganization of the team and the need to re-do a lot of the work set the project back and left its budget spiraling out of control. Added to the problem was the degenerating situation within Detroit itself, with rioting and out of control crime serving to further delay construction.
While the project was behind schedule, Vault-Tec had at least recruited an Overseer for Vault 61. Roscoe Muckwaller had been the warden at the Detroit House of Correction for a number of years, and had taken a particularly harsh and brutal approach to his duties. Muckwaller lorded over the inmates like a petty-minded tyrant, acting in a particularly heavy-handed and brutal manner. He enjoyed personally delivering savage beatings to those who acted up, broke the rules, stepped out of line or he just plain didn’t like. At the same time, he was deeply corrupt, accepting generous bribes to allow material to be smuggled into the prison. He also was taking money from the US Millitary and private companies, selling them prisoners for use as experimental test subjects.
At the same time, he promoted a culture of fear amongst the other staff, making it clear that anyone who questioned him or his actions would suffer the consequences. Those that did would find themselves having accidents, such as being ‘mistakenly’ locked in a cell full of violent inmates. This culture of fear had ensured that Muckwaller would remain on top and be able to lord over the prison as his own kingdom.
Ironically, Muckwaller’s career ended in late 2074, but not due to any corruption or abuse of power on his part. Instead he was bought down by a scandal involving himself, a transvestite prostitute, a power fist and a can of CRAM. Forced to retire, Muckwaller was almost immediately recruited by Vault-Tec who saw him as being perfect for their experiment. After being told exactly what it was he would be doing, he readily signed up, using it as a chance to not only once more flex his muscles but also get away from the many enemies he had made along the way. He spent the next two years as a guest of the company, living it up in a series of hotel suits while construction of the Vault dragged on, serving to only further stress the Vault’s budget.
By mid-October 2077, Vault 61 was considered to be functionally complete. However, testing of its systems prior to going live with the experiment showed that there were still a number of problems that needed to be ironed out. None the less, Vault-Tec green-lit the experiment and began to enter it into its early stages. Muckwaller was secretly relieved by this as he had been receiving threats for some months now and had not told Vault-Tec for fear they would replace him. Now he saw the Vault as a way to escape from his enemies.
On the morning of October 23rd, the Vault had only a skeleton staff present as it was still undergoing tests to iron out the last few problems. Muckwaller was being taken on a familiarisation tour of the Vault prior to being moved in, so that he could begin the operational stage of the experiment as soon as possible. When the alert came of an actual nuclear attack, Muckwaller produced a gun and forced the rest of the staff from the Vault. Once they were out, he sealed himself inside the Vault.
His plan was to ride out whatever was happening, confident that his enemies would either all be dead or, if nothing else, have other things to worry about. Having familiarized himself with the operations manual, the experiment and its procedures, he simply settled in to wait out until the one hundred and eighty-day minimum period had passed and then receive the all-clear from Vault-Tec. And while those days did prove to be somewhat harrowing, given his isolation from any contact with anyone else, he did manage to survive.
On day hundred and eighty, Muckwaller waited in his office the entire day for some signal from Vault-Tec, one way or another. When none arrived, he concluded that the company had either been destroyed in the nuclear configuration or, at least, had lost contact with the Vaults. Concerned for what he might find outside, he opted to wait another one hundred and eighty days, figuring form his limited knowledge of nuclear warfare that a year would be enough for the radiation levels to be somewhat safe outside.
He spent the next six months preparing himself as best he could for whatever hazards lay beyond. Having been overweight for much of his life, he did his best to get into shape and improve his health. He familiarised himself with all the equipment that was intended for use by the security staff, and spent time on a makeshift target range to improve his aim. He taught himself more about the medical technology inside the vault, especially the anti-radiation medicines that they stocked. All the while, he was also careful to monitor the Vault’s systems for any signal at all from Vault-Tec, only to find none was coming. Finally on the 23rd of October, 2078, Muckwaller was ready to go. He headed back to the Vault entrance and activated the controls to re-open the door.
After several more ever increasingly frantic efforts, Muckwaller found that the door was not responding at all. The diagnostics reported that all systems were green, but the door continued to fail to respond. As minutes turned into hours, he checked and re-checked every piece of equipment that he could access and found that there was nothing wrong or missing; rather, the door was not working at all, as if sealed in place by some act of malice. This train of thought lead him to one conclusion; that his enemies had over-ridden the door controls from the outside and sealed him inside the Vault to die.
While absurdly paranoid, this train of thought became Muckwaller’s guiding principle. The Vault was his prison, a trap made by his enemies to finally kill him. However, rather then succumbing (“It’s what they want”) he instead remained determined to survive as long as he could and get his final revenge by outliving all his enemies in the safety of the prison they had built for him. At the same time, he clung to a tiny spark of hope that the Vault would be found and he would be rescued.
These two things would sustain him for the next twenty-two years as Muckwaller lived out his life alone in his underground prison. He alternated between periods of lucidity and madness as he tried to find whatever way he could to pass the time in his determination to outlive his enemies. However, even in his most deranged moments he was careful not to do anything that might threaten the existence or functionality of the Vault, and did the best he could with his limited skills to keep it running.
On October 23rd, 2100, Roscoe Muckwaller celebrated his 23rd anniversary of his life underground and the end of the world by getting uproariously drunk on the last remaining alcohol he could find in the Vault. Stumbling out of his office completely inebriated, he tripped and fell on the stairs down to the main atrium and shattered his spine. Completely immobilised but aware, he spent the next few days staring at the ceiling before finally dying of thirst and starvation.
Located in the middle of Detroit, Vault 61 was built below the historic Michigan Theatre and occupied much of a city block. Only the Vault entrance and atrium were located directly below the theatre. The rest of the Vault was built further underground, and accessed through an elevator; this was done both to protect the Vault from a nuclear attack and also to further restrict access. Damage to the building over time has left access to the Vault difficult but not impossible, but doing such would require moving rubble away from the entrance. As a result, Vault 61’s existence is largely unknown to the population of the Detroit Wasteland.
Vault 61 used the large, side-sliding style doors seen on the late-model Vaults located in the Commonwealth (such as Vaults 81 or 111). This was a change made late in the design process due to the troubled nature of the construction process and the desire to produce as inescapable a vault as possible. Ironically, the design of the door was also what trapped Overseer Muckwaller inside, due to a wiring fault in the control panel caused by the substandard materials used during construction. The result was that the door reported as operating perfectly, but in fact was not relaying signals from the control panel to the door mechanism.
Vault 61 is built along the same guidelines as most other Vault-Tec vaults, but with several significant differences for its proposed experiment. Rather then the family bunkrooms common to many other Vaults, the living quarters for the inhabitants were structured like prison cells, with two bunk beds, a chemical toilet that offered no actual privacy and doors that could only lock from the outside. These cells were left deliberately bare and undecorated, designed to encourage an oppressive atmosphere. There was no allocation for personal possessions, with everything to instead come from a communal pool, even down to the Vault Suits.
Other living spaces within the vault were designed to be similarly oppressive. All other spaces were intended to be communal, with no privacy available to the inhabitants and little in the way of decoration. Flat greys were the predominant colour scheme of the vault’s interior, with a stark lack of the blues and yellows common to other Vault-Tec facilities. The only decor came in the form of propaganda posters, intended to reinforce the message that survival was dependant on obedience.
The Vault was also equipped with a series of workshops that were to be used to manufacture parts for use in its upkeep. These were to be staffed entirely by its inhabitants, who would undertake forced labour in exchange for rations. An open, excavated area made up of nothing but bedrock was also provided to be used for hard labour where the Vault Dwellers would be forced to excavate a Vault extension that would never be constructed.
Conversely, the staff lived in far better conditions, and were kept entirely segregated from the rest of the population. The staff all enjoyed separate quarters that were somewhat luxurious by Vault standards, and were encouraged to flaunt their relative wealth and comfort whenever possible in order to provoke reactions from the general population. The Overseers’s office was designed to deliberately overlook the main dining hall, adding to the oppressive atmosphere.
The rest of Vault 61’s design was relatively conventional and straightforward, and featured standard utilities common to many Vaults. These included a Vault-Tec super reactor for power, water and waste recycling, hydroponic gardens and so on. Originally, the Vault was intended to be equipped with a half dozen RobCo Protectrons for use in controlling the population. The charging cradles and control terminals were installed, but due to electrical faults the Protectrons themselves were never delivered.
Because it was never intended for use in repopulation or recolonization of the surface, Vault 61 lacked a GECK or any other sophisticated equipment beyond what was needed for its experiment. It did have a stockpile of security armour and common firearms (N99 10mm pistols, submachine guns and riot shotguns) for use in suppressing the population. Likewise, it had well-stocked medical reserves, installed in the anticipation of frequent violence.
Muckwaller left his own impact on the Vault during his time there, chiefly in the form of various projects undertaken to occupy his time or born of his increasing madness, many of which remain to this day. Some of the highlights include:
- His collection of empty liquor bottles, all stored and arranged meticulously over twenty-three years
- A makeshift target range
- A lengthy rambling manifesto written on the walls of one of the cells
- Vault suits draped over various objects to act as substitutes for actual people, arranged in various configurations around the Vault to represent different groups. These include prisoners, staff, therapy groups, decoys and his mother.
- His journal, kept on the Overseer’s terminal and updated semi-regularly over the years. Its content ranges from factual reporting to incoherent rants
- A half-written novel, also stored on a terminal, concerning the adventures of a transvestite prostitute who murders journalists with a power fist. The book was worked on sporadically over the years.
- A model of a planned ‘perfect community’ built out of cardboard boxes and toilet paper tubes
His skeleton still lies where he died, at the bottom of the stairs coming out from the Overseer’s office, and still clad in a vault suit. In its pocket is a list of his enemies; not only does it include those that would logically have a grudge against him, but also those that had no connection to him at all (eg Chinese Chariman Cheng), those who were already dead (eg Nikola Tesla) and a few who were entirely fictional (eg the Easter Bunny).
As a result of both the problems it encountered during construction and its being neglected for nearly two hundred years, Vault 61 has fallen into a decrepit state. Sections of it are structurally unsound, and a few have collapsed or caved in altogether. Power to parts of the Vault is either non-existent or sporadic, and many of the electrical systems no longer function. An untreated leak in the water recycling system has left the lower reaches of the Vault flooded. Given time, Vault 61 will likely succumb to entropy and its own design flaws.
Ironically, the exterior access is to the main door is still functional, but would require a user with a Pip-Boy 3000 Mk IV to activate it.
- "Every now and then you hear stories of a Vault under the center of Detroit. I think they’re just a myth."
- ―Anonymous Grand Central citizen
- "Imagine what treasures it could have inside. There could be mountains of factory-sealed Fancy Lads Snack Cakes, for example"
- ―Mrs Mothrapickles
- "If it existed, then it would be in our interest to possess it. Such treasures do not belong to the unworthy"
- ―Exaxes (IV)
- "I hope it's not real. Nothing good can ever come of a Vault"
- ―Kara Stinson on Vault 61
- "I betcha its full of tinned beans and Med-X. And I'd lock myself in there with all the tinned beans and Med-X"
- ―Nicholas Busey
- "Can't trust a Vault. No good ever comes from a Vault. A Vault killed my father. If I found that Vault, I'd gut it like a fish and use it for a hat"
- ―David David David David David David Plop
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