December 4, 2022

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‘Warehouse 13’: The 7 coolest artifacts & gadgets

Without a history-spanning treasure trove of artifacts to line its musty, dusty shelves, Warehouse 13 (streaming all month long on Fridays as part of July’s nostalgia-bound SYFY Rewind) would feel like a pretty barren and boring place. It’s the artifacts, after all, that give the magic-sleuthing series its raison d’être; the stuff that makes an unassuming giant metal shed in windswept South Dakota far, far more than the sum of its rusted, rickety parts.

We’re not gonna lie: There’s really no way to rank the relative greatness of all the (sometimes literally) killer artifacts that crossed our fearless agents’ paths over the course of five seasons and 64 insanely imaginative episodes. Artifacts are the show’s sci-fi lifeblood, and nearly every Warehouse 13 episode comes packed to the gills with magical relics both important and insignificant. Some of them — like Ferdinand Magellan’s Astrolabe — are seriously high profile, serving as season-spanning plot devices; while others appear only in fleeting moments as comic-relief afterthoughts…usually just to mess up the workflow for Artie (Saul Rubinek) and the gang, who have a bad habit of casually leaving them lying around.

But in a show that’s all about whipping the unexplained into safe, securely-stored shape, a handful of artifacts still stands out in our memories — even nearly a decade on from Warehouse 13’s 2014 series sign-off. Here’s how we rate our favorites, with a friendly reminder from Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly) about how to listen to your vibes whenever something in the immediate vicinity feels just a little bit off: “When something has no explanation, then the explanation is there’s an artifact involved!”

7: Harriet Tubman’s Thimble

In series lore, Harriet Tubman’s thimble once belonged to the famous Civl War-era activist, imbued from the start with the power to infuse light-bending qualities into the garments she sewed for escaped slaves fleeing oppression via the Underground Railroad. But a pinky-sized device that can fool people into thinking you’re someone else can come in pretty handy in the present day, too — especially if you’re up to no good. Helena G. Wells (Jaime Murray) had exactly that in mind when she debuted the magic-infused thimble early in Season 2, though it would go on to pop up in later episodes, after H.G. was on friendlier terms with the gang, as a useful good-guy tool.

6: The Tesla

Our heroes wouldn’t get very far without wearing a standard-issue enemy neutralizer at their hip, and when you’re up against specters, spirits, and mad scientists from the restless past, no ordinary weapon will do. Carrying the prestige of a Nikola Tesla pedigree, the Tesla serves as one part stun gun and one part Men In Black-style memory eraser, wiping the minds of hapless witnesses when victims are safely zapped at the gadget’s lower electrical settings. Dial up the juice, though, and the Tesla gets downright deadly: One blast at full power can turn a person to nothing more than a mound of dried-out ashes. 

5: Lewis Carrol’s Looking Glass

It’s just plain cool, okay? Name recognition goes a long way with this one, which should easily ring a topsy-turvy bell for Alice in Wonderland fans. Framed by ornate carvings, Lewis Carrol’s Looking Glass is big enough to swallow an entire person, which is kind of the point since it functions as a sort of tit-for-tat consciousness-swapping device. Just like Carroll’s unsettlingly pleasant stories, the mirror carries an air of somber mystery: Stand too close to it, and you might just end up as the one trapped behind the glass — while the consciousness of the person who was looking back at you just a moment before hijacks your body…and starts walking around inside it.

4: H.G. Wells’ Corsican Vest

Not to be confused with the Imperceptor Vest, which served as more of a MacGuffin through the plot of Season 2’s “Time Will Tell” episode, H.G. Wells’ Corsican Vest takes its name from an Alexandre Dumas novella (“The Corsican Brothers,” aka Les Frères corses) about two emotionally-connected siblings separated at birth. While the brothers in Dumas’ story shared a long-distance psychic bond, the vest pretty much goes for a twisted take on that effect, inflicting the pain and injuries of anyone who attacks its wearer back on them instead. It’s basically the Warehouse 13 version of the “reflect” status in video game RPGs, which is a shorthand way of saying it’s one of the most powerful threads hanging around in H.G.’s closet.

3: The Farnsworth

Essentially a steampunk video phone with a whimsically curvy black-and-white screen, the Farnsworth served as our heroes’ secured-network communications device of choice whenever they absolutely, positively had to be sure no one else could drop in on their super-secret conversations. Issued by Artie as a key piece of Pete and Myka’s everyday-carry gear, the Farnsworth was probably a more precious gadget than its common appearance in the show might let on. When Claudia (Allison Scagliotti) finally gets a Farnsworth of her own in Season 2, the show makes it pretty clear that she’s stoked to finally be trusted with the precious throwback flip phone — never mind that the Farnsworth comes packaged in an early-industrial form factor that more or less resembles an oversized Altoids tin. 

2: Spine of the Saracen

The gift of superhuman power usually doesn’t come without a downside, and the Spine of the Saracen, showing up in Season 1’s “Burnout” episode, carries some seriously berserk baggage for anyone crazy (or unlucky) enough to find the amped-up 11th-Century relic clinging to their backbone. Like any proper magic-infused artifact, this one yearns to find a human host whether voluntarily or otherwise, and it attaches itself like a parasite to grant superhero-sized boosts to strength and stamina. Of course that’s not its only effect: The Spine also incites Hulk levels of rage while sucking away at its human provider’s life force, making it a sort of devil’s bargain for anyone who knowingly would spinal-tap into its deadly power.

1: Ferdinand Magellan’s Astrolabe

Superman could warp around the world to spin time backwards, but Warehouse 13 had its own device to handle that task: the supernaturally-charged astronomical calculator that once belonged to explorer Ferdinand Magellan. The Astrolabe scores high marks not only for giving the team a chance to turn back time and undo the mess that destroyed the Warehouse at the end of Season 3; it also ended up being a prominent part of the ensuing storyline, becoming a sort of hot potato that variously kept falling into the right or wrong hands.

Like most of Warehouse 13’s most powerful relics, Magellan’s Astrolabe came with a shady side: It was reputed to be capable of unleashing a fresh new evil every time it was used for good. At different points in the series, the team found themselves wrestling for control over the device, which ended up serving as the gateway for much of their contact with the heirs to the mysterious ancient Brotherhood of the Black Diamond — the Templar-connected sect tasked with guarding the precious treasure through time.

Create your own artifact checklist by catching all five seasons of Warehouse 13 as part of this month’s SYFY Rewind marathon on Fridays, or stream the full series anytime at Peacock.

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