Fallout 76 had a bit of a rocky birth, but while it's still popular to dunk on the monster-filled wilds of Appalachia it's also very easy to miss all the cool, spooky real-life lore.
The real life West Virginia, located in the Appalachian Mountains, has long been a favourite location of conspiracy theorists and cryptid truthers, with the elusive Mothman being just one of the many monsters that have been reported in and around the town. For those unfamiliar, a 'cryptid' is essentially a mythical creature based in fact. We don't know for sure that they exist — but according to reports, they very well could.
In Mothman's case, the facts are these: On November 26, 1966, five men digging a grave reported to authorities that they had seen a winged, man-sized figure flying over their heads. Later, on November 15, Roger and Linda Scarberry, and Steve and Mary Mallette contacted police shortly after encountering a large, flying man-thing with glowing red eyes on the road. Several sightings followed, and so, the Mothman myth was born.
Mothman entered pop culture via retellings of the original tales, and was fictionalised by John Keel's 1975 novel The Mothman Prophecies, which told of the death and destruction that followed in Mothman's wake. This was later turned into a film. The Mothman that you encounter in Fallout 76 emulates the original tales, with large, red eyes and scaly wings, though he lacks the described humanoid-like body.
While Mothman might be the best known of the bunch, featuring prominently in Fallout 76's cryptid landscape and promotional material (he even has a pop vinyl), many of the other creatures you encounter are also based in real-life reports and sightings.
The Flatwoods monster, appearing as a misty, alien-like figure in Fallout 76 is another such cryptid which first appeared in local West Virginian lore. In 1952, brothers Ed and Freddie, 12 and 13 respectively, reportedly saw a red streak in the sky, and followed it to discover a 10-foot tall monster with bright eyes, red skin and a green face. Seven other residents of the area reported seeing the same figure in the Flatwoods hills that night, including a National Guard member.
The figure that they saw, corroborated by multiple reports, resembled this:
In common West Virginian lore, the Flatwoods monster is commonly believed to have been an alien visitor from outer space, which is likely where the Fallout 76 interpretation draws its inspiration from. Like Mothman, tales of the 'green monster' have spread, making it a local legend that's rarely glimpsed but often talked about.
Now, while Mothman and the Flatwoods monster are relatively well-known entities in the land of monsters, Fallout 76 makes sure to include several other monsters that are equally 'real', but far lesser known. One of these is the Sheepsquatch.
Compared to the longer-tenured cryptids, the Sheepsquatch is relatively new, having first been sighted in the mid-90s. Now, this cryptid does come with a caveat, because the initial sighting came from a former Navy seaman who was admittedly 'on shrooms' at the time he spotted a horned, humanoid creature drinking water from a local creek.
The creature, reportedly over six feet tall and walking on its hind legs, was subsequently encountered by some children, and then again by a couple in Boone County in 1995.
He's even been spotted as recently as 2015 by campers in Fulks Run, although these reports are impossible to verify. The Sheepsquatch sports sharp claws, and has reportedly used them to frighten campers encroaching on his territory for many years. The version you'll find in Fallout 76 greatly resembles the creature of the original tales, taking direct inspiration from the many drawings and interpretations of the monster.
This walking lump of flesh is another of West Virginia's delightfully creepy creatures. Known as the Grafton monster, this woodlands fiend was first sighted in the 1960s, and was estimated to be between seven and nine feet tall, with pale, rubbery skin. While it's unclear, it was also said to not have a head (although it could have also had a hunched head, per the reports).
According to The Mothman Wiki, the Grafton monster was first spotted by a young reporter named Robert Cockrell, who encountered the creature while driving home. Spooked, he later decided to bring friends and investigate the location of the sighting.
By the time they arrived, the creature was gone, and all their search turned up was a low humming noise that seemed to follow them as they traversed a local river. When Cockrell began to investigate the creature further, multiple witnesses came forward to say that they'd seen it, but no search ever found the creature.
The 'Grafton Monster of Taylor County' episode of cryptid investigator series Mountain Monsters reportedly captured the beast on film, which you can view below.
Another creature wandering the wilds of Bethesda's Appalachia is the Snallygaster, though this creature isn't actually a native of West Virginian folklore. Instead, this creature is a scaly, lizard-like beast first sighted in Central Maryland, Washington D.C. with roots dating back to the 1730s, where it was supposedly first spotted by German immigrants.
The half-reptile, half-bird creature was reported to have been terrorising communities throughout the 1730s, all the way up to the early 1900s. Sometimes, it was described as bird-like, with a sharp beak and claws, and other times, it was said to have razer-sharp teeth and octopus tentacles, which were used to suck the blood of its victims.
Reports of these strange creatures led to people painting seven-pointed stars on their barns (a tradition which continues today), purportedly to keep the creature at bay.
In 1909, Middletown Valley Register reporter Ralph S. Wolfe and his editor George C. Rhoderick said they'd fabricated the entire myth, including faking reports that appeared within their newspaper. That didn't stop 'sightings' from occurring, and still, the legend of the Snallygaster lives on. It's since been immortalised in Fallout 76 for posterity.
Outside of West Virginian myth, Fallout 76 also draws inspiration from all over the American wilderness, including from Native American mythology. This is where the game's Wendigo is derived from.
Tales of the Wendigo come from Algonquian Native American folklore, but have since entered pop culture thanks to its appearances in many TV shows, films and comics. According to popular myth, which is likely to have warped the original tale, the Wendigo began life as a man left in the wilderness to starve.
Out of desperation, the man turned to cannibalism to survive, and was cursed for his sins to become a wandering, corpse-like creature that roamed the wintery woods in search of his next meal. The Wendigo has been sighted in and around Canada, as well as in the Minnesota woods.
The ancient myth states that the Wendigo could possess humans, spreading the curse of the Wendigo via the mind. While reported sightings dried up around the 1920s, there are many that still believe it's out there, wandering the woods at night in search of its next meal.
Fallout has always been a series inspired by mythology, conspiracy theories and folktales, from the radiation-poisoned ghouls to the fabled Mole Men rumoured to be living beneath our feet. Fallout 76 is no exception, and every creature you encounter is entrenched in deeply fascinating, real life lore. Dig a little deeper into the game's mythology and there's plenty of lovely little secrets like these to find. You just need to give the game a chance to share them.