If you blinked during Bethesda’s teaser of Fallout 76 today, you might have missed it: for a single second, there’s an airborne beast. Obscured by the glow of the wasteland, it’s difficult to make out exactly what it is. Fallout fans are obsessing over this critter, though.
What could it be? Well, there are a few possibilities. We know that Fallout 76 takes place before the events of all mainline Fallout games, not long after the bombs dropped. Likely, the creatures that emerged in the immediate aftermath aren’t the sort of monsters we’re used to seeing. Given the radiation levels at the time, it’s possible that whatever roamed the wasteland around the time of Fallout 76 is even more menacing; this alone makes the potential threats of Fallout 76 worth getting excited about, never mind the fact that the series has hardly featured many flying threats before.
For over a week now, before the E3 teaser trailer of Fallout 76, fans have been murmuring about a specific legend based on the setting of the game. As we now know, Fallout 76 takes place in West Virginia, a place long rumored as the home of a mythical creature called “Mothman.” Fallout fans have been talking about Mothman ever since this post by Deathhowl on the Bethesda forums earlier this month:
According to Wikipedia, Mothman was first spotted around 1966 and reported in a newspaper with the hilarious headline of “Couples See Man-Sized Bird ... Creature ... Something.” Somehow, this sighting became national news, eventually ballooning into an urban legend along the lines of the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. It didn’t help that hundreds of other people kept reporting that they had seen Mothman, a supposed man-sized figure, up in the sky. Here’s Wikipedia with some of the descriptions that made the rounds at the time:
Two volunteer firemen who saw it said it was a “large bird with red eyes”. Mason County Sheriff George Johnson commented that he believed the sightings were due to an unusually large heron he termed a “shitepoke”. Contractor Newell Partridge told Johnson that when he aimed a flashlight at a creature in a nearby field its eyes glowed “like bicycle reflectors”, and blamed buzzing noises from his television set and the disappearance of his German Shepherd dog on the creature
While there’s obviously no proof that Mothman is real, it has become a beloved figure within West Virginian folklore. Mothman even has its own festival, statue, and museum.
Is the creature in the trailer Mothman, though? Who knows. Bethesda does like to take inspiration from history, and it is especially fond of building up in-game legends. The inclusion of Mothman would be a great way to pay homage to the game’s location. After all, Mothman’s point of origin is Point Pleasant, which is known for having creepy storage bunkers that are on land contaminated by TNT. If that’s not Fallout fodder, I don’t know what is.
But that’s not all. Fans aren’t just exercising in wishful thinking here, there’s reason to believe Bethesda will find some way to incorporate the Mothman myth, whether that’s through a creature or quest line. Players have been dissecting Noclip’s documentary on Bethesda, which happens to feature a Fallout 76 artist wearing a Mothman shirt. Since then, footage of this shirt has been excerpted and viewed over a million of times on YouTube by fans, and new videos speculating about Mothman in Fallout 76 continue to pop up every day.
And with the latest teaser, the Mothman hype machine is back in full force, based on posts on social media sites like Twitter and Reddit. “TODD ALL I WANT IS MOTHMAN,” one fan exclaimed. “Fallout in WV complete with Mothman is more than I could’ve ever hoped for,” another wrote.
My guess, though? While it’s likely we’ll see Mothman at some point in Fallout 76, I’m holding out for flying Deathclaw. I can’t imagine something more terrifying than that. Whatever the flying monster ends up being, it’s still pretty cool that we’re keeping the legend of Mothman alive somehow.