Scientist Claims Fallout Ghouls Could Really Exist

Scientist Claims Fallout Ghouls Could Really Exist
Images via Bethesda

Written by 

Tom Chapman


3rd Nov 2022 16:21

The good bit about playing video games is that it gives us a bit of escapism. There's nothing like coming home from a long day at work and jumping into a round of Call of Duty Zombies to blast an undead Edward Richtofen without fear his rotting corpse will appear at the window.

You normally don't have to worry that a trip to Louisiana will lead to a chainsaw-wielding family chasing you like in Resident Evil VII. It's also unlikely that the world will be overrun with clicking mushrooms as society devours itself like in The Last of Us. Scarily though, the Wasteland of Fallout really could exist. 

Who Are The Fallout Ghouls?

Oswald the Outrageous Fallout
Click to enlarge

You meet some weird and wonderful creatures out there in the Wasteland, and when you're not dodging Deathclaws or maniacs like Mr. House, there are Ghouls at every turn. Clearly, afflicted by the horrors of nuclear war, not all of them are bad guys, and often, Ghouls face discrimination for their imposing appearance. 

It's interesting to note that Ghouls aren't zombies because their skin isn't rotten, Instead, it's the long exposure to radiation that has left them looking like they've been on the sunbed too long and have an extended lifespan. Given that the original prototype for Ghouls is based on works like I Am Legend and used real-life accounts of radiation poisoning, you might not be shocked to learn they could exist in real life. On the Fallout subreddit (via PCGamesN), former microbiologist u/Hinnerhynn explains the "microbial theory on the underlying cause of ghoulification" - catchy title.

Here, they say some pathogenic yeast and breeds of fungus that live in the body need radiation to survive, which would explain why Ghouls exist in areas with radiation. Discussing C. neoformans - that is commonly found in bird droppings- Hinnerhynn writes: "C. neoformans isn’t necessarily part of the normal human mycobiome, however it is a fairly common fungal pathogen. [It] has also been documented as a radiotrophic fungus in the ruins of the melted down reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, utilising radiation as an energy source."

Could Fallout Ghouls Exist In Real Life?

It's all pretty scientific, but they add that Candida albicans is another common pathogen that can cause fungal meningitis with symptoms that include a hoarse voice, fever, headache, stiff joints, nausea, irritability, an altered mental state, and an aversion to light or sound. "I believe that the ghoulification process is a result of (in addition to the human mutations) radiotrophic strains of Cryptococcus neoformans and/or Candida albicans which have been mutated by radiation to form a symbiotic, semi-opportunistic pathogen relationship with the human 'ghoul' hosts," says the OP.

They conclude by saying, "These real world organisms can't cause people to live for thousands of years and heal through radiation, but they could easily fit the bill with a bit of sci-fi radiation mutations mixed in." As unlikely as it is that our world will end up as the warring factions of the Fallout Wasteland (although it feels like that sometimes), it's still fascinating that the seemingly fictional Ghouls aren't that impossible. We can't wait to meet Oswald the Outrageous and the Ghoulified Vault-Tec representative in real life.

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