How Fallout 76 became a haven for Mothman, Jersey Devil, and other creepy cryptids

In Fallout 76: Atlantic City, the Jersey Devil springs to life – but it's not the only cryptid haunting the game.
jersey devil fallout 76 atlantic city cryptid lore

Real-life cryptozoology is a source of fascination for many. The idea that there may be other creatures out there – strange, mutated, dangerous, or deadly – has dogged human history for generations. In corroborated eyewitness reports dating back centuries, you may find reference to winged creatures, scaled human predators… even omens of death. In nearly every instance, the reports are backed by a sense of conviction, and victims that insist they’ve seen something magical. Something horrifying.

In Fallout 76, Bethesda Game Studios’ online post-apocalyptic adventure, cryptozoology is writ large, with the base game and its many expeditions littered with famous cryptids, drenched in lore developed over centuries.

Fallout 76: Atlantic City, the latest Expedition for the ongoing game, leans heavily into this lore with the introduction of the Jersey Devil, a winged, goat-like creature first described in the 1800s. It’s not the only cryptid haunting the forests of Fallout 76 – it joins Mothman, the Flatwoods Monster, and the Grafton Monster (among others).

For Fallout 76 quest designer Stephanie Zachariadis, introducing the Jersey Devil and strengthening the game’s devotion to cryptozoology was a compelling, exciting prospect – particularly given the sense of mystery and oddness surrounding cryptid lore.

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“I think everyone is fascinated by the elusive nature of cryptids,” Zachariadis told GamesHub. “They’re these fantastical creatures that have some believability around them, like a multitude of folklore eyewitness accounts and potential theories backing the plausibility of their existence.”

“There’s always some odd thrill you get when you run across an enemy or event that feels “rare” or bizarre in a game. You feel like you’re seeing something you’re not supposed to see, and it instantly raises the stakes … Appalachia is a hotbed for cryptozoology – there’s a startling number of legends tied to the area. I think we would’ve been remiss if we just ignored that rich history.”

fallout 76 mothman
Image: Bethesda Game Studios

As Zachariadis says, Fallout 76‘s setting of Appalachia – a real-life area that encompasses West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Alabama, Tennessee, and other regions – is doused in legends, with stories of cryptids and strange phenomena in the area being frequently reported, across centuries.

It’s from Appalachia that the myth of the Mothman first grew – through eyewitness reports of a giant creature resembling a bipedal moth, who foretold of coming doom. “The Mothman himself is such an interesting cryptid in the sense that he has such a devoted following, yet his actual motivations are completely nebulous. Many Appalachians don’t even believe he exists,” Zachariadis said.

West Virginian folklore also birthed The Flatwoods Monster – a metallic, humanoid creature said to emanate a petrochemical smell – and the Jersey Devil, subject of a number of terrifying news reports and mythological accounts.

In popular folklore, the Jersey Devil has a number of origins. The most popular is the tale of Mother Leeds, which describes a woman with twelve children who birthed a cursed thirteenth child – a child that grew into a winged creature with hooves. The indigenous Lenape people of the region had a similar myth of a deer creature called M’Sing. Other tales flag the Jersey Devil as the result of intercourse between a human and Satan himself.

Whatever its origin, mainstream news reports of the 1800s and 1900s all refer to the Jersey Devil as being responsible for sudden livestock murders, and for a string of public disruptions around 1909. We’ll likely never know the truth of these reports, and that’s part of why cryptids are so fascinating – and what drew the Fallout 76 team to include them in the game.

“The Jersey Devil is a pretty well-known cryptid despite being relatively isolated to New Jersey,” Zachariadis said.

fallout 76 flatwoods monster
Image: Bethesda Game Studios

“If we were going to do an Atlantic City expansion right, we couldn’t do it without our winged friend.”

Stephanie Zachariadis

In Fallout 76, the Jersey Devil is represented as a scaled, bipedal monster with fin-like appendages, claws, and a tail. “There’s a lot of art surrounding the Jersey Devil, and the art team really did an amazing job putting a new spin on him,” Zachariadis said. “We wanted him to look animalistic while having some humanoid qualities since the legend of the Jersey Devil implies that he was born to human parents (or at least a human mother).”

To illuminate his real-life cryptozoologic origins, the team incorporated the Mother Leeds legend into the game, with players able to stumble across the lore, and learn more about the creature. But they held back on explaining the source of the Devil as specific to Fallout lore, so as not to “lose all the intrigue surrounding his character.”

“The Fallout universe is markedly different to reality in many ways, and the legend behind the ‘real’ Jersey Devil may not necessarily be how he first appeared in Fallout. That’s not to say that that theory is disproved, but there’s also quite a few other possible explanations that exist in-universe for his existence that don’t really apply to the real world,” Zachariadis teased.

fallout 76 cryptid lore jersey devil
Image: Bethesda Game Studios

It was playing with these narrative threads, and exploring the real-life impact of cryptids and cryptozoology, that Zachariadis most enjoyed about working on Fallout 76: Atlantic City – and developing its version of the Jersey Devil. As someone who’s “watched way too many videos on the Dunwich Borers from Fallout 4“, it was the sense of mystery tied with these creatures that most enticed her.

“I like mysteries, and cryptids are just one big mystery,” she said. “The rational side of your brain urges you to dismiss them as fake immediately, but there’s also that big ‘What if?’ aspect to their existence. There probably isn’t a giant winged goat-horse thing flying over New Jersey, but can you ever really be sure of that?”

In the arrival of the Jersey Devil, Fallout 76 injects yet another hurdle for folks attempting to survive the post-apocalypse, and yet another compelling mystery for players to parse. Atlantic City, a region that was once ruled by human greed, gambling, and corruption in Fallout canon, is now at the mercy of something much more terrible: the wrath of nature, and the influence of hell.

Those looking to meet the Jersey Devil on its home turf can now check out the Atlantic City expedition in Fallout 76. Its first chapter, Boardwalk Paradise, is already available. Its second chapter, America’s Playground, launches on 26 March 2024.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.