No matter how an individual player navigates the main quests in Red Dead Redemption, one always ends rather roughly in Tumbleweed. Located in the western part of New Austin, in the region called Gaptooth Ridge, lies this abandoned town with, thanks to storytelling in Red Dead Redemption 2, an uneasy history. Practically since the release of Red Dead Redemption a decade ago, players have known about Tumbleweed’s “ghostly” state, and many have sought to find evidence that its empty, ruined mansion is haunted. In my own playthroughs, I’ve never seen any apparitions floating about in Tumbleweed, but I have read multiple accounts of just that. That under the right conditions one can come across everything from ghostly footprints leading in to the town to a spectral being “living” in the dilapidated mansion. Given what players learn about the town in Red Dead Redemption 2, it may be understandable that plenty of past terrors still “live” on in it in some form or another. Let’s dive into the uncanny account of Red Dead Redemption‘s ghost town, Tumbleweed.
There are plenty of real-life American comparisons to the fake town of Tumbleweeds, from Bodie, California, to Centralia, Pennsylvania, ghost towns litter the country. In the American west, many such abandoned towns were once thriving mining centers, places where people flocked to find fortune and glory through the likes of gold and silver. Often, once those resources dried up, the populace moved onto greener pastures, leaving their once-bustling stores and residences empty. But in some cases, town were left derelict because residents couldn’t easily obtain the resources they needed via the railroad. For Tumbleweed, the latter was apparently the case.
It’s unclear why Tumbleweed popped up in New Austin—perhaps there was gold in them thar hills of Gpatooth Ridge—but by Arthur Morgan’s time in Red Dead Redemption 2, in 1899, it’s a prosperous place. Traveling to the later as John Marston (going to Tumbleweed as Morgan isn’t recommended, as he’ll be recognized and captured as an outlaw of the Blackwater Massacre), reveals that Tumbleweed has more troubles than are apparent at first glance. The first is that residents are miffed that the railroad had bypassed the town entirely in favor of nearby Armadillo. Though maybe they’d be less upset if they knew that Armadillo, at the time, was suffering a terrible outbreak of cholera. But still, a newspaper article titled “A Cautionary Tale” states as much, with it’s headline reading: Railroad Path Brings Decline. Tumbleweed Residents Fret at Future. Second, the town is led by a heavy-handed sheriff named Sam Freeman who dispenses his own form of justice to anyone who crosses him, criminal or citizen alike. And finally, a criminal gang, the Del Lobos, has been terrorizing the town, and it would seem that the tension between Freeman, the gang, and the townsfolk is proving too much for the town itself to handle. All these elements together would set the stage of Tumbleweed’s demise.
Heading back to Tumbleweed, again as Marston, and this time in 1911, the town’s as dead as dead can be. Or…is it?
Granted, when Marston re-visits the town a decade later, its shell has been taken over by a random gang, but beyond that, there’s not much living in Tumbleweed. Nobody’s looking to give Tumbleweed a second life; there’s still no railroad anywhere nearby. If things were as bad between the Del Lobos and Sheriff Freeman as Red Dead Redemption 2 made it out to be, then it could follow that the town has a deathly aura about it. One that keeps the living at bay.
Further, as Marston can also find, there are Blackwater Ledger articles pointing to the notion that Tumbleweed might just be haunted, such as this one:
Following recent reports of ghost sightings in the abandoned town of Tumbleweed, visitors are continuing to tell of unnatural happenings and strange feelings. Some visitors claim to have seen spirits of the dead, others ghosts, still others, ghouls and fairies. Our reporter on the scene found no evidence but we urge readers to send us reports of any unnatural happenings in the area.Red Dead Wiki: Newspapers
A different article points to the fact that there are supposedly “riches” hidden in Tumbleweed’s derelict mansion, and one could surmise that the search for such may have led to more than one prospector’s untimely demise.
While visiting Tumbleweed in both games provide different types of unease, there’s no question that the town’s ruins in Red Dead Redemption are very creepy. Despite this, every time I replay the game, I’m drawn to town (outside of the missions that take place within in it) in the hopes of seeing weird and ghostly happenings that other players have reported. I guess it’s doesn’t help that I’m mildly nervous about visiting the town at night, which would be the proper time for spirits, if any, to make themselves known. But really, it’s just a game, so there’s nothing to be afraid of…right?
All in-line images (© Rockstar Games Inc.), were taken by author during gameplay of Red Dead Redemption on the Xbox One and Red Dead Redemption 2 on the PS4.