By day I am Arthur Morgan, cynical gunslinger with a big heart and grizzly-bear beard who runs with the notorious Dutch Van Der Linde gang in Red Dead Redemption 2. I have a horse that poos a lot and I ride around the wilderness of West Elizabeth and the city streets of Saint Denis and shoot people's hats off. But by night, I am Arthur Morgan – Ghostbuster!
I've been playing Rockstar's genius Western sandbox adventure for months, and in truth I've barely touched the surface. Partly, this is because of Red Dead Online taking up all my time, but mostly because every time I get stuck into the story mode, I manage no more than one main or side-mission before getting completely sidetracked by an interesting location, or the need to check out a white blip indicating a Stranger, who will have something interesting to impart. Often it's just that English bloke looking for his mate Gavin, but these encounters always flesh out Arthur's adventure and populate Rockstar's world to an incredibly detailed degree.
It's actually got to a point where I can't just ride past a dilapidated cabin or a spooky-looking house without dismounting and checking it out. Call it FOMO, or a kind of game-completion compulsion, but I've already found so much cool stuff that would be easy to completely miss, were I to concentrate only on the story, that I'm hooked on the tiniest details.
Rockstar excels in tapping into the dark underbelly of the Old West, of course. There are spoilers here, so be warned – but so much of this stuff is well worth the time investment to see for yourselves. During my travels as Arthur, I've found a UFO suicide death cult, and a UFO; a mad scientist's bear/human/stag hybrid by crawling through an invitingly open window of a spooky Psycho-style house; a shack full of corpses, recently eviscerated by a comet; a giant's skeleton. Then there's that whole serial killer trail to follow from that bridge near Valentine. But for now, I'm going to tell you a ghost story.
Looking for a spirit guide
Our Haunted West Tour begins when I overhear Reverend Swanson's deranged drunken rambling about seeing a woman in white in the swamps near the gang's Shady Belle camp. Swanson's never been the full ticket, but since the game's packed with the aforementioned weirdness, it seems likely I can follow a trail from here to an actual ghostly encounter.
I'm not actually looking for it when I experience my first supernatural event in the swamps, just riding through. I'd been forced to stop and deal with a bunch of bounty hunters because somehow I'd managed to let my bounty get up to over $400. I'm about to saddle up and head off, when I hear it. A woman's voice.
It's a soupy night, the way the moon cuts through the fog adding layers of horror movie atmosphere, but clear as a bell comes the woman's cry of, "Come back to me!" The hairs on the back of my neck stand up straight. "Don't leave me!" I scour the area for the source of the voice until the sun starts to come up, but there's nothing. I determine to return the following night, same time, same place. Nothing, but it's a very clear night, and nowhere near as spooky. So for the time being I go about my business in Shady Belle and Saint Denis until the next foggy night. Heading up to the same area, again I hear a woman's voice from the mist: "I'll always love you..." I run around a bit trying to pinpoint the source, and head toward what looks like a strange light. I step on a huge alligator, which mauls me to death.
At this point, I should warn you that running through swamps on a densely foggy night is a bloody stupid thing to do. Still, I return to the same spot night after night and it soon becomes apparent that this ghostly encounter will trigger only at a certain time, and only if it's foggy. Soon enough, I see the source of the voice – a ghostly woman made up of pale light, who seems to be reliving the events of an ill-fated love affair, as her dialogue ranges over time from "Ain't love the grandest thing?" to a series of arguments with, and over, her lover; "Daddy, don't kill him, put down the gun!" It's all starting to break my heart, and by day I start to scour the area for clues as to the identity of the girl. Just at the back of the gang's Shady Belle camp I find a grave marker, that Red Dead scholars (AKA the internet) agree is that of the girl in question. She is one Agnes Dowd, aged 19, who apparently 'took her own life and others'.
That night, eager to continue Agnes' story as told from down, to a tree, evidence of wrong- 'uns if ever there was. Perhaps the result of voodoo gone wrong, zombies in all-but name have overrun the old Cajun's shack. These things move fast and Arthur just manages to escape with his life and guns them down for the old Cajun's gratitude and a couple of bucks. These swamps are starting to give me real-life nightmares, and I should stay away.
As a self-appointed Sheriff Ghostbuster, though, I'm not going to stop now. A few more visits to the area yield more of Agnes' terrible, sad story, but thankfully no more Night Folk for now. Meanwhile, I've heard rumours of an actual ghost train. How Scooby Doo is that? I move my activities to a location on the border of New Hanover and Lemoyne, to the track where the spirit locomotive has been seen. Sadly at the time of writing I have had no luck spotting it, despite returning night after night. Still, I won't rest until I've captured every ghost in Red Dead Redemption with an Xbox screenshot, for I am Arthur Morgan, Ghostbuster. Who ya gonna telegram?