Fallout TV Show Ghouls Explained: Lifespan, Formation & More

By Tom Drew Posted:
Fallout TV Show, Ghouls

Among cultish vault dwellers, the Brotherhood of Steel, and all sorts of wasteland stragglers, Amazon Prime Video's Fallout introduced a fan-favorite faction: the Ghouls.

Receiving extremely strong reviews and audience acclaim upon its release, Fallout, initially created by Bethesda, captivated viewers with its impeccable world-building and wry wit.

And while the show boasts an all-star cast from the likes of Ella Purnell, Aaron Moten, and Dave Register, one performer has been a consistent scene-stealer: Walton Goggins' mysterious Ghoul.

But just what is a Ghoul? Here's everything you need to know about the irradiated creatures that once were human.

What Are the Ghouls in Fallout?

Walton Goggins as The Ghoul in Fallout
Amazon Prime Video

Warning - The rest of this article contains spoilers for Fallout.

Ghouls are humans that have undergone mutation due to a process known as ghoulification.

The result is a human with ravaged skin, exposed muscle, scraggly hair (if any), and the distinct absence of a nose.

While some, like Cooper Howard's Ghoul, are capable of regular speech and activity as a normal human would, many Ghouls have since lost their minds and been reduced to more zombie-like states.

Ghouls are also capable of handling irradiated materials far better than regular humans, as seen by Walton Goggins' character casually sips water with radiation in it.

How Do Ghouls Become Ghouls?

Martha Ghoul in Fallout
Amazon Prime Video

Ghoulification, the process by which humans are turned into Ghouls, is caused by exposure to sustained amounts of radiation. In Episode 4, Cooper Howard's Ghoul hints to Lucy that she'll soon become a Ghoul if she sticks around the wasteland.

It's unknown how long this process takes in the show's universe, but in the games, ghoulification can occur over a mere few hours to several weeks.

If left unchecked, Ghouls can turn into Feral Ghouls over time. These Ghouls have become increasingly hostile toward others and have lost nearly all sense of sanity.

Roger and Martha are shown to become Feral Ghouls in Fallout's fourth episode. The two desperately repeat their names to themselves, seemingly to hold onto any remnant of themselves that they can.

Yellow vials can temporarily slow down the deterioration and ward off the descent into becoming a Feral Ghoul.

Fallout also seems to hint that other manmade chemicals can cause ghoulification, as seen with Thaddeus after the serum he takes to heal his foot slowly turns him into a Ghoul. However, this could be a misdirect, potentially hinting that he may instead transform into a super mutant, a similar but separate type of mutated human with increased strength from the games.

How Long Do Ghouls Live?

Neal Huff as Roger the Ghoul in Fallout
Amazon Prime Video

Despite their grim exteriors, one benefit of becoming a Ghoul is the prolonged lifespan granted to the creatures. This can effectively make Ghouls immortal, so long as they still consume suitable nutrition like regular humans.

In the television series, it's indicated that Cooper Howard's Ghoul is the oldest of them all, having survived for over 200 years. This has been afforded to him by his knack for earning money to buy vials and, in turn, prevent turning feral.

This implies that many Ghouls could survive as long as Cooper but they don't because they succumb to their feral side after a while, which presumably leads to their deaths.

Ghouls' extended lifespans are likely aided by their resistance to radiation, due to it already coursing around their bodies.

While Cooper Howard's backstory has been fleshed out throughout Fallout's first set of episodes, how he himself changed into a Ghoul is still unknown. Perhaps that's a question for Season 2 if it happens, which is hopeful according to the show's producers.

Read more about Fallout below:

Fallout Episode 1 Cast, Characters & Actors (Photos)

Who Is Cameron Cowperthwaite? 5 Things to Know About Fallout Actor

Michael Rapaport's Controversial Fallout Role Explained - Who Is Knight Titus?

Who Is Xelia Mendes-Jones? 5 Things to Know About Fallout Actor

- In This Article: Fallout
Release Date
April 10, 2024
Ella Purnell
Walton Goggins
- About The Author: Tom Drew
Tom Drew is the Executive Editor at The Direct. Tom writes for The Direct's Marvel, Star Wars, and DC branches while specializing in all things movies, from blockbuster to indie darlings.