The best Red Dead Redemption 2 fan theories

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a sprawling, open-world environment, filled with fascinating characters, lush scenery, and encounters of every shape and size. The beauty of the setting is that you never know what's waiting for you around the next corner. Even the smallest detail may prove significant later in the game. 

In typical Rockstar fashion, there are lots of references, Easter eggs, and unsolved mysteries hidden across the map. Strange symbols, cryptic notes, and otherworldly encounters abound while the settlers clamor to keep their secrets buried. Players make new discoveries all the time, and with them new fan theories continue to emerge. This nuanced approach to design and the fervor it inspires in its players is Red Dead Redemption 2's greatest strength, and greatest asset. The game pulls you in, delivering an experience unlike any other. 

From lost princesses to time travel, this isn't the Wild West you'll find in history books.

Where is Gavin?

Red Dead Redemption 2 is populated by a number of peculiar characters. One such individual has already captured the attention and imagination of players, prompting a baffling manhunt. 

Throughout Arthur Morgan's travels, you encounter an English gentleman, recorded simply as "Gavin's friend." He appears to wander from town to town, frantically searching for his missing friend, Gavin. Though you would expect this to prompt a new side quest, Arthur denies knowing anyone by the name of Gavin each time you encounter him, sending the desperate chap on his way.

Despite hours logged searching, players have unearthed no evidence of Gavin's presence within the game. Looting Gavin's friend, either by killing or hog-tying him, produces a letter from someone named Tom. In it, you learn that Gavin and the man, Nigel, came to the Wild West together where they struck it rich. That's it. The letter provides no clues to Gavin's location, leaving players to speculate about what has happened to him. And speculate they have. 

If you listen to Nigel's ravings, he claims Gavin up and disappeared one morning with no explanation. But thanks to an alleged time traveler in the game, whose father is coincidentally named Tom, some players believe Gavin is also a time traveler. This could account for his sudden disappearance and may lead to his reappearance in the future (or past?).

Until then, the search for Gavin continues.

The girl in the window

During your travels, you might encounter two NPCs with some curious information about a place called Emerald Ranch. The first is a woman who asks for a ride following the death of her horse. As you near your destination, she calls Emerald Ranch a "strange place", with a nasty owner whose daughter never leaves the house. She also mentions a closed down saloon, filled with bullet holes and bloodstains. 

When asked about Emerald Ranch, Hosea Matthews echoes that there's "something strange about the place." He then reveals there used to be a general store and saloon. Despite the closure of these businesses, the ranch still seems to have money. 

Like the woman from before, Hosea talks about the rancher's daughter, who Seamus used to see around town and now never leaves the house. If you visit the ranch yourself, you can occasionally see a young woman peering out from the upper window. Who is she, and why is she kept locked up? 

Many believe she is the missing Luxembourg princess mentioned on flyers and in the newspaper. The reward for her return was increased to $1,000 following new rumors of her transport to a small, US town. Emerald Ranch fits the bill. This might also explain why the owner suddenly forced her to stay inside.

The article also mentions the princess's brother denying involvement in her disappearance. Did he pay the ranch owner to kidnap her? And is he still employing him to keep her identity a secret?  

"I know you"

In Bayalle Edge, Lemoyne, you'll find a shack filled with strange writing on the walls. Some messages seem to chronicle your travels ("There was a man named Jimmy Brooks"), while others may be portents of what's to come ("The water is black with venom"). Beyond these cryptic writings, the shack contains two key elements that provide clues about its owner. The first is a line written above the window: "I know you." For those who have played Red Dead Redemption, you may recognize this phrase as the name of the side mission in which you encounter The Strange Man.

The second element is more blatant, though, its true nature takes time to unfold. If you head to the shack during early on, you'll find a canvas covered with a silhouette. Visiting the shack during later chapters reveals the painting has continued to progress. Eventually, the painting takes its final form, revealing a portrait of The Strange Man. As you enter the shack, you see him standing behind you in the nearby mirror, though he disappears if you turn and look back.

The Strange Man's presence in RDR2 has reignited theories about the character's nature. His possible prediction of John Marston's death in the first game, coupled with the messages in the shack, imply he might be some divine being with seer-like powers. He seems to test people and record their progress, possibly by shifting into other forms

Is he God? Death? The devil? Or a combination of all three?

The Mount Shann mystery

Rockstar sure likes its aliens, strange murals, and mountain-based mysteries. These themes re-emerge in Red Dead Redemption 2's Mount Shann, leading some to believe it is the equivalent of or even connected to GTA 5's Mount Chiliad

Much like in GTA 5, you'll find a number of strange details scattered around the mountain. Crowning Mount Shann is an odd rock formation, which some players have identified as a sundial or compass. In another location, you'll discover a mural resembling a protractor or compass. 

A random encounter leads to a pair of frozen settlers, clutching a panoramic map in their dead hands. Lines on the map seem to point to major towns in the game and a spot near the peak of Mt. Shann. Nearby, you can also find a gigantic skeleton

Mount Shann is also the site of one of the game's confirmed UFO sightings, seeded by a hidden note found among a bunch of dead cultists in a shack near Emerald Ranch.

So, what does all this mean? Well, certain corners of the internet believe these clues tie into the ongoing Mount Chiliad mystery. With UFOs, strange cultists, and time travel present, it's possible the two games may share common ground; however, figuring out how they interweave requires further investigation.

The Red-Haired Devil

Francis Sinclair is a mysterious, red-haired gentleman encountered at a cabin near Strawberry. Assuring Arthur he's "on the level," Francis offers to pay him if he locates some rock carvings and sends him the details. This initiates the mission Geology for Beginners.

Right away, you may notice some red flags. Francis looks and talks like he stepped out of The Great Gatsby. Further, he has a conspicuous birthmark below his right eye. 

Once you complete the mission, Francis invites you back to his cabin via letter. When you arrive, you'll discover a drawing on the wall, depicting the images from the murals. There are some familiar locations, including the pyramids and the Empire State building. The drawing also shows Francis entering and exiting portals.

A woman enters carrying a red-haired infant with a familiar birthmark around his right eye. The baby's name, she says, is Francis.

All signs point to time travel but there's seems to be more to Francis' story than that. Some fans believe he may be connected to the Epsilon Program in Grand Theft Auto 5.

The Epsilon website shows a person with the same birthmark. The caption reads: "Possible descendant of Kraff." Also of note is their fifth tenet: "Everyone is related to everyone else, except people with red hair."

In other material, Epsilon paints red-heads as unsaveable liars. If Epsilon is aware of Francis' time travel, these verses may be about him, making him a sort of devil metaphor within the cult.

The Unclean

Manzanita Post is a small settlement in the Tall Trees region of West Elizabeth. Occupied by some Norwegian settlers, it appears rather unremarkable. 

Of course, things in Red Dead Redemption 2 are rarely as they seem. Searching the main house reveals two items: a "Norwegian Photo" and a "Norwegian Journal Entry." The photo shows a man and a woman with an infant child. When you flip it over, you'll find the word "UREN!" on the back or "unclean" in Norwegian.

The journal, when translated, strikes a darker chord. The author says they hate to sleep because "their faces are the only thing I see, their screams the only thing I hear," and "Father says it was the only option." 

The journal and the letter seems to tie into a "Norwegian Newspaper Scrap" looted from corpses at a camp in the Tall Trees area, which describes a man, woman, and two-year-old child found beaten and stabbed to death in Austad. The woman belonged to a religious group that disappeared around the time of the murders.

How does it all fit together? It's possible the inhabitants of Manzanita Post are what remains of the group mentioned in the newspaper. The journal and photo imply that they fled after murdering the couple and their child for being "unclean." According to the scrap, the man originated from French North Africa, indicating this was likely an ethnic or religious hate crime.

Whatever their motivation, Manzanita Post may well be filled with murderers.

The unpleasant truth of Pleasance

Pleasance is an abandoned settlement found in northeastern Lemoyne. It is also the site where many players hope the next Undead Nightmare DLC will originate. 

What has people thinking zombies? There are a few key components to this theory. As you investigate, you'll find the phrase "STAY OUT! PLAGUE" written across the barn door. More graffiti around town reads "UNCLEAN SINNERS" and "ILL WITH SINS."

A visit to the graveyard near the church reveals the graves of ten people, all shot or stabbed to death on September 17, 1883. According to the welcome sign, these killings took place one month after the settlement was founded.  

Okay, but where do the zombies come in? Some people believe the settlement is a reference to The Walking Dead. The phrase on the door mirrors the famous "DON'T OPEN, DEAD INSIDE" from Season One of the show. 

The barn itself evokes the one where Hershel Greene kept several walkers captive, including his wife and son, hoping to find a cure. Like the residents of Pleasance, the walkers in the barn were all exterminated at the same time. There is even a mother and son listed on the gravestones, though, they have different names than in the show.

It's possible a normal plague came to Pleasance, and someone rounded up the infected, killing them before it could spread. But, that idea doesn't sound nearly as fun as another Undead Nightmare.

"The moon will shine on in the darkness"

On a shelf behind the counter in Herbert Moon's general store in Armadillo, you'll find what appears to be a portrait of The Strange Man. When asked about the picture, Herbert says it's just a portrait someone gave him that he's always liked. 

A phrase written in The Strange Man's shack reads "THE MOON WILL SHINE ON IN THE DARKNESS." Due to the portrait in Herbert Moon's store, some players believe "the moon" referenced here is the shopkeeper himself. In the bar in Armadillo, a man tells Arthur about a cholera outbreak, saying pretty much everyone is sick except for the man who runs the general store. It's possible the cholera is the "darkness," implying Moon made some deal with The Strange Man that stops him from catching the disease.

A message written on a plan of Armadillo found in The Strange Man's shack may also connect to Herbert Moon: "I offered you happiness or two generations. You made your choice." In this case, Moon may have bargained for the safety of himself and his family for two generations. By making his choice, he sacrificed his happiness, possibly evidenced by the marriage of one of his daughters to a Jewish person. As you'll discover from interacting with him, Moon is deeply racist.

The Lost Colony

Many players have heard whispering voices and disembodied laughter while traveling through Roanoke Valley. The name Eugene Hunt is mentioned, along with a female voice crying and saying she needs to get back home. 

These strange encounters have already spawned a great deal of speculation. Due to the name of the region, many players believe the voices are a reference to the real-world Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. The first English colony in the new world, over 100 people settled there in 1587. However, it was difficult to resupply due to the war with Spain. By the time a rescue mission arrived three years later, everyone had vanished.

Roanoke Colony has fascinated many over the last four centuries, even making its way into pop culture. The inspiration for the sixth season of American Horror Story, it's possible the Roanoke Valley in Red Dead Redemption 2 is an homage to the show and the real-life mystery it's based on.

The spirit of the game

While playing Red Dead Redemption 2, you'll encounter a variety of animal imagery. The most prominent instances occur during Arthur's dream sequences, featuring either a coyote or stag. The animal represented appears to change depending on your honor and it's possible to see both a coyote and a stag within the same playthrough.

When visiting the Strange Man's shack in Bayall Edge, Lemoyne, you will find a painting depicting an animal. Like the dream sequences, the animal shown changes based on your current honor with a buck or eagle for high honor and a coyote or vulture for low honor.

Many players believe these animals represent the state of Arthur's spirit and his spirit's final destination following death. The stag, indicating high honor, may show Arthur's redemption while the coyote infers damnation. The sighting of a coyote, deer, or eagle when visiting Arthur's grave seems to support this, though it may instead suggest reincarnation.

There's an active debate among players whether the animal that appears in the dream sequence is a coyote or wolf. It's also unclear why four different animals can appear in the painting while only two feature in the dream sequences. There have been no confirmed sightings of a vulture at Arthur's grave, inviting further investigation.

The Northern Wind

You can find a note labelled "English Spelling Practice" in a decrepit Native American camp near Citadel Rock. At first glance, this note appears to be a string of unrelated words; however, if you combine the first letter of each, you'll discover a hidden message: 

"Waziya comes with winter breath; His trees stand guard whispering all night that we sleep in our grave; Father fought and died so quickly Mother dies slow."

According to Lakota legend, Waziya was a giant who guarded the Aurora Borealis and brought the winter as he traveled south. His name roughly translates to "blower from snow pines."

Some players believe this reference to Waziya connects to a greater mystery. A rock painting hidden behind a pine tree on Mount Shann appears to depict a giant with a pine-shaped head. Human supplicants worship at its feet. You can also find the infamous giant bones in the area. Others have suggested Waziya may be the key to the compass-like rock formation and panoramic map found on Mount Shann. Lakota culture holds that the four winds come from each of the cardinal points (Four Directions): north, south, east, and west. They also associate each point with a specific color. 

Rockstar is notorious for including events that can only be triggered under specific circumstances. The compass points, the four seasons, and even the phase of the moon may need to be in alignment to solve this mystery. Meanwhile, players continue the hunt.