Red Dead Redemption 2‘s open world Western isn’t just Wild, it’s Wide. And while we’re constantly astounded by the quality of scripted storytelling, Rockstar has used this massive space to tell stories in its level design, too. Tangential tombs designed to be tripped over on your travels, simply named: shacks.
There’s a bit of a conflict here. The whole point of environmental storytelling is to be understated and let players discover it for themselves. Signposting it by making these shacks count towards a completion statistic for “shacks” is an odd choice. But, it by no means stops at the five shacks it tasks you with finding.
If there’s one thing that connects them all, it’s that these are sad, sombre tales of plans that didn’t quite work out. There’s no quest marker that points you in the right direction, so you kind of just have to stumble upon them… Or you can just follow our lead below.
At the bottom we’ll spoil the meaning of the first, and most exciting, mysterious shack.
There’s an early quest that takes you over towards Emerald Station, and as a result we know a lot of people who “just happened to” stumble upon Hani’s Bethel — in the way that clever design can feel accidental.
Inside this shack you’ll find a plethora of corpses in their beds with what looks like the corpse of a religious leader at the front. It’s some sort of mass suicide, with a note that says Kuhkowaba will come in his vessel to take their spirits to the promised realm, so they can return later to worship at the top of Mount Shann.
Your next move is to investigate Mount Shann… But because there’s a bit of an easter egg there, we won’t spoil that until the bottom of this post.
Old Harry Fen
A little south of Braithwaite Manor you’ll find the shack at Old Harry Fen. There are no corpses inside, but this shack still has a story to tell.
There are slave shacks like this elsewhere in the world (with the exact same level design), but this is the only one where you’ll find a family photo hidden under the floorboard.
On the table is an advertisement from someone offering $200 for an escaped slave.
Its location makes sense, given the Braithwaites were cosy with the Lemoyne Raiders, and a lot of these in-game ex-confederates seem to have been involved in the slave trade. The note you find under the floorboard even points to the Lemoyne Raiders headquarters, in Shady Belle.
You won’t even be able to go inside this gloomy abode, but its sky blue wood panels make it easy enough to spot.
Jim Heyton had gone to pick up his wife from her mother’s house, clearly never to return.
Packages from friends and well-wishers adorn the step. A dead pet bird has collapsed on the porch from neglect. Something has clearly befallen the newlyweds, and these packages will remain unopened.
Northwest of Valentine, across the river and the railroad, you’ll find a lonely shack at Clawson’s Rest. There’s a note from a mother who left her two boys alone while she took an emergency trip.
She left enough food for a few days, and told them not to open the door for anything or anyone.
Full points to these young’ns for taking those words 100% literally, because they perished in that shack with only a few cans of food left. The punishment for disobeying mother must’ve been worse than death.
A ways north of Valentine and just south of Window Rock, you’ll find a shack belonging to a duo of gold panners. It’s another macabre demonstration of the corpse-in-shack storytelling method that shows just how much life is worth in Red Dead Redemption 2.
The two men clearly had it out, and though one had a crowbar, neither lived to tell the tale. Exploring the rest of the shack reveals what the altercation was probably over: the only item of value, a rather large nugget of gold.
A sudden case of greed, or had the cabin fever been creeping up?
These are the first five shacks that Red Dead Redemption 2 points you to, and they count towards your completion statistic. But just as there are many more legendary animals to hunt than the five it tasks you with, there’s much more environmental storytelling at work than just these five shacks.
For example, while hunting for those same legendary animals, we came across the tragic tale of an ice skater who died before his time.
Or take the couple in the top image who we found at a mountain peak. While not exactly in a shack, it also fits the theme of tragic environmental storytelling. Once you look for it, it’s everywhere in Red Dead Redemption 2.
Spoiler Bonus — Climbing Mount Shann for Hani Bethel’s Easter Egg
The Mysterious Sermon note at the Bethel talks about saviours coming at a specific time — two hours into the day, at the half moon. If you’re hanging around at night, you might actually find out what they were talking about.
A creepy green light will cover the cabin, and you’ll hear the sound of a UFO floating overhead. We don’t see anyone “beamed up” unfortunately. The UFO just kind of sticks around for a while, and leaves. Maybe they wanted their shack full of acolytes alive?
The note also mentions returning in the year 2000 to worship at the top of Mount Shann. You can’t see it at the start of the game, but eventually the map opens up to show Mount Shann, just a little bit north of Strawberry.
So what happens when you climb to the peak?
Thankfully, you won’t have to wait an entire moon cycle for this. There seems to be only a few different moons that appear in Red Dead Redemption 2‘s night sky, so it’s a one in three/four chance you’ll have the necessary half moon.
You can equip one of the many stopwatches you’ve likely stolen by that point in your “kit,” which will allow you to check the time to see if you’re coming up on 2am. If you camp nearby and choose the “sleep until night” option, you’ll wake up at midnight. That’s enough time to race to the top of the mountain by about 1:30am or so.
If you want to do anything special like take a selfie with the UFO, then be quick about it — it only stays for a moment before heading back to, presumably, the alien’s home. The angle is a little funny for grabbing selfies — Arthur puts the camera on the ground, which is awkward on an uneven mountaintop. But we were able to get a good shot with some fiddling.
We weren’t able to get the UFO to reappear though, so you might only have one shot!