Why do the Ghouls in Fallout have no noses? I ventured into the digital wasteland to try and find out

Fallout TV series The Ghoul sitting
(Image credit: Prime Video)

How does a Ghoul in Fallout smell? Terrible! OK, now the terrible gag is out of the way, for real, why do these guys not have a nose? The Wasteland is a terrible place full of various mutations, but Ghouls can seem to be mostly human in their appearance, albeit a very haggard human form. But they have one very obvious, defining feature, and that's the lack of a sniffer. 

Have you ever wondered why they don't have a nose? Maybe it's just me! In any case, as someone who's only previously dabbled in the franchise but has come down with a case of Fallout fever thanks to the Prime Video show, I decided to do what anyone would do with such a question. 

To the Internet! 

What are Ghouls in Fallout? 

Ghouls are ever present in the Fallout universe, even in Fallout 76 which is set the earliest in the timeline of the games. 

As someone not deeply immersed in Fallout lore, I've been reading up on various resources online to try and answer my question. But firstly, what is a Ghoul? 

The Fallout wiki has a pretty short and sweet answer: 

"Ghouls are mutated humans or animals affected by the phenomenon of ghoulification. In the case of humans, ghouls are sometimes referred to as necrotic post-humans in the Capital Wasteland, but this term does not seem to have been adopted outside of it whatsoever."

The short version is that they've been affected by radiation, as if you dive deeper into Fallout lore, there are examples of pre-war Ghouls created in a lab. This was through experimental exposure to radiation in a bid to achieve immortality and the desire to survive the impending nuclear war that seemed inevitable at the time.  

Most Ghouls, it's accepted, were created as a result of the Great War, though not all. As we saw in season one of the Fallout Prime Video series, it's still possible to become a new Ghoul even over two centuries after the war. 

None of this explains why Ghouls don't have noses, though. As it turns out, there doesn't seem to be an official explanation in the lore. As far as I can tell, it's a design choice. 

That doesn't mean there aren't theories, though. 

Fan theories on what happened to the noses of Ghouls in the Fallout universe

The Ghoul in the Fallout show has certainly aged better than these guys. 

The lack of official explanation doesn't mean the topic hasn't been explored. It doesn't take too much hunting on Reddit to find theories on what happened to the noses of the Ghouls, some are more sensible than others. 

Here are some of my favorites from r/falloutlore

So apparently nose and ear cartilage are different and the main type that makes up the nose is the weakest while the type that makes up your ears is second, and the one around joints is the strongest. So maybe with the radiation the nose cartilage simply couldn't hold up. I'd imagine the real answer is stylistic choices but ya know fun to theorize


While Ghouls live longer than ordinary humans and can heal through radiation exposure, this healing effect doesn't seem to extend to their Nervous systems and cartilage seems to weaken, although that could be attributed to a lot of them being older than 100. If you take Raul and Dean with you as companions in Fallout: New Vegas and ever decide to crouch you can hear lines about them mentioning pain in their knees and legs.


When your whole body starts rotting it makes sense that all the extremities that arent mostly bone rot away and fall off first because theyre the weakest, nose, ears, genitals etc. then the fingers and toes would usually go next because of the constant use and abuse they receive :P dont think theres any deep lore about it just the fact that cartilage is weaker than bone so it goes first


Despite looking like rotting zombies, Ghouls flesh isn't actually rotten. It's somehow the opposite, seemingly preserved by the exposure to the radiation. So, more burned, than rotten. But it would be fair to assume that the same radiation that preserved much of the Ghoul, and gave them almost immortality and the ability to 'heal', also destroyed the tissue and cartilage in the nose. 

You could, of course, draw your own conclusion or some up with something more out there, but I guess it makes sense. If you have the necessary medical knowledge to add anything to these theories, I'd love to hear it. 

Ghouls aren't actually immortal, but as we learned in the show, it's possible for them to appear that way. Cooper Howard's Ghoul lived for two centuries after the bombs dropped, thanks to those yellow vials that ward off the deterioration into the feral state. Indeed, our first introduction to him is when he's buried, hooked up to an IV of this magic elixir. 

So, sadly, there isn't a definitive answer, but the fan theories of it just being down to the process and the radiation killing off the nose and ears first does at least seem sensible. Officially, it looks like a design choice. 

Richard Devine
Managing Editor - Tech, Reviews

Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine

  • fjtorres5591
    As the show (and the ghoulification perk) make clear, not all ghouls are withered.

    It is a progression: newly ghoulified humans look normal but survive deadly radiation and non-immediately fatal injuries. Over time they shrivel and slowly lose sentience, getting more and more impulsively violent until they go full feral. Also, not all "tender parts" shrivel: at least one has a use for ghoulettes. 😁

    Depending on the extent of exposure, some go straight to feral or even glowing. At least one glowing ghoul retained a semblance of sanity (whether sane or not is debatable) and could speak.

    The show hasn't included supermutants or synths, yet, but both also exist in a spectrum from peaceful and friendly to homicidally hostile.