We all know that The X-Files is pure fiction—and great fiction at that. But some episodes have their roots deeper in true events and real-life conspiracies than many of us realize.
10 ‘The Jersey Devil’
In “The Jersey Devil,” agents Mulder and Scully go to New Jersey after a dead body is discovered with its arm and shoulder missing. Analysis shows that a human being ate the body parts.
Even though the local police deny the duo the opportunity to investigate, Mulder zeroes in on the legend of the Jersey Devil, a creature like Bigfoot. Mulder believes that the Jersey Devil is actually part of a small tribe of human beings who have remained hidden from modern society and close to their Neanderthal state.
The legend of the Jersey Devil may have some truth to it. The creature is said to have roamed the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey for 250 years. The legend appears to begin with Jane Leeds, a lady who told everyone that the “Devil can take the next one!” when she became pregnant with her 13th child.
When the child was born, he had the appearance of a reptile. He also had wings and a forked tongue. He quickly grew to 6 meters (20 ft) and was said to have left the house via the chimney. Soon afterward, the sightings began.
As recently as October 2015, Dave Black made claims to NJ.com that he had seen the Jersey Devil near a golf course as he drove past. According to Black, the creature was running through the trees before it “spread out leathery wings and flew off over the golf course!”
After two muggers are found dead in a Philadelphia back alley, Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate because the bodies have a bizarre electrical charge and their throats appear to have been crushed from the inside. The duo is led to Lauren Kyte, who is identified from security camera footage at the ATM where the dead men had attempted to mug her before they died.
Mulder quickly realizes that Howard Graves, Kyte’s old boss who had recently committed suicide, was protecting Kyte “from the other side.” Later, it was revealed that Graves had not taken his own life. Instead, he had been murdered by his business partners.
Unbelievable as it may sound, there are instances of people protecting others from beyond the grave. Although they were not murdered and did not crush people’s throats from inside, Captain Bob Loft and Second Officer Don Repo, both airline pilots, seemed to help many people after their deaths.
The two pilots died in the horrific crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 in December 1972. Their plane plummeted into the swamps of the Florida Everglades and killed 101 people.
In the following years, there were over 20 sightings of the two pilots, including some from high-ranking people in Eastern Airlines. Many of these sightings occurred on planes that used salvaged wreckage from the doomed flight for repairs and maintenance.
John G. Fuller investigated the claims extensively, eventually writing the book The Ghost of Flight 401. Fuller relayed several of the witnesses’ stories, which included several brief conversations with the dead pilots.
In particular, one conversation occurred in which Repo informed a captain of a flight, “There will never be another crash [on Eastern Airlines]. We will not let it happen!”
8 ‘Duane Barry’
In the episode “Duane Barry,” Fox Mulder acts as a hostage negotiator who attempts to talk Duane Barry, a former FBI agent who has suffered from alien abductions, into releasing his hostages.
During the episode, Mulder asks Scully to do a background check on Barry. She discovers that Barry had suffered extensive damage to his frontal lobe when he was shot in the head years earlier. She claims that this has altered his brain chemistry and caused him to become a psychopath and pathological liar.
Although the show suggested that Barry was lying due to brain damage, it turned out that he was actually telling the truth in this instance and had been abducted by aliens.
However, in real life, the case of Phineas Gage and the damage done to his frontal lobe in 1848 was all too real—and extremely important to humanity as a whole. Gage was a railroad worker who accidentally had an iron rod driven into his skull. Miraculously, Gage survived, although his left frontal lobe was almost completely destroyed.
Gage’s behavior changed drastically. He went from a hardworking, reliable, polite young man to someone who was unreliable, generally uninhibited, and prone to lying and making inappropriate remarks (including swearing).
This was the first evidence that the human brain was responsible for emotions and behavior. Gage lived another 12 years after the accident. In 1860, he died from an epileptic seizure, which was probably caused by the scar tissue on his brain.
Toward the end of his life, his behavior had begun to return to what it was before the accident, showing that it was possible to regain the skills that he had lost. His rehabilitation established the basis for the current treatment of frontal lobe damage.
7 ‘Paper Clip’
“Paper Clip,” the third episode in a three-part story, has Mulder and Scully dragged deep into a US government conspiracy concerning aliens, UFOs, and experiments on its own people.
During their investigation, they end up on the trail of a former Nazi scientist who was smuggled into America as part of Operation Paperclip after World War II. The US government wanted the Nazi scientist to continue his work for the US.
The background of Operation Paperclip is complete fact. In the months immediately following World War II, many German scientists and “thinking” professionals were recruited by the US and Soviet governments. The American side was called Operation Paperclip.
There were three main reasons for this. First, each side wanted to prevent their “enemies” from controlling the minds of these brilliant scientists. Second, these governments wanted to ensure that Germany never again developed such a strong military or dictatorship. Finally, they wanted to maintain peace in Europe.
Although most of the recruited scientists were not committed Nazis, controversy surrounds their actions during the war. Von Braun was certainly aware that his V-2 missile was built using slave labor.
Also, the American Space Medicine Association still awards a prize named after Hubertus Strughold, a key figure in the space program, who has been accused of encouraging some of the brutal human experiments carried out at Dachau.
Von Braun and Strughold both defended themselves by saying that they were aware of the atrocities but were not responsible and were powerless to stop them.
In “D.P.O.,” Mulder and Scully are called to Connerville, Oklahoma, after the deaths of five young men, all of whom died under bizarre circumstances involving lightning. Mulder and Scully are soon following the trail of loner Darin Peter Oswald. He has the ability to channel electricity and force it to strike wherever and whomever he wants.
Oswald uses this power for his own ends and amusement, which includes murdering people. Ultimately, he aims to win the heart of the “only person who was ever nice” to him—a teacher at his school who is married to his boss.
Although there are no claims that Slavisa Pajkic has ever murdered anyone, he appears to have the ability to channel electricity through his body in a way that would kill a “normal” person.
Known as Biba to his friends, Pajkic can conduct and control charges of up 20,000 volts. He was in the Guinness World Records 2015 for heating a cup of water to 36 degrees Celsius (97 °F) in one minute and 37 seconds by channeling electricity with his bare hands.
He claims that he can be an insulator, a conductor, an accumulator, or a heater—whichever is needed. Skeptics note that most of his claims have not been independently verified and that he’s now promoting bogus healing abilities.
In one of the grittier episodes, “Oubliette” has the two FBI agents searching for Amy, a young girl who has been snatched from a slumber party. Eventually, Mulder recognizes a psychic connection between Amy and a victim who was kidnapped by the same man years ago.
Following this instinct, Mulder and Scully find Amy unharmed. In reality, though, the real-life events that inspired the episode ended all too tragically.
The episode was released about 18 months after the kidnapping and murder of Polly Klaas, who was taken from a slumber party at knifepoint on October 1, 1993, in Petaluma, California. Her mother was present in the house the entire time.
The kidnapping made national headlines, and thousands of people became involved in the search for the 12-year-old girl. The prime police suspect was 40-year-old Richard Allen Davis, who confessed to the murder on December 5, 1993.
When Polly’s body was found, police discovered that she had been strangled. In August 1996, Davis was sentenced to death for her murder. As of March 2016, he is still on death row.
4 ‘Nisei’ And ‘731’
This two-part story line features human experiments by a mysterious Japanese group called Unit 731. As Mulder and Scully investigate an alleged alien autopsy, they uncover the involvement of the Japanese government and the macabre unit that was known for grotesque human experiments.
Of course, the real Unit 731 was just as bad, if not worse. During World War II, many Allied prisoners of war and Japanese civilians were used as human guinea pigs for horrific experiments.
These included vivisections on people who were fully awake, injections of plague germs into otherwise healthy people, and the extraction of organs and amputation of limbs.
At the end of the war, the doctors involved with Unit 731 were offered sanctuary in America. Their war crimes were ignored in exchange for the findings of their dark research.
3 ‘Tunguska’ And ‘Terma’
In “Tunguska” and “Terma,” another two-part story line, Mulder travels discreetly to Russia to discover the origins of “black oil,” an alien compound that is a recurring theme throughout The X-Files series. Mulder believes that he possesses black oil and a meteor fragment that may be connected to the Tunguska event of 1908.
Mulder takes Special Agent Krycek with him because Krycek is fluent in Russian. The men are caught by the Russian military and dumped in the gulag. Then their captors experiment on them with “black oil” before Mulder escapes.
The Tunguska incident in 1908 actually happened. In modern times, it is arguably the closest that Earth has come to a cataclysmic disaster. On the morning of June 30, 1908, it is believed that a meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded around 10 kilometers (6 mi) above the ground in the scarcely populated forests of Siberia.
The heat and power of the impact was felt up to 65 kilometers (40 mi) away. The sky shone brightly because the dense clouds reflected the Sun beyond the horizon. In fact, it was so bright that people as far away as Asia could read at night by its glow. Seismic shock waves also registered as far away as England.
It is considered the largest impact event in recorded history. Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Office, said, “It is the only entry of a large meteoroid we have in the modern era with firsthand accounts.”
There are no official reports of human casualties due to the explosion. But if the incident had occurred over a major city, the deaths would have been in the thousands.
Although there were no reports of alien bacteria found anywhere in Tunguska, the Allan Hills 84001 meteorite that was discovered in Antarctica in 1984 was a different matter. In 1996, it was announced that the meteorite appeared to contain Martian bacteria, which indicated that there may have been life on the red planet at one time.
Incidentally, the episode “Ice” from the first season of The X-Files touched on this concept, too. In that episode, Mulder and Scully investigate an Alaskan research facility where they discover a meteor crater deep in the ice that contains “alien” bacteria.
The episode “Drive” deals with a government conspiracy involving experimentation on its citizens. Mulder is kidnapped and forced to drive west by Patrick Crump, a seemingly insane man who has escaped from police custody.
Crump had been arrested after a high-speed chase for allegedly kidnapping his wife. While Crump was being handcuffed by the police, his wife was placed in the police car. She began to bang her head against the car window in pain before her head literally exploded, killing her.
Crump complains to Mulder of intense pressure and pain in his ear—the same symptoms that his wife had. The only way to ease the pressure is to drive west. This is what Crump was doing with his wife before they were stopped by the police.
It is soon discovered that the Crumps had been the subjects of US Navy experiments. Scully finds a US Navy antenna emitting extremely low frequency (ELF) waves and believes that this could be responsible for rising pressure and pain in the inner ear.
Although there are no specific accusations of this kind against the US government, there are two government programs that influenced this particular episode—Project HAARP and Project ELF. Both are conspiracies in themselves.
While the government insists that the main purpose of these programs is to improve communication over radio waves, conspiracy theorists have long claimed that the end goal is to achieve mind control of US citizens.
1 ‘Biogenesis,’ ‘The Sixth Extinction’ & ‘The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati’
Seasons 6 And 7
In a three-part story line that closed Season 6 and opened Season 7 of The X-Files, an ancient artifact with strange markings becomes entwined in a murder that Mulder and Scully are investigating.
The artifact has a strange power that affects Mulder’s brain activity and puts him in a coma-like state. Meanwhile, Scully travels to the coast of West Africa and discovers that the artifact is part of a spacecraft that has washed up on the beach.
The craft is covered with the same markings, which Scully begins to translate. Eventually, the markings reveal advanced information on genetics and major religions on Earth, including Bible verses. These indicate that aliens have had a hand in shaping the historic events of the human race.
“The Sixth Extinction” leans heavily on the ancient astronaut theory, which is largely considered pseudoscience. This theory was catapulted into the mainstream by Erich von Daniken’s 1968 best seller, Chariots Of The Gods. In the book, he theorized that almost all major religions had originated from aliens who visited Earth in ancient times.
Von Daniken noted that many ancient religions and cultures told variations of the same story even though they had no known contact with each other. The Nazca Lines in Peru, the great pyramids of Giza, Stonehenge, and Pumapunku are just some of the ancient sites that von Daniken cited as proof of his theory.