The X-Files has tackled all kinds of storylines about ghosts, aliens, and top-secret government experiments. But you’d probably be surprised to learn that some of the episodes are actually based on true stories of the paranormal.
Prepare to be thoroughly creeped out, then take a peak at the list below.
This notoriously creepy episode about the inbred Peacock family drew its inspiration from a number of sources, including the real-life Ward clan who lived in upstate New York. The documentary Brother’s Keeper documented the story of the four Ward brothers, who were all illiterate and lived under one roof. One brother’s death sparked a murder trial and raised questions about family and incest.
2. Jersey Devil
The Jersey Devil has been a part of folklore in the Garden State for many years. The creature is rumored to look like a kangaroo with leathery bat wings and legend has it that the Devil has attacked people throughout the state.
3. Død Kalm
Mulder and Scully also try to get to the bottom of a mystery based on a supposed real-life 1943 military experiment that allowed a Navy ship to become invisible and teleport from Philadelphia to New York.
4. Duane Barry
In 1848, a railroad worker named Phineas Gage suffered a horrific injury when an iron rod impaled his head and brain after an explosion. Gage survived the accident, but his personality was dramatically different for the rest of his life. This X-Files episode concerns a man who underwent a personality change after being shot in the head.
The tragic 1993 kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas in California inspired an episode about a young girl who was abducted and held captive.
What better subject for an episode of The X-Files than the mysterious, top-secret government facility known as Area 51? In an episode called Dreamland, Mulder and Scully attempt to discover the truth about the installation.
7. Fresh Bones
The episode Fresh Bones was based on a series of real-life suicides at an American military base in Haiti. The show used the story and added an element of voodoo and black magic to make it as creepy as possible.
Related: 5 X-Files Episodes Inspired by Creepy, Real-Life Events
8. Paper Clip
After World War II, Operation Paperclip began. Over 1,600 German scientists and engineers (many of them members of the Nazi party) were recruited by the U.S. government and brought to America to work during the height of the Cold War. An episode of the show exposes the results of experiments done by Nazi doctors working for the U.S.
During World War II, the Japanese army performed horrifying experiments on civilians and POWs in a secretive project known as Unit 731. Human experimentation abounds in the episode based on the historical atrocity.
10. El Mundo Gira
Throughout Latin America, the Chupacabra is known as a mythical creature that attacks and drinks the blood of livestock. The term literally means “goat sucker.” In an episode that uses the Chupacabra as a storyline, Mulder and Scully investigate the death of a Mexican immigrant who other migrants believe fell victim to the deadly goat sucker.
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All stills from "The X-Files" via 20th Century Fox Television