Though The X-Files has become cemented in popular culture as the archetypal alien conspiracy show, before Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) started climbing the walls it was better known as the show which popularised the ‘monster of the week’ format.
As the spiritual successor to the likes of The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone, The X-Files started out as a mishmash blend of a buddy cop and sci-fi monster show. Each episode brought a new stand-alone threat in the form of straight up monster or freaky human being, with the danger dealt with and dispatched by Mulder and Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), typically by the end of the episode, without having a wider effect on the overarching narrative of the series.
Though the monster of the week format largely fell to the wayside as the series progressed it still remained a sometime-staple of the show even as the alien conspiracy got ramped up to 100. Here we count down some of the best monsters from The X-Files. Which is your favorite?
10. Bat Creature
Appearing in: The X-Files Season 8, Episode 3 “Patience”
Skipping forward a little into the back-end of the series, Scully is now paired up with Agent John Doggett (Robert Patrick) following Mulder’s abduction.
Together they investigate the half a century old legend of a bat creature who has been linked to a string of killings in Idaho. The case is reopened after an undertaker and his wife are mauled to death, and leads them to Ernie Stefaniuk — an elderly reclusive man who hunted the Bat Creature in his youth.
It turns out the creature had been stalking Ernie out for revenge, and eventually catches up with him by following Scully and Doggett. After killing Ernie it flies off into the night, never to be seen or heard from again. But in true X-Files style it’s still out there somewhere, waiting and watching.
Appearing in: The X-Files Season 6, Episode 15 “Arcadia”
The Übermenscher was a tulpa, brought to life by Gene Gogolak in the Season 6 episode “Arcadia” in a Californian planned community called Falls of Arcadia. When a “troublesome” member of the community and his wife — Dave and Nancy Kline — are killed by a mysterious creature after putting a whirligig on the roof of their house, Mulder and Scully go undercover to investigate their disappearances.
Moving into the Klines’s old house, they quickly realise that this is a place where breaking the community code can get you killed, even for something as innocuous as, say, putting a pink flamingo on the lawn (which of course Mulder does). Mulder starts seeing how far he can push the rules, eventually ending up targeted by the übermenscher, a Tibetan “thought-form” made from garbage and created by community leader Gogolak in order to keep the residents in check.
Mulder manages to arrest Gogolak for his part in the Klines’s death, but the community leader is killed by the übermenscher, freeing itself from his control as it disintegrates.
8. The Darkness Mites
Appearing in: The X-Files Season 1, Episode 20 “Darkness Falls”
If you’ve got a bug phobia odds are you were pretty creeped out by “Darkness Falls”. The Darkness Mites are a large swarm of glowing insects from the prehistoric age, unleashed in the Washington National Forest by illegal logging activity.
The episode opens with the Mites swarming a group of loggers in the forest, cocooning and killing them by draining their bodies of moisture. Mulder and Scully head out to the forest to investigate, and end up trapped in a cabin illuminated by a single light bulb — the only thing keeping the darkness and the Mites away.
7. Herman Stites
Appearing in: The X-Files Season 8, Episode 19 “Alone”
Whilst Dana Scully is getting ready to go on maternity leave, New Yorker Arlen Sacks is killed by an acid-spraying creature and his son Gary is abducted. Agent Leyla Harrison (Jolie Jenkins) steps in to replace Scully as Doggett’s partner whilst she’s away on leave.
Whilst investigating Gary’s disappearance Harrison and Doggett track a trail to a seemingly abandoned mansion, where they fall into a trap and are blinded by the same venom which killed Arlen. Meanwhile Scully — who is performing an autopsy on Arlen — realises that he was killed by a form of reptile venom, but in massive quantities.
Mulder appears at the mansion in search of Harrison and Doggett and encounters the owner — Herman Stites. His suspicions raised, he stakes out the mansion and discovers that Stites’s experiments with reptiles have turned him into a new form of hybrid man-reptile who blinds victims with his venom and allows it to slowly digest and kill them. Together Mulder and Doggett manage to kill Stites, and Doggett and Harrison are rescued.
6. The Eves
Appearing in: The X-Files Season 1, Episode 11 “Eve”
Creepy little girls have long been a horror staple, and “Eve” brings that trope to bear in the first season of The X-Files. When the father of young girl Teena Simmons is found sitting dead on swing set with puncture wounds in his neck, Mulder and Scully are brought in to investigate.
Though Mulder initially suspects alien activity, they soon discover that Teena is one of ten identical, genetically engineered girls called Eve — all conceived in vitro fertilization by eugenicist Dr. Sally Kendrick. And of course, they all harbor homicidal tendencies.
Designed to be super soldiers, each Eve possesses super strength and intelligence, as well as a psychic connection to each other. Though Mulder and Scully manage to escape death at their hands, it’s implied that at least four Eves are still at large by the end of the episode.
5. Chinga Doll
Appearing in: The X-Files Season 5, Episode 10 “Chinga”
If you’ve got a fear of those creepy china dolls then it’s time to look away, because this episode from Season 5 of The X-Files features one creepy-ass doll. Whilst on holiday in Maine, Scully stumbles across a gruesome crime-scene in a butchers, after the butcher has put a steak knife through his eye and the customers began clawing at their own eyes.
Scully discovers that an antique doll found in a lobster trap by a deceased local fisherman and given to his five-year-old daughter, Polly, is compelling people to kill themselves. The doll — Chinga — is haunting Polly’s mother, Melissa, after compelling her husband to commit suicide with a fish hook.
Scully manages to destroy the doll by burning it in a microwave, but the episode ends as another fisherman drags up another lobster trap, containing the burned — but still living — doll. “Chinga” was co-written by horror legend Stephen King, so good luck getting this one out of your nightmares anytime soon.
4. The Peacock Brothers
Appearing in: The X-Files Season 4, Episode 2 “Home”
One of the more infamous X-Files episodes involved the inbred Peacock clan, and the brothers Edmund, George, and Sherman. Physically deformed by years of inbreeding, Edmund was both George and Sherman’s father and brother. They kept their quadruple amputee mother bound beneath the bed and murdered anyone who discovered the family’s dark secret.
Mulder and Scully set out to investigate the trio after the corpse of a deformed baby was found buried in the town of Home, Pennsylvania near the Peacock’s shack. They later discover that the brothers buried the baby alive and — though they manage to take down George and Sherman — Edmund and Mrs. Peacock escape to start a new family elsewhere.
“Home” was one of the few X-Files episodes aired with a viewer discretion warning and an TV MA rating, and remains controversial even now, twenty years later.
3. Leonard Betts
Appearing in: The X-Files Season 4, Episode 12 “Leonard Betts”
Just when you thought cancer couldn’t get any worse, along comes Leonard Morris Betts, a mutant EMT whose body was almost entirely internally composed of cancer cells.
Leonard Betts’s mutation allowed him to heal rapidly and regenerate body parts, but meant that he had to physically consume cancer tumors to stay alive, as well as bath himself in povidone-iodine antiseptic. In “Leonard Betts” he is decapitated in a car accident, but his headless body comes back to life and escapes the morgue, eventually growing a new head.
Mulder and Scully investigate the disappearance of the corpse, and discover that he’s been killing anyone who finds about his mutation. Scully confronts him at the end of the episode and — though she eventually manages to overpower and kill him — he reveals to her that she has cancer, which he can sense from being in contact with her. Not the way you want to find out.
2. Eugene Victor Tooms
Appearing in: The X-Files Season 1, Episodes 3 “Squeeze” & 21 “Tooms”
Saving the second best for the penultimate entry, it’s infamous monster of the week Eugene Victor Tooms, who is notable for having appeared in two episodes over The X-Files Season 1.
Eugene Victor Tooms was an animal control worker from Baltimore, and also a mutant able to contort and stretch his body to extreme degrees. He could squeeze through drains, ventilation panels and the like to enter buildings, making him the worlds best cat burglar if not for his little habit of murdering people.
Part of his mutation meant that he had to come out of hibernation every 30 years, killing five people and eating their livers in order to survive. After nearly killing the then-newbie Scully in “Squeeze,” the two agents manage to arrest him. But he’s released from prison and returns later in the season for “Tooms”, which concludes with his body being crushed by the internal workings of an elevator, ending his life.
1. The Flukeman
Appearing in: The X-Files Season 2, Episode 2 “The Host”
And the most terrifying monster from The X-Files is (in our humble opinion) the Flukeman from Season 2 episode “The Host”. The Flukeman was a tapeworm looking humanoid lurking in the sewers of Newark, New Jersey. A tapeworm who had a taste for human flesh.
When Mulder and Scully are put on the case of a Russian crewman found half eaten in the sewers they discover the existence of the Flukeman, which has a mouth similar to a flukeworm, just much much bigger. A creature born from radioactive waste from Chernobyl, the Flukeman bites its victims and infects them with smaller flukeworms, which eventually kill the host.
Mulder, Scully, and Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) track the Flukeman to a sewage processing plan, but it later escapes back into the sewers. Mulder seemingly kills the Flukeman by trapping it in a sewer grate, but the final moments of the episode show the creature opening its eyes again.
The Flukeman remerges again later in the X-Files canon, in the comic book series The X-Files: Season 10, which reveals that the creature ended up in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
You made it to the end! Have the famous X-Files Bubble Bath scene as a reward.
Which is your favorite monster of the week from The X-Files? Tell us in the comments below!
MP Staff Writer, thinking too much about comic books since 1992. Tweet me your favourite superheroes, @katgngr