23 X-Files Storylines That Were Based on Real Life Stories

There are plenty of questions about The X-Files we still want the answers to. Are aliens real? What about ghosts? Are flukemen hiding in our sewers?

Whether or not you believe in the mysterious powers of the paranormal, these bizarre The X-Files plots based on real life suggest other celestial beings are here on Earth. This list of X-Files stories taken from real life occurrences is freaky enough to have you saying, "I want to believe." Mysterious murders, witchy black magic, and life on Mars doesn't even begin to cover it.

What is the government hiding in Area 51? There's a reason so many cases have been marked "unsolvable" throughout history - and by FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Some of these narratives are too eerie to just be a coincidence on this list of spooky stories stolen from the real world.

Photo: 20th Television

  • "Humbug" (Season Two, Episode 20)

    "Humbug" (Season Two, Episode 20)
    Video: YouTube
    Many decades ago, freak shows were common across the United States as part of traveling carnivals and circuses. One show in particular, called "The Jim Rose Circus," stood out amongst the rest. The episode "Humbug" was inspired by a VHS tape of The Jim Rose Circus. In fact, you can watch some of the freak show members act as characters in the episode, which follows the life of a traveling carnival.
  • "The Erlenmeyer Flask" (Season One, Episode 24)

    "The Erlenmeyer Flask" (Season One, Episode 24)
    Video: YouTube
    Some say it was mass hysteria, others claim it was the ingestion of a powerful solvent. One thing everyone agrees on is that on February 19, 1994, a woman named Gloria Ramirez checked into an emergency room in Riverside, CA. The smell of her blood incapacitated 23 staff members, five of which had to be hospitalized themselves. Gloria died within 45 minutes of her arrival, but the mystery of her toxic blood continues to linger. This incident was the inspiration behind The X-Files Season 1 episode, "The Erlenmeyer Flask."
  • "The Jersey Devil" (Season One, Episode 5)

    "The Jersey Devil" (Season One, Episode 5)
    Video: YouTube

    New Jersey - home to the Jersey Shore "guido" and The Jersey Devil sightings. In January 1909, hundreds of people reported that a kangaroo-like animal with leathery bat wings and an elongated horse face attacked trolley cars, social clubs, and hunters around town. Police even claimed to have spotted and fired upon the monster, but despite their best efforts to hunt it down, a body was never found.

    The X-Files riffs on the legend of the Jersey Devil in the episode, "The Jersey Devil" (naturally). It focuses on the resurgence of attacks on the New Jersey Turnpike that leave victims with missing their limbs.
  • "Død Kalm" (Season Two, Episode 19)

    "Død Kalm" (Season Two, Episode 19)
    Video: YouTube

    The Philadelphia Experiment was an eerie real life examination that has served as inspiration for countless sci-fi and horror TV shows since its occurrence in October 1943. The X-Files episode "Død Kalm" not only uses the original story as insight, it also drops several hints and references throughout.

  • "Shapes" (Season One, Episode 19) 

    "Shapes" (Season One, Episode 19) 
    Video: YouTube
    The murder mystery of a Native American man spirals into a case about shape-shifting beasts that appear every eight years, and leave nothing but a trace of human remains and mysterious track prints in the snow. All of these ideas were borrowed from the Native American myths of the Wendigo, and "fleshed out" in the episode "Shapes."
  • "Home" (Season Four, Episode 2)

    "Home" (Season Four, Episode 2)
    Video: YouTube

    The episode "Home" is based on the true story of the Ward Family, made up of four illiterate brothers who lived under one roof outside Syracuse, NY. When one of them was found dead, a murder investigation opened by the police prompted rumors of mercy killings, and interfamilial relations gone bad. 

    One brother was put on trial for allegedly taking his siblng's life, but was eventually acquitted. In the end, a slayer was never officially named, leaving the case something of a mystery. Still, the story was fascinating enough to spawn an unnerving documentary, which you can read more about here.

    This story, along with a tale told by Charlie Chaplin in his autobiography, formed the basis for this spine-chilling episode.