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The Most Disturbing Episodes Of The X-Files, Ranked

Though network television may be limited in what it can show based on FCC standards, the beloved series "The X-Files" — which spent its entire run on Fox — features some of the best and most gutsy (in more ways than one) television writing out there, containing numerous episodes that still terrify viewers to this day.

There are a number of reasons why "The X-Files" is so successful at shocking audience members. The writing is brilliant, and some of the most horrifying episodes are those that deal with the psychological elements of the supernatural, stoking existential fear in even the most stoic of viewers. There are also the monsters, some of which are created using practical effects, while others are portrayed by the series' talented guest actors. And we can't forget about our outstanding lead actors — Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny — who portray Scully and Mulder's life-and-death encounters with the unknown with both charisma and pathos.

There are so many deeply creepy episodes of "The X-Files" that it can be difficult to know where to start. It's also true that everyone has different tastes, so an episode that might be terrifying to one person might be no big deal to another. In order to work out which episodes are really the scariest, we've taken a look at some of the discussions online to see what superfans have to say about the matter. Keep reading (if you dare) to discover our ranking of the all-time most disturbing episodes of "The X-Files."

15. Eve (Season 1, Episode 11)

Though it may not be everyone's cup of tea, it's pretty much an accepted fact that children, and especially twins, are extremely scary characters in horror. In the Season 1 episode "Eve," the writers of "The X-Files" took this premise and ran with it. Mulder and Scully are on the case when two men who live across the country are murdered at the same time in the exact same fashion. The two men's daughters, Teena and Cindy, (played by twins Sabrina and Erika Krievens), also happen to be identical. At first, they are puzzled about what's behind the murders, with Mulder suggesting everything from aliens to vampires.

It takes them a good while to finally learn the truth, which makes the episode especially suspenseful. Mulder and Scully eventually learn that Teena and Cindy are part of a cloning program that began as a Cold War experiment to create super-soldiers. Teena and Cindy are referred to as "Eve 9" and "Eve 10," respectively, as the project creators were attempting to create the perfect humans a la Adam and Eve.

We eventually learn that it was Teena and Cindy who murdered their fathers as part of a plan to reunite with one another, having instinctively detected each other's existence. Mulder and Scully initially think of the girls as victims — they are even abducted at one point — so learning about their deception near the end of the episode is especially chilling.

14. Roadrunners (Season 8, Episode 4)

There aren't a ton of truly great "X-Files" episodes after David Duchovny left the show at the end of Season 7, but the Season 8 episode "Roadrunners" is an exception to the rule. Probably the scariest entry in the Scully-Doggett (Robert Patrick) era, the episode sees Scully all alone in a small town in Utah.

One of the most alarming parts of the episode is the fact that Scully is all on her own investigating the case, leading fans to fear for her safety even more so than usual. Doggett is still new to the X-Files and Scully doesn't yet trust him, so she decides to try and solve the case on her own. On her way to investigate a murder, Scully's car breaks down and she must rely on the not-so-nice townspeople for help.

What she learns is that the residents of the town worship a slug-like creature that they believe is the second coming of Jesus Christ. The creature needs a human host to survive, meaning the townspeople must find human sacrifices to provide for their deity. When Scully discovers that the townspeople have inserted the creature into an unsuspecting stranger, they decide to stick it in Scully instead. It's one of many gross episodes in the series, and Scully's encounter with the parasitic slug is enough to give even bug-lovers the heebie-jeebies. As u/One_Engineer3366 put it on Reddit, "That's why I try to make sure gasoline is always half-full and never fuel up in one-church towns."

13. Folie à Deux (Season 5, Episode 19)

Some "X-Files" episodes are scary because of the monsters Mulder and Scully encounter, and some because of the psychological terror they induce. The Season 5 episode "Folie à Deux” brilliantly combines both elements, portraying one man's descent into insanity paired with a pretty disturbing monster-of-the-week.

Mulder's sanity is questioned time and time again in "The X-Files," but his state of mind is never as compromised as it is in "Folie à Deux." In this episode, Mulder travels to Illinois to investigate Gary Lambert (Brian Markinson), a telemarketer who believes his boss is a giant insect monster that only he can see. Mulder initially believes the case is a waste of time and tells Scully he will take care of it on his own, only to get wrapped up in the man's psychosis. After being held hostage by Lambert at his office, Mulder begins to see what Lambert sees — his monstrous boss, as well as the other employees he has turned into zombies.

When Scully comes to town she tells Mulder he's experiencing "folie à deux," or "a madness shared by two," despite the fact that Mulder has found evidence that Lambert's boss is up to no good. Like the best — and most disturbing — episodes of "The X-Files," neither Mulder nor Scully find a satisfying explanation for what they experience. While Scully defends Mulder against Skinner and temporarily sees what he sees, the truth never really becomes clear. This uncertainty, of course, is one of the things that makes the episode so terrifying.

12. Badlaa (Season 8, Episode 10)

The "X-Files" episode "Badlaa" may not be one of the best the series has to offer, but it's still pretty terrifying. As Reddit user u/Orfez put it, it's an "interesting episode that made almost no sense." The episode begins in a Mumbai airport when an American businessman stops to use the toilet. While inside the stall, he is attacked by a paraplegic beggar who happens to be a fakir — a master of torture on a mission to achieve enlightenment. When the American businessman arrives in Washington D.C., blood streams out of his every orifice, and the beggar somehow crawls out of the man's body.

Without Mulder there to think outside of the box, Scully (along with Doggett) struggles to get a handle on the case. The fakir continues to inhabit and disembowel people, leaving a series of gruesome scenes in his wake and eventually escaping Scully's clutches and returning to Mumbai.

It's a fairly gory episode — which certainly ratchets up the disturbing factor — but it's also not a very good episode, objectively speaking. To put it simply, it's about an Indian beggar who crawls up into people's butts, which is not exactly a recipe for quality television. Nonetheless, it's still creepy enough to scare some viewers, which means it deserves a spot on this list. Several Reddit users noted that the episode gave them nightmares, and u/exphil called it "outright disgusting at times."

11. Chinga (Season 5, Episode 10)

"Chinga" has all the right ingredients to be a horror classic: it's got an evil child, an evil doll, and it was co-written by horror legend Stephen King. The episode takes place in — you guessed it — small town Maine, where Scully is trying to take a relaxing vacation away from the X-Files. Scully's vacation is rudely interrupted when she stumbles upon a grocery store where all the customers have suddenly gouged their eyes out. She occasionally communicates about the case with Mulder by phone — he's amusingly unhelpful — but this one's all Scully.

Scully learns about a woman, Melissa (Susannah Hoffman), and her daughter, Polly (Jenny-Lynn Hutcheson). Polly has a doll named Chinga who has the power to force people to take their own lives. Melissa starts having visions of the townspeople dying violent deaths, and finds herself unable to do anything to stop it. Melissa tries to destroy the doll, but the doll is too powerful. Scully finally stops the doll from killing anyone else, but does she really defeat the evil within? This is a Stephen King episode, so you might be able to guess the answer.

10. Tooms (Season 1, Episode 21)

Eugene Victor Tooms (Doug Hutchison) is probably the scariest monster in all of Season 1, and he's likely a large part of why the show became a success during its first year. Tooms first appeared in "Squeeze," the third episode of the series, and returned once more in its 21st segment, "Tooms." As opposed to the more monstrous or extra-terrestrial creatures in other episodes, Tooms is (mostly) human, which is what makes him so terrifying. He's a flesh-and-blood serial killer with one nightmarish distinction: he has the ability to stretch his body to fit through very small gaps. He also happens to be over 100 years old.

Following the events of "Squeeze," Tooms is placed in a sanitarium in Baltimore. His doctor believes he is ready to be re-integrated into society, much to the consternation of Mulder and Scully. They continue to watch Tooms, convinced he will commit other murders, until Tooms frames Mulder for an attack. Mulder and Scully learn that Tooms kills his victims in order to consume their livers, which give him the strength to hibernate for 30 years in a cocoon.

Mulder and Scully eventually stop Tooms, but we are given the sense that changes are coming for the X-Files. We first meet Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) in this episode, and the Smoking Man (William B. Davis) makes a memorable appearance. Tooms remains one of the most terrifying monsters Mulder and Scully have ever faced, liver-eating and all. "Edward Tooms still makes my skin crawl," wrote u/mdbar27.

9. Grotesque (Season 3, Episode 13)

Gargoyles may not seem like especially terrifying creatures to the average person, but after watching this episode, you might be convinced otherwise. "Grotesque" follows Mulder and Scully as they investigate an apparent serial killer, John Mostow (Levani Outchaneichvili), who claims to have been possessed by a demon when he committed the murders. Scully is skeptical, but his explanation is given credence when another murder is committed while Mostow is in custody. Mostow, who is an artist, draws a picture of a gargoyle that he claims has forced him to kill.

Mulder becomes extremely involved in the case, filling his apartment with gargoyle drawings and even sculpting a gargoyle himself at Mostow's studio. Scully tries to stop Mulder, but he comes face to face with the creature himself after sculpting it from clay. Mulder is assisted by his old mentor, Bill Patterson (Kurtwood Smith), who has been investigating the case for three years, but finds out that Patterson himself is responsible for the recent killings. Is it his own obsession or has the demon found someone new to possess? Like any good "X-Files" episode, we will never really know the truth, though the true believers among us may have our suspicions.

8. Detour (Season 5, Episode 4)

Sometimes all it takes to give you the chills is a pair of haunting eyes in the dark. That's exactly what makes "Detour," the fourth episode of Season 5, so freaky. The episode sees Mulder and Scully driving through the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida on their way to an FBI conference. They happen upon an unsolved missing persons case that involves mysterious creatures with glowing red eyes. Mulder and Scully learn that the creatures have become increasingly violent, seemingly intent on protecting their territory from human trespassers.

Mulder obviously jumps at the chance to assist on the case, which proves to be a pretty bizarre one. It's also a surprisingly funny episode, despite also containing plenty of thrills and chills. It even features Scully inexplicably singing "Joy To The World" to lighten the mood when they get trapped in the woods. Nonetheless, it's an undeniably spooky episode that creates a wonderfully chilling atmosphere. The fact that the episode never reveals too much — only glimpses of these terrifying creatures in the dark — makes for a creepy hour of television.

The final shot alone is enough to give you nightmare material — be sure not to click away before the credits roll. As u/stoltesawa put it on Reddit, "The end of 'Detour' gets me every g****** time. I've got chills just thinking about it."

7. Sanguinarium (Season 4, Episode 6)

"The X-Files" featured its fair share of body horror over the course of its 11-season run, and the Season 4 episode "Sanguinarium" is one of the goriest of them all. Written as a spec script by freelance writers Valerie and Vivian Mayhew (two of only six women who have ever written on the show), the episode centers on an especially disturbing form of plastic surgery.

Mulder and Scully travel to Illinois to investigate the case of a doctor who kills a patient by removing too much fat from their face. The doctor tells Mulder and Scully that he killed the patient because he was possessed. Later, another doctor kills a patient, this time by burning a hole through a patient's face using a surgical laser. After finding pentagrams at the scenes of the crime, Mulder suspects witchcraft may be involved. He's right, of course, but the villain isn't who they initially suspect.

On the whole, "Sanguinarium" is actually one of the worst episodes the series has to offer, but it certainly delivers on the gore factor. Disgusting highlights include surgical tools magically teleporting inside someone's intestines, and the episode's villain slicing his own face off to reveal a new one underneath. It may not be the most successful "X-Files" episodes story-wise, but the gory visuals are hard to forget.

6. Field Trip (Season 6, Episode 21)

While "The X-Files" is often associated with monsters and aliens, sometimes the most disturbing cases Mulder and Scully face are those that deal with the more psychological elements of terror. Perhaps the very best of these episodes is the Season 6 episode "Field Trip," which involves deadly hallucinogenic fungi.

Mulder and Scully travel to North Carolina to investigate the case of Wallace Schiff (David Denman) and his wife Angela (Robyn Lively), a couple whose skeletal remains were found in the middle of a field. It's suggested that Wallace and Angela began hallucinating prior to their deaths. While traveling to the site, Mulder drives over a patch of mushrooms that release spores which cause him to hallucinate. He discovers evidence of aliens in his hallucination, but when Scully believes him without question, he realizes it can't be real.

Meanwhile, Scully encounters these same spores and finds herself in a hallucination of her own. Eventually, Scully and Mulder's hallucinations merge and they find themselves in the same one. They wake up underground, being digested by a yellow substance. They escape, but Mulder questions if they have actually escaped the hallucination. He's right, of course, and they are rescued in the nick of time before they can become skeletons like the poor couple they unearthed. As u/Fluffguck succinctly put it on Reddit, "A prison for the mind is the most terrifying form of prison."

5. Irresistible (Season 2, Episode 13)

Eugene Tooms may be the most famous serial killer in "X-Files" history, but Season 2's Donnie Pfaster (Nick Chinlund) certainly gives him a run for his money as far as the creepy factor goes. Upon learning of Pfaster's crimes, Mulder quickly deduces that he is a "death fetishist" who may eventually satisfy his desires through murder. While Pfaster initially satiates himself by removing the hair and fingernails from buried corpses, Mulder's assumption is right — he eventually takes it a step further and starts killing.

Scully is deeply disturbed by the nature of Pfaster's crimes, and she is right to be. Pfaster takes a perverse interest in Scully, eventually trapping and kidnapping her in his home. Scully is eventually rescued by Mulder and the rest of the FBI, but not before she is extremely traumatized by the incident. It's one of the first times we see Scully really disturbed by a case, and it's hard to watch our beloved agent deal with the aftermath of such a terrifying ordeal.

Pfaster remains one of the most disturbing villains in "X-Files" history precisely because of the fact that he's so very human. While the violent acts of other monsters can be explained away because of their inhuman nature, Pfaster's actions have no supernatural or extra-terrestrial origin. As u/Saronix put it on Reddit, "Humans like that are more scary and creepy than any fictional concoction."

4. Squeeze (Season 1, Episode 3)

It's somewhat hard to believe that a long-running show like "The X-Files" would be so darn good right off the bat, but that's exactly what was proven with the third episode of the series, entitled "Squeeze." Though he was introduced at the very beginning of the show's first season, Eugene Tooms (Doug Hutchison) remains one of the most iconic villains in "X-Files" history.

As proven time and time again, what's so scary about a villain like Tooms is that he is human (or in this case, human-ish). Mulder and Scully first encounter Tooms in Baltimore, where he has killed a businessman and eaten his liver. We are cued into Tooms' modus operandi early on — he has the ability to stretch himself into any shape, allowing him to bypass doors or any other security measures. One of the most haunting aspects of Tooms is his striking orange eyes, which we see watching his unsuspecting victim from beneath a shower drain.

Mulder correctly deduces that Tooms is able to hibernate for 30 years once he ingests enough human livers, and the nests he builds to do so are a grotesque sight to behold. The whole episode is a perfect encapsulation of what makes "The X-Files" so great. Mulder and Scully's dynamic may still be in its gestational period in this episode, but it's still an effective example of what makes them such a compelling team, and Tooms is a terrifyingly bizarre villain who's difficult to forget.

3. The Host (Season 2, Episode 2)

As is true with most series from the 1990s and 2000s, instances of early CGI don't hold up very well. Luckily for us, "The X-Files" relied on some pretty incredible practical effects during its run, leaving us with several terrifying monsters that still give us the shudders today. One such monster is the Flukeman, a worm-like genetic mutant born out of Chernobyl.

"The Host" takes place during a period in which the X-Files have been shut down, but that doesn't mean Mulder (and by extension, Scully) has stopped investigating weird phenomena. When a half-eaten ship crewman appears in the sewers of New Jersey, Scully performs an autopsy on the man and excavates a disgusting worm-like creature from his liver. Later, a city worker coughs up a flukeworm while in the shower, and Mulder discovers a humanoid-like creature with a worm-shaped mouth in the sewers.

The most disturbing aspect of the episode is the appearance of the Flukeman itself. Portrayed by Darin Morgan, the wormy creature is one of the most memorable monsters in the entire series, and it's just as scary today as it was back then. The idea of the Flukeman traveling through the septic system makes it even more shudder-worthy, as no one wants to see something like that when they look down in their toilet. As u/latestcraze put it on Reddit, "'The Host' made me forever unsure of port-o-potties!" We certainly don't blame them. "The Flukeman is truly vile," added a now-deleted user.

2. Die Hand Die Verletzt (Season 2, Episode 14)

Like many episodes of "The X-Files," "Die Hand Die Verletzt" explores a popular cultural phenomena from a new (and creepy) perspective. Mulder and Scully travel to a small town in New Hampshire where a teenager is found murdered and mutilated in the woods. The town has a rather spooky reputation, and Scully immediately suspects this might have something to do with mass hysteria surrounding the "Satanic Panic." As audience members, we already know there is actual devil worship involved — the local high school faculty are seen praying to the devil as the episode opens — and Mulder suspects as much as well.

Though the episode does involve "real" devil worship — rather than the mass panic and conspiracies often associated with Satanism — it does delve into some of the phenomena associated with the Satanic Panic. For example, the stepdaughter of one of the teachers maintains that she was repeatedly raped by the faculty at the school as part of their Satanic ritual, while he argues that she is misremembering the events due to sensationalized media coverage of Satanism.

The references to potential sexual abuse are certainly disturbing, but one of the most memorable moments of the episode involves a man being eaten alive by a giant snake. It's an episode that's creepy in both subtle and obvious ways, making it hard to watch even for some of the show's most dedicated fans. "I STILL can't watch that teacher's last scene as an adult now," said a now-deleted user on Reddit.

1. Home (Season 4, Episode 2)

Ranking the most disturbing episode in "X-Files" history wasn't actually all that hard. There are many extremely creepy episodes of the series, but there's only one that was banned from the air.

At the beginning of Season 4, Fox aired an episode called "Home." Mulder and Scully are called to Pennsylvania to investigate a particularly disturbing murder case in which the local police uncover the dead body of a deformed baby on a rural farm. If that sounds bad, it doesn't get any more pleasant from there. Mulder and Scully eventually discover that the infant was the offspring of an incestuous family known as the Peacocks, and that the child had been buried alive by said family. It's a gruesome episode, and horror fans are likely to see the similarities between "Home" and classic '70s horror films like "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre." Because of this, it remains a fan-favorite episode, despite its obvious nastiness.

Though some fans may relish the episode's depravity, certain viewers — as well as network executives — were not happy with it. Fox decreed that the episode would never air again, that is until 1999 when it re-aired with an advertisement that called it "so controversial it's been banned from television for three years," according to The New York Times. Many Reddit users also agree that "Home" is the scariest episode in the entire series, with u/Hero_Of_Sandwich even saying it "might be one of the scariest hours of television of any series." We can't disagree with that.