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True Stories That Inspired 4 Episodes of 'The X-Files'

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True Stories That Inspired 4 Episodes of 'The X-Files'


First thing's first: "The X-Files" is fake. There's no secret division of the FBI investigating paranormal activities — and even if there were, you're never going to get assigned to it, and then fall in love with Fox Mulder or Dana Scully and live happily ever after like you dreamed you could when you were 14.

Of course, that's exactly what we would say if it did exist and we were trying to cover it up.

[Related: 'X-Files' Marks the Spot: Scully, Mulder Together Again at Comic-Con]

There are, however, episodes based on real-life happenings (no, Alex Trebek and Jesse Ventura are not Men in Black — of course, that's exactly what we would say...). To celebrate the big 20th anniversary of "The X-Files" this week, here are a few of them:

1. "The Erlenmeyer Flask"


In the episode, a doctor collapses and when paramedics put a needle in him to decompress his chest, a poisonous gas comes out, overwhelming them.

In 1994, a woman came into a California ER dying of symptoms related to her cancer. When her blood was drawn, it smelled of ammonia and had manila-colored particles floating in it. Three people exposed to the blood fainted.

The woman died later that night, and by the time an autopsy was performed, two months had passed and the results were inconclusive. The likely possibility is that she was taking dimethyl sulfoxide as a home remedy, which turned into dimethyl sulfate in her blood when hospital workers defibrillated her. That, or a shadowy conspiracy injected her with alien DNA.

 [Related: 'X-Files' Creators Reflect on the Show's 'Triangle' Episode]

2. "Blood"


In the episode, an experimental fear toxin causes people to see messages on digital displays telling them to kill. A former postal worker takes a rifle to a clock tower on a college campus, and Mulder narrowly averts a mass shooting.

In 1966, Charles Whitman went to the 28th floor of the Tower at the University of Texas and shot nearly 40 people. In his journal, he wrote about thoughts coming into his head he couldn't control. An autopsy later revealed a brain tumor that might have led to those thoughts, but smart money's on alien DNA.

[Video: TV's 10 Most Disturbing Moments

3. "One Breath"


Scully is in a coma and unable to communicate with family and friends who surround her. The only one who gets through to her is Nurse Owen, who guides her back to consciousness.

In 1991, surgeon Richard Selzer contracted Legionnaires' disease and spent 23 days in a coma. He wrote a book, "Raising the Dead," in which he recounts the experience. The book profoundly influenced writer Glen Morgan, who had originally intended for Mulder to be the coma patient. But when actress Gillian Anderson had her first child, the producers needed a way to keep her off her feet and the switch worked out even better for actor David Duchovny as it gave him a chance to explore new facets of his character.

[Related: Gillian Anderson on Being Bisexual]

4. "E.B.E."


In 1993, Morgan saw three men at a UFO convention persuade a group of passers-by to tear up their $10 and $20 bills, fearing the government was tracking them through embedded magnetic strips. Everything about them — their demeanor, their clothes, their zeal — stuck with him.

A year later, the Lone Gunmen conspiracy theorists were born. Morgan thought he had mishandled them at first, that maybe he should have taken the characters more seriously. But fans fell in love with them, appreciating the levity they brought to a show so steeped in doom and gloom. Fans loved them so much that they eventually got their own spinoff series, no alien DNA required.