Dare You To Sleep With the Lights Off: The Five Creepiest Episodes of The X-Files

There was a time when my sun rose and set at Chris Carter’s command. I would willingly have followed him into battle at nothing more than a simple request. And to this day I’d probably steal something if he asked. Maybe. He’d have to give me a reason now though.

My devotion is the result of a young indoctrination. I watched my first episode of The X-Files in 1995 at the tender and sheltered age of 13. That episode, “The Calusari,” came close to making this list, because evil children are actually pretty freaking creepy. Too bad for Michael though, there are at least five other episodes of the show that are creepier.

So here they are, my top five creepiest episodes of The X-Files, in no particular order.

Episode 1.03: “Squeeze”/Episode 1.21: “Tooms”

You might say that putting two episodes for one entry is cheating, but it’s my post and I can do what I want.

With all due respect to the last line of this promo (which is for the second episode, “Tooms”), I really do believe in monsters. Eugene Victor Tooms was first introduced as an animal control worker in the third-ever episode of The X-Files. A series of murders grabs the attention of our FBI Agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, because of the fact that no entry or exit for the murderer can be found.

Though a lot of skepticism remains, Tooms does end his first appearance locked in prison, forming another nest out of newspaper and saliva, watching the food tray slot in his door with his creepy yellow eyes. He escapes, of course — because why not — in “Tooms.” That episode, by the way, made me even more afraid of toilets for several months after. I used to stack heavy objects on top of the closed toilet, to the annoyance of everyone else in my house.

Tooms himself manages to make these episodes so incredibly creepy. His disaffected, emotionless, and frankly inhuman gaze is a creepy backdrop to any classic horror tale. Also, I will never forget how grossed out I was when he licked his fingers after picking up the dead bird.


Full body shudders.

Episode 2.02: “The Host”

Sometimes called the “Flukeman episode,” “The Host” featured a humanoid flukeworm that bit people and gave them flukeworms. So, that’s just disgusting. I don’t think I’ve used a porta potty since I first watched this episode. I would literally rather pee myself.

“The Host” falls at the beginning of the second season of the show, when Scully and Mulder have been separated by the powers that be for getting too close to the truth. Or at least discovering small corners of truth. A crewman who was pulled into the septic system of a cargo freighter off the coast of New Jersey somehow ends up in the sewers, half-eaten. Mulder is assigned the case. Scully finds the first flukeworm in his liver.

This episode has a little bit of everything: an enormous humanoid flukeworm swimming around in murky sewer water, worms in body cavities, porta potty scares.


This episode also features a city worker vomiting a flukeworm into his sink, which is probably one of the grosser things I’ve watched happen on TV.

Episode 5.04: “Detour”

Also known as the episode where Scully and Mulder go on an impromptu camping trip in the woods with Rent’s Anthony Rapp. On their way to team building weekend seminar with another FBI agent pair, Mulder and Scully detour (do you see what they did there) when they’re stopped by a police roadblock.

Many unfortunate things happen in the woods, and in one of my favorite moments of this TV show ever, an injured Mulder ends up cuddled in Scully’s lap while she very tunelessly sings “Joy to the World” to him. (The “Jeremiah was a bullfrog” one, not the Christmas song.)

So what makes this creepy? The monsters of this particular week were completely invisible except for their red glowing eyes.


My heart started pounding just LOOKING at this screencap.

Their believed origins were not actually that exciting, but I’ve never forgotten their red glowing eyes looking at this kid from his doorway. I can’t like it.

Episode 4.02: “Home”

Children playing sandlot baseball find the buried corpse of an infant. Mulder and Scully are called in because of the state of the infant’s corpse. It was buried alive because of severe deformations and congenital defects that would not have allowed it to survive.


The Peacock brothers become prime suspects and are investigated by the town’s sheriff before he is brutally murdered in his bed by two of the brothers. Later, Mulder and Scully go with the deputy to arrest the brothers but are met with a house of horrors and booby traps. An armless, legless woman is found under the bed, rolling around on a wooden mechanic’s creeper. I’d tell you exactly who she is, but I think I’ve probably spoiled enough of this episode.

“Home” is perhaps made all the creepier because these men aren’t really monsters, they’re just men. Inbred, violent, deformed men, but just men. There’s nothing supernatural about them at all. (Special mention here to Donnie Pfaster in season 2’s “Irresistible” for the same reason.)

Episode 5.10: “Chinga”

What happens when Stephen King co-writes an episode of The X-Files? A murderous doll that probably owes some inspiration to Child’s Play, but I wouldn’t know because I’ve never inflicted those movies upon myself. This TV show was clearly enough.

Scully is on vacation in the beautiful state of Maine (you know, King’s favorite place to set any book ever) when she stops for supplies at a grocery store and finds a bloodbath inside. Everyone inside is bleeding from the eyes and the butcher has apparently stabbed himself through the eye. Watching surveillance tape, Scully sees a mother and child who are apparently unaffected, fleeing the scene as people collapse around her.

Chinga is the unfortunate name of the doll (you may want to google the meaning of that word if you want to know why it’s unfortunate) that follows people around, creepily intoning “I want to play” to her chosen victims.


I couldn’t sleep with any of my stuffed friends on my bed for months.

What episodes of The X-Files scared you? And, if you’re looking to get in the Halloween mood, all seasons of the show are currently available on Hulu!

All photos from screencapped.net


  • Heidi Ruby Miller October 17, 2017 at 7:54 am

    I knew “Home” was going to be on this list even before I looked. And “Tooms” because, well, it’s Tooms. 😉 You had your work cut out for you on this one, Merrin. Lots of creepitude on X-Files…which is why we loved it so much.

    • Merrin October 17, 2017 at 8:19 am

      Oh man yeah you knew those two had to be on there! It was really hard whittling the candidates down to five, for sure. So many good options.

  • J.L. Gribble October 17, 2017 at 9:46 am

    Before I read your list, I predicted that all the episodes would be from the first half of the show. And I was right! There was certainly still some creepiness later, but it had more to do with the revelations of the show’s mythology as opposed to monster of the week.

    (The autopsy scene in the alien abduction documentary episode is on my list.)

    • Merrin October 17, 2017 at 9:53 am

      It was so much creepier in the beginning!!

      And I just watched that episode recently, I see exactly what you mean. :p

  • Sherry Peters October 18, 2017 at 11:16 am

    That Peacock episode still gives me the creeps! I’m squirming just thinking about it! Ugh, and I might be sick! The flashbacks! Can a show give you PTSD? I can’t listen to Johnny Mathis-style music (they used a different version of one of his songs).

    • Merrin October 18, 2017 at 11:41 am

      Haha, a show might be able to give you PTSD! I definitely slept with a light on after writing this post, if it’s any consolation.


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