Lectures Contact: How Scully & Mulder untangled the UFO phenomenon The X Files and modern UFOlogy Delivered at the Fortean Unconvention, London, April 2002
The latter part of the 1990s could go down into history as the X Generation. The popularity of the X Files created an interest in everything starting with the letter X. In the world of computers, old ideas were repackaged by making the new acronyms start with X, such as XML, which actually stands for extensible… and which therefore does not start with an X. In Pop Idol, the judges were searching for the “X Factor”. Most recently, Microsoft launched its Xbox. This popularity of the letter X offset the balance against the link with that other strange phenomenon, that of the “Ex-partner”.
The series re-defined the role of UFO-research and gave it a sense of respect, as in the world of televised science-fiction, UFOs had reached the level of being officially researched. Suddenly, discussions on these topics could be held because of the popularity of the series. Everyone wanted a piece of the “X-attraction”. What was the concept behind the X Files? The X Files is a mixture of various “strange files” (what we would call Fortean) and UFO-material. Strange cases, apart from interesting naming conventions such as Heuvelmans lake, never really seemed to develop or progress, unlike the central line of thinking on UFOs and a government conspiracy.
The strange files-scenario seems nothing new and based on Twin Peaks, with its bizarre FBI Agent trying to answer the question not of his sister’s abduction, but of who killed Laura Palmer. The character of Scully is based on that of Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs. On the viewing public, and particularly the UFO community, perspectives changed. All those previously hiding in their own homes thinking they were harassed, suddenly spoke out. The big government conspiracy proposed by various researchers was visualised by the struggle of Fox Mulder. All UFO-researchers seemed able to identify with him. Magazines, such as Fortean Times, UFO Magazine, both here and in the US, all were suddenly propelled to a large national forum, followed by the late publications of Encounters, Quest and Uri Geller. Underneath this layer, however, lies an unresearched area, which is the most interesting, though never accentuated realisation: the methods, ideas and opinions of the script writers of the X Files, and the manner in which their opinions and ideas filtered through into the series. Alistair Moffat said in a conference last week how it is not reading that is learning, but writing. By writing, the mind gets confronted with so many aspects, it has to make a logical conclusion. And the same can be said of the writers of the X Files, though I would add that on some occasions, they deliberately did not add a logical ending to the episode. That road is travelled by the script writers, can be broken down into three distinct stages. Phase 1: acceptance that UFOs are extra-terrestrial and the search to uncover evidence to prove this Originally, the question that was asked was an endeavour to answer “who is out there?” and “does ET exist?” In the Pilot episode, Mulder’s car stalls when a UFO flies over it. There is a 9 minute time loss experienced by Mulder and Scully and our researchers come into contact with nasal implants – a theme later fully developed in Abduction, with Duane Barry’s implant, as well as Scully’s implant. Later on, in The Unopened Files, the first of the video releases, the task of Mulder is to safeguard and decode the official MJ (12)-documents, taken from a Department of Defence computer by a hacker, “The Thinker”, one Kenneth Soona.
It leads Mulder to uncover a conspiracy dating back to the end of the 2nd World War, involving Nazi scientists, in which humans have been catalogued during small-pox injections. The alleged purpose of this project is to create a human-alien hybrid. Standard practices include the mentioning of the reality of the Roswell crash, as well as Scully’s role in debunking the X Files. The X Files take the existing pot of UFO mythology “as is”, and create their episodes based on existing “pro-UFOlogy” publications.
In the early 1990s, this was a key to success and good television and movies, with Stargate and Independence Day being two other examples.
One intriguing confrontation in the series is when Mulder is confronted by an MJ-member, and he accepts “the conspiracy”, whereas Scully tells Mulder “this man is telling you what you want to hear”. It, however, falls on deaf men’s ears. The series is an overview of several “classic cases”, of which I will list the most intriguing. MJ 12
– the story of how aliens and humans are interacting with each other, with a potent government cover-up in place to suppress the truth. This cover-up is kept in place by mysterious Men In Black, who seldom make their suit look good, but do smoke an extra-ordinary amount of cigarettes.
– In Colony, we further learn how Mulder believes that there is other intelligent life which is living amongst us, and that they are here to colonise us.
– This rides high on the theory made popular in the early 1990s, labelled the MJ 12 papers. It was John Lear who stated that the US government had signed a treaty with an extraterrestrial race, who had a “colony” here at a base called Dulce, in New Mexico. Lear stated that in exchange for technology, the aliens were allowed to abduct humans in order to create hybrid human-alien offspring. UFO abductions
– the central abduction is the abduction of Mulder’s sister Samantha. Unlike the normal “abduction memory”, here it is the witness, Fox, who undergoes regression therapy to uncover the memories surrounding the abductions – which have left his sister permanently missing.
– Another abduction is that of Duane Barry, a strange person, who, with talk of implants, is the classic “UFO abductee”. Implants include the nose, abdomen, as well as holes in his teeth. Later, we will find that implants become more and more pronounced, including one with Dana Scully, detected during a metal detector when entering the FBI. Duane Barry also has memories of “joined abductions”, with both aliens and the military abducting people together. We are in season 2, and it is obvious the writers have been reading advanced abduction accounts, where such stories appear. Roswell
– During one meeting, the Well-manicured man informs Mulder an alien crash occurred and an alien was recovered. He, as well as some others linked to MJ12, have had the unfortunate task of assassinating an alien being. Area 51 myth
– One aspect is that of the Black triangles, made infamous in 1989 with the Belgian UFO sightings. This suggests that the Air Force is using “UFOs”, i.e. advanced technology. One case involves the disappearance of a pilot who flew these, who is then brainwashed and returned home.
– Much later, in Dreamland, we meet an Area 51 security guard. In a strange body-swap between him and Mulder, we find that experiments with anti-gravity have gone wrong, resulting in time warps and body-soul swaps. The incident is similar to the strange stories of the Montauk base, in New York, where stories of the Philadelphia Experiment have been pushed one step further into urban mythology, by such notables as Ed Cameron and others. It is also in this episode that one of the biggest discoveries is made: Mulder’s apartment actually does have a bedroom. Alien autopsy
In the third season, Mulder buys a video of an apparent alien autopsy, performed by Japanese scientists in a train carriage. Mulder says the footage is “so obviously fake”. The inspiration for this episode is clear: the 1995 appearance of the Santilli footage. We note how a copy of that alien was later sent to the offices of Fortean Times. It is in this episode that fiction and reality mingle even more when MUFON members appear, being largely a group of abductees getting together. SETI
The large telescope of Arecibo, which also received attention in the movie Contact, had been successful in picking up extraterrestrial signals. Mulder finds the message, as well as little grey men, but he also finds a troop of Blue Berets who make sure the truth is, once again, buried.
This and other similar events underline how a one man’s struggle for the truth (identified by the research potential of the FBI, which “opens doors”) will always be outmatched by the government, or an organised, attempt to maintain the status quo. The most extra-ordinary aspect of the success of the X Files must have been that the creators were able to maintain this same stand off for nine years. The Face on Mars
In the first season, in Space, an astronaut also becomes haunted by the Face on Mars, almost becoming possessed by the “ghost of the Face on Mars”.
“The failure of the Hubble Telescope and the Mars Observer are directly connected to a conspiracy to deny us evidence” says Mulder, pointing out that the evidence is evidence of alien civilisations. But there are other intriguing notes: UFOs are shot down over Iraq and transported. In this episode, Scully tells Mulder that the truth is out there, but so are lies, to which Deep Throat adds that a lie is most convincingly buried between two truths. “If the shark stops swimming, it will die. Don’t stop swimming.” The idea is that Mulder needs to continue digging and he will eventually end up with the truth. Perseverance, rather than cleverness or common sense, are therefore the drivers that are being identified as “vital” for Mulder’s success. Unfortunately, there is no time to analyse the series from a dualistic perspective. But here is one question: did Deep Throat believe that eventually some of Mulder’s evidence would break through the crack and constitute proof? Or was he himself a member of the cover-up, fully aware that Mulder’s continued going over the same steps would always result in the opposition’s easy removal of his evidence? Mulder, however, does not believe everything. Mulder states he believes the Gulf Breeze photos are fakes – reflecting the common accepted knowledge of the UFO community. This “level-headedness” is however offset with the statement “I Want To Believe”, the famous poster in his office. This poster depicts a photograph taken by Billy Meier, a Swiss farmer who claimed contact with emissaries of a Pleiadian civilisation. Meier is the standard image of the contactee who accepts everything without question and promotes a clear, though “silly” message of ET visitation. Phase 1 is therefore best summed us as “I want to believe”. Then came Phase 2… Phase 2: the realisation that the UFO phenomenon is a mirror, if not a smokescreen. The aliens are non-existent and are in fact a diversion to hide illegal, “black budget” crimes. Area 51 is now taking on its true form: exempt from any law, hence allowed to be the staging ground of anything that is most likely completely illegal, but its slate wiped clean by the president himself. Area 51 is the location where they want to bury far worse things than dead alien bodies. The preview of this scenario appears halfway in the third season, with Jose Chings’ From Outer Space, written by Darin Morgan, who would soon disappear from the list of authors, but whose ideas did influence Chris Carter. In this episode, Scully writes about one of her cases to a novelist, whereas Mulder is unwilling to help her. Scully relates an abduction account where the witness remembers the alien smoking a cigarette – leading to some UFO material that went on sale with aliens smoking. Some of this material, I believe, was available through the pages of Fortean Times, particularly in the form of CD racks.
Under hypnosis, she remembers the aliens were really USAF personnel dressed as aliens, including the cigarette smoker, as well as a “dead alien”.
The pilot tells Mulder that the UFO myth was created, so that the truth, the testing of new planes, remains hidden. The myth was built to make sure those planes were not shot down. Who wants to shoot a mystery, or a cosmic neighbour? Don Ecker in the February 2002 issue on the death of Bill Cooper stated how The X Files seemed to have borrowed this thinking from Cooper. Cooper, after promoting MJ12, then stated that the UFO phenomenon was simply disinformation put out by the New World Order. But nothing is ever as simple as that.
In Dreamland, later on in the series, we see how a top secret “Area 51” security guard manager mentions how The Lone Gunmen have been used by him and his colleagues to “leak” planted stories, which make the government look bad, seem to expose a big lie, but in the end are carefully planted tactics by the government to guarantee it is portrayed, though negatively, in the manner it wishes. It is literally making one look at one hand, while doing all the dirty tricks with the other hand, where no-one is watching. Though true, the message carried by The X Files was much more detailed, much more profound. Whereas during the first seasons it was clear that the writers were borrowing their material, and adapting it, it was now clear Chris Carter had had an insight – one he wanted to share with the world. Rather than “just another episode”, the X Files were about to enter on a dramatic new path. This new path happened with the switch from Season 4 to 5, with the episodes Gethsemane and Redux, in 1997. First, the episodes were written by Chris Carter himself. Normally, the title sequence reads: “the truth is out there.” These episodes carried different warnings: “Believe the lie” and “All lies lead to the truth”. The normally honest Scully now lies, lying about the “death” of Fox Mulder. At the same time, she reports about the “illegitimacy of Mulder’s work. He became a victim of false hopes and in the biggest of lies.”
She becomes convinced of this because of a whistleblower: Michael Kritschgau. He states that the whole concept of alien life is conceived by the Department of Defense to distract the public attention from genuine issues. It is created to have people, UFO researchers, running around in circles, never getting to the bottom of things, never able to find the answers. UFOs are in fact USAF secret aircraft, abductions are staged (including Samantha’s). In this scenario, the discovery of an alien being (also used in a script for the series Jonathan Creek), the classic technique is explained:
– create a fake
– dangle it in front of everyone
– take it away before scientific testing has been done
– This will leave everyone guessing, creating two camps that will debate the potential veracity of the case forever.
Or to quote Scully: “a scientific sleigh of hand calculated to perpetuate false truths for a bigger lie.” This “sleigh of hand” is in the creation of an alien body. Here, we have a variation on a theme, whereby the Santilli tape would have in essence been taken one step further – but it seems that reality is not yet as strange as the X Files; no-one to my knowledge has ever claimed to have captured an alien body.
Note here that there is no mention of the “New World Order”. In Bill Cooper, the UFO phenomenon served a purpose – to promote the agenda of the New World Order. In The X Files, they are just a clever, self-serving distraction, to detract from serious issues, like secret aircraft. They do not, as Cooper stated, serve a political goal. At least not when reading what the characters say… The idea that the abduction of Samantha Mulder was staged to make Mulder believe has an interesting twist, particularly in light of the introduction of Marita Covarrubias in the episodes. She is working for the United Nations, an organisation not particularly linked with UFOs, except for one incident. In 1989, according to Budd Hopkins, Linda Napolitano, aka Cortile, was abducted in the vicinity of Brooklyn Bridge. The abductors were grey aliens, who performed this task apparently in the presence of then UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar. Without going into details, the conclusion of this episode is that it is a most perplexing case. One conclusion that can be drawn from the available evidence – one which I myself underwrite – is that the entire event was possibly indeed a clever exercise in trying to convince influential people – like the UN Secretary General. An exercise, based upon the material as presented by Hopkins, which seems to have succeeded. But de Cuellar never went public with his belief – and it is precisely this “going public” that “they” are trying to make Mulder do, Kritschgau tells Mulder. Kritschgau says Scully has been given cancer to make Mulder convinced aliens are real and are responsible for it. This is the concept that the appearance of crop circles somehow adds reality to another unexplained phenomenon. I.e. a new unexplained event confirms that the first is indeed a genuine mystery – something which is bad science, but by arguing crop circles are alien artefacts, does it not mean more people would accept it? Going round the circles of Wiltshire, the answer is a yes. Mulder, with his poster saying he wants to believe, concludes: “I refuse to believe that it’s not true.” Scully adds: “because it’s easier to believe the lie.” Carter refers in the title Gethsemane to Jesus, as it is there that Jesus doubted about his own quest. If it is a lie, Mulder realises he has worked in vain, suffered in vain. All for a lie. And hence it is here that he contemplates suicide, for he has his moment of greatest doubt. It might seem that here, the writers left all contact with the real UFO world behind. After all, the concept that UFOs are disinformation is not widely known. But this is largely public perception. Within UFO circles, it actually has quite profound backing. Jacques Vallee has hinted in several of his publication that certain UFO incidents are staged, in an effort of psychological and sociological warfare. Leon Davidson, who worked for Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in 1949, has written various publications, all self-produced and published, showing undeniable evidence that a large percentage of the UFO-phenomenon is deliberate disinformation. He saw classified reports on UFOs that made him convinced of this.
“I was invited to the Pentagon in Nov. 1952 to meet Col. W.A. Adams and Maj. Dewey J.J. Fournet for discussion of my contention that saucers, if real, were American. I presented a four-page list of questions, the answers to which proved to me that the A.F. “investigation” of saucers was completely a cover-up for something else.” Bill Moore, co-author with Charles Berlitz of the first popular book on Roswell and the Philadelphia Experiment, confirmed at a UFO conference, days before he would otherwise be confronted with the allegation, of having provided disinformation to certain UFO-researchers and the public at large, apparently in an effort to get “to the truth”. His disinformation tactic would allegedly result in the government giving him insight into “the big secret”. In the end, it seems this was not the case. Another person, Bruce Maccabee, also confirmed having a more than dubious agenda. And it should be interesting to point out that in certain cases, such as Gulf Breeze, these people “fuelled” the debate, by keeping the controversy alive – and hence the UFO myth.
Kritschgau was no figment of the imagination of Chris Carter: he was a careful mixture of various UFO researchers and their definitive, though publicly often forgotten role, in disinformation, in an effort to promote the UFO myth. What in the end for? To make Muldder go public. This will bring the entire phenomenon in a more “believable” framework. Intriguingly, in the fact that truth is stranger than fiction, this would in fact happen to Nick Pope, who would go public and would become branded as the real life Fox Mulder. Nick Pope is a believer, if not in all cases, then at least in the fact that a core of it is unexplained, if not extraterrestrial. One can only wonder whether therefore somehow he might have been coerced, in Mulder fashion, “to go public”. Perhaps even the series was the trigger for such a decision. If that was the case, it would be how fiction might give rise to actions in the real world… In the series itself, the answer is given as to WHY the phenomenon was created. It was to deflect attention away from the bigger picture, which is “the bomb”. At the same time, however, the emphasis is also on the arrival of Nazi scientists arriving in the US and how this somehow ties in with cloning experiments and biogenetic research, some of it apparently started during World War II in the Nazi concentration camps.
It is intriguing that in Roswell and in Wright Patterson, where the ET craft was allegedly taken, both trends come together. The first housed the first nuclear attack strike force, whereas in the other, Nazi scientists had been lodged.
Finally, they frame the entire material in the framework of an American nation eager for bogus revelations. One can only wonder whether The Sun or News of the World does not feed directly into this story. Phase 3: A bit of everything, but nothing completely At end of season 5, in late summer 1998, the X Files reached their climax: a movie. It also signalled the demise of the series. However, first of all, the writers were able to present a mirror and smokescreen of trying to persuade the viewer that Mulder and co. were finally moving rapidly to a full understanding and revelation of the ultimate truth, which seemed to involve the existence of aliens in cahoots with the government after all – though not as we suspected before. In the movie, there is a radical break. It brings the X Files Conspiracy very close to this home [Commonwealth Institute, Kensington, London]: we see MJ12 convening in a house near The Albert Hall, whereas the Well-Manicured Man is identified as living in the English countryside.
MJ12 had to have it both ways: they are in league with the aliens, shielding their existence from preying human eyes. But: they always believed the aliens would take over, but would be more or less benign, with MJ12 being the human leaders of the New Alien World Order.
In the movie, they learn that this is not the case: the aliens are dangerous predators, and the other aspect of their secret mission comes to the surface: to test out a vaccine, which would make humans invulnerable to “the black oil”. Later, we find that there is indeed such a group of Resistance fighters, who have removed their eyes so that the black oil cannot take effect. It was at this stage that the audiences dropped. Whereas Phase 1 had also seen a tremendous increase in UFO books, and the creation of Nick Pope, as of Phase 3, and ever more recently over the past few years, UFO books have disappeared from the booksellers’ bookshelves. The opening made in Phase 2 could have lead to a series finale, but it was clear that this would be a very quick end – and perhaps not all that satisfying. It seems that the show had to go on, and hence the path of disinformation had to be left. A return to phase 1 was impossible, hence a bit of everything, but nothing in general was what typified the rest of the series. In The X Files, as a result, a strange mixture of “government disinformation” and “aliens do exist” was brewed, with screen writers wetting their own interest by moving into the direction of clones, with Nazi overtones on what lies at the origin of the UFO legend. The X Files continues to dangle in phase 3, with no obvious way out. It is also the state of UFOlogy in general: too much facets, but little tangible holds to break through the pat position. Conclusion The series, for the viewing public, did have some interesting episodes. I particularly like The Sixth Extinction.
In this episode, we see how archetypes become ever more to the surface: Mulder as the crucified Jesus. Whereas Mulder had often been portrayed as someone who suffered for everyone in the world, and suffered tremendously in his quest for the truth, that identification became more pronounced in these episodes. The archetype of the love of Mulder and Scully, based on the new archetype of the possible love between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, is another clear example. If we are to identify Mulder with Osiris, and Scully with Isis, then her child is Horus… and it just “happens” to be the case that Scully’s case is believed to possess extra-ordinary powers, powers that might transform the world one day. In the end, even Fox Mulder seemed to lose interest; David Duchovny realised that he was losing his battle with the series and needed to diversify his acting career. Other “spoofs”, such Millennium, had already been stopped, and another spoof, The Lone Gunmen, has most likely died a premature death, judging from the pages of the Fortean Times, which stated that its pilot came up with a pilot that almost word for word mimicked the scenario of the September 11 bombing. The series might not have had The Godfather or Darth Vader, but it did have the Cigarette Smoking Man, and a series of quotes, some of which might live to see a future: “Secrets push their way through deception so Man can know.” – Albert Hosteen, Navajo Elder. But above all: TRUST NO ONE