The Bizarre Inspiration Behind The Scariest X-Files Monster

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

One of the things that make The X-Files relatively unique among genre shows is that it hit the ground running with a fairly solid first season. The first two X-Files episodes laid the groundwork for the ongoing mythology involving aliens and government conspiracies, and the third episode “Squeeze” introduced the “monster of the week” episodes by giving us a cannibalistic contortionist named Eugene Tooms. As it turns out, this fantastic monster had a weirdly mundane inspiration: two writers worrying about a man suddenly coming through a ventilator shaft outside their office.

Eugene Tooms

the x-files monster

The third episode of The X-Files was all about Eugene Tooms, a character who is basically Jack the Ripper as imagined by the Weekly World News. He regularly kills random citizens, but he has a secret purpose: he needs to feed on human livers every three decades.

He also has an advantage that Jack the Ripper presumably never had: the ability to stretch and contort his limbs and generally creep into any space where his victims would otherwise feel safe.

The Idea

the x-files halloween

We are first introduced to the character in the X-Files episode “Squeeze,” and Tooms was the brainchild of that episode’s writers, Glen Morgan and James Wong.

This dynamic duo would go on to create some of the most memorable early episodes, and many of their scariest ideas had equally frightening inspirations. For their stretchy serial killer, however, the main motivation was remarkably down to Earth.

Morgan later said that he was early into his X-Files writing career when he had a crazy question for Wong. Looking at the ventilator shaft outside the office they shared, Morgan’s question was as simple as it was creepy. “What if we were working here late at night and some guy came through that thing?”

The Night Stalker

At first, it might sound a bit silly that these two X-Files writers were so freaked out by a ventilator shaft that they imagined someone as freaky as Tooms. However, Morgan’s fear was inspired by a real-life killer and his awful MO.

The killer in question was Richard Ramirez (better known in tabloid headlines as “The Night Stalker”), a large man who managed to enter his victim’s homes through tiny windows above their showers, all without so much as disturbing the soapy grime of their window sills.

The Work

That led to sessions where these two X-Files writers were joined by show creator Chris Carter and began pitching more ideas for the monster that became Eugene Tooms. Morgan later clarified that they wanted to get the tone of the series’ first real monster just right: “Some things we thought would be too far out there,” he said.

Incidentally, Carter added some of the wilder features of Tooms, including his making nests out of bile and his hunger for human liver (inspired by Carter consuming plenty of foie gras during a recent trip to France).

The Mallrat Was Right

This monster proved to be a hit with early X-Files fans, and he came back to prey on Mulder and Scully in the episode fittingly titled “Tooms.” He didn’t become a recurring villain, though, because his body was torn apart by an escalator.

It turns out Brodie from Mallrats was right: kids really do need to stay off those dangerous escalators.