What is it that makes the X-Files Flukeman such an enduring character? Through the legendary “Monster of the Week” episodes of the series, we get introduced to a number of frightening creatures (like killer bugs and the Jersey Devil, to name two). However, the image of the Flukeman seems to live in the minds of fans to this day – almost 20 years after the critter’s debut.
For one reason, it may just be that the Flukeman is an X-Files monster that defies the norm of the series… at least up until the point of its debut. The series mostly dealt with monsters that lived in shadows and rumors, with ambiguity often reigning king. The Flukeman, on the other hand, is something out of a traditional monster movie. Another factor contributing to the creature’s legacy might be the fact that it just looks seriously creepy.
But who knows? With a fanbase as rabid as that of X-Files, there are bound to be some mysteries. Either way, the Flukeman is one of the most important monsters to talk about in the show’s mythos. Let’s go over its origins, its inspirations, and its influence.
X-Files Flukeman in “The Host”
The first appearance of the Flukeman was in the episode “The Host,” the second installment of the second season. In the opening teaser, we’re taken to a ship in the Atlantic that is transporting a load of cargo from Russia. A sailor on a routine task looks into some water on the ship and is suddenly yanked in with great force. His companions try to save him, but to no avail. And thus, the first victim of the Flukeman is revealed.
Naturally, we then cut to Washington D.C. Skinner is putting Mulder to work on some seemingly normal cases to distract him from the whole X-Files business, but when Scully takes a look at the corpse from the crime scene Mulder’s investigating, she notices something strange: a flatworm in the body. Meanwhile, we learn that the Flukeman has made it to the mainland U.S., as a sanitation worker in Newark is nearly killed while working in the sewers under the city.
Naturally, with the flatworm and this new attack as evidence, our two intrepid heroes begin to put some pieces together. Could these odd crimes actually have been perpetrated by some sort of giant, parasitic flatworm? Well, only one way to find out. Mulder begins to ask some questions down at the sewage processing facility, and it’s there that he comes face-to-face with the monster of his nightmares: the Flukeman. Internally, Mulder is surely delighted.
Mulder brings Scully down to the scene where the Flukeman is being kept and monitored, and they’re shocked as they begin to examine it. It appears to be humanoid, yet it also maintains many of the characteristics that define a flatworm. They report the Flukeman to the higher-ups, and he’s then carted off… only to escape and begin to wreak havoc once again. C’est la vie.
It’s then back to the sewers to wait for the Flukeman to reappear. Realizing that it is headed out to the sea, Mulder rushes to close a gate to prevent it from doing so. In the process, though, the sewer foreman is dragged under the water by the creature. Desperately, Mulder shuts the gate, chopping the Flukeman in half and ending its reign of terror. Phew!
So… What IS the X-Files Flukeman?
You may have noticed that Scully wasn’t around much in this episode. That’s partially due to the fact that she was spending much of her time studying the evidence that they had. In doing so, she was able to learn a fair amount about the Flukeman and how it operates.
First thing’s first: the Flukeman is more man than fluke. Well, kinda. According to Scully, its origins can be traced back to the Chernobyl disaster in Russia. She explains that he was once a regular human being, but exposure to intense radiation caused some sort of genomic shift that, uh, gave him the properties of a worm. Look, it doesn’t all need to make perfect sense. (We can leave a discussion of the implications of this for another article.)
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As for the Flukeman’s behavior, that’s where we begin to see some worm-like qualities. The mouth of the Flukeman is much like that of a flatworm, with a round set of teeth that it uses to bite its victims. These bites then implant larvae into the victim, and a flatworm begins to grow inside of them. Yeah… pretty nasty.
Unluckily for those who had to tussle with it, the Flukeman retained much of the strength of its original human form – in fact, it is seemingly much stronger than an average human. When it pulled a sailor into the water in the beginning of “The Host,” multiple other sailors were unable to win the fleshy tug-of-war that ensued. The Flukeman also has the ability to survive in and out of water. The best of both worlds, right?
Finally, it’s important to note that the Flukeman is able to regenerate its body. Just as you cannot kill a worm by chopping it in half, you can’t finish off the Flukeman by, uh, traditional methods. This has a lot of implications, but perhaps most important is the fact that that means that Mulder didn’t actually kill the Flukeman at the end of “The Host.” That’s why we hear about its continued existence in the episode “Pusher.”
Creepy Crawly Things
All of these characteristics of the Flukeman contribute to it being one of the creepier, crawlier enemies in the universe of the X-Files. As for what inspired this critter, well, all we can do is guess. We do know that Darin Morgan, the man who portrayed the Flukeman (and then went on to become an X-Files writer) stated that he tried to emulate the titular Creature from the Black Lagoon with his movements.
If we are to point at any era for inspiring the Flukeman, shlocky monster flicks seem to be the safest place. Movies like Swamp Thing, 20 Million Miles to Earth, and even early installments of Godzilla all feel like they exist in the same kind of spiritual universe as the rubbery, campy, and frightening Flukeman. When we look at any of these creatures, we logically understand that there’s a human being behind the monster… but they still manage to give us the shivers with a healthy dose of uncanny valley mixed in.
And, of course, if we think of the Flukeman merely as a worm, it exists within an entire mini-genre of horror. Squirm is maybe the best example, but worms (and insects in general) have been seen throughout horror’s existence. If we expand this idea to contamination, infection, and contagion, a million more creatures pop out that could be brethren to the Flukeman.
This is all to say that the Flukeman is both unique and a truly proper horror villain. Sure, the X-Files may not truly be classified as horror, but many of its bad guys are downright terrifying. The Flukeman belongs to that group, so trust me when I say that it was no fluke that you felt creeped out when you watched “The Host.” What, too obvious? My bad.
Last Updated on September 1, 2022.