Do you love The X-Files? Do you want to plan your next move based on where the fictional aliens are (or aren’t)? Because we believe in hard science here at Inverse, we took an exhaustive survey of all 208 episodes of The X-Files to find out where the most creepy shit happens.
The data includes each major incident that prompted investigation and sustains an episode arc. Incidents were only counted once, even if they were at the center of two episodes. On a few occasions, two linked and equally important incidents in different places were the basis for an episode and thus were counted separately. Here’s what we found.
How many X-Files occurred in each state?
Note that the highest number of occurrences were in DC. This is largely influenced by the fact that Mulder and Scully are based in DC and much of the show takes place there. However, the total figure of 21 occurrences counts single, significant paranormal and alien encounters that drive individual episodes. International events were counted in the same way.
Most of the incidents clustered in Maryland and Virginia can be attributed to their proximity to DC. A large portion of these were part of the ongoing abduction storylines around Mulder and Scully. The heavy concentration of action in DC and the metro-area occurred in Seasons 8 and 9, as Mulder was absent. Without him, the majority of the plots revolved around investigating his abduction, and Scully was much less likely to be dragged off to investigate some other case. However, Virginia was still host to a high number of unrelated incidents in earlier seasons.
Discarding these two states as outliers, the standouts are Pennsylvania and California, with 13 major incidents each. Most shows tend to underestimate how goddamn creepy Pennsylvania is, but The X-Files gets it. Pennsylvania has a major metropolitan area that allows for a convenient concentration of shit going down, but it also has the deeply weird rural parts like Virginia or West Virginia. California’s prominence can be attributed to its major cities; it is frequently where Mulder and Scully go to consult other experts, and where weird shit happens to scientists who previously experienced weird shit internationally.
The Pacific Northwest, between Oregon and Washington combined, has a substantial presence. Washington seems to be a favorite of supernatural and paranormal tv shows, possibly thanks to the influence of Twin Peaks.
Perhaps the most surprising finding from this map was the relative lack of incidents to be found in the Southwest. Only two episodes took place primarily in New Mexico, the alien capital of the world. Compared to a map of actual reported UFO sightings, below, you’ll see that The X-Files actually flipped the script quite a bit.
In reality, the Northeast and Mid Atlantic areas don’t really want to believe.
Overall, The X-Files was all about equal opportunity. It took a pretty inclusive and comprehensive tour of the US in search of the truth, which is definitely out there, but possibly hiding in the handful of desolate Western states they missed.