Tag Archives: X-Files

296 – Dark Skies: TV Fact And Fiction with Matthew Kresal

After The X-Files set the world on fire in 1993 and helped establish the fairly new FOX Network as a major player in television, other networks tried to jump on the bandwagon with similarly-themed paranormal shows. There was the small-town horror of American Gothic, the supernatural drama of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the government conspiracy angle of The Pretender, and even David Hasselhoff got in on the action with his “paranormal investigation in paradise” show, Baywatch Nights (and Lou Rawls sang the theme song, c’mon!)

But the show that skewed the closest to The X-Files was a program called Dark Skies, set at the dawn of the UFO age and doubling down upon The X-Files’ pattern of taking real-life paranormal inspiration and turning it into fodder for fiction. The slogan for the show was: “History as we know it is a lie.”

By combining the government conspiracy paranoia of The X-Files with 1960s nostalgia, the Roswell alien craze, and the infamous Majestic 12. It mixed real historical figures with a science fiction story of extraterrestrial invasion and it ended way too soon. With a series pilot directed by Poltergeist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s Tobe Hooper and the imprimatur of an appearance by Art Bell himself, it seemed like a sure bet, but it was cancelled after one season.

We talk with Matt Kresal about his new book on the series, finally learning what could have been, and also the real-life paranormal inspirations behind the series.

Some of the topics we cover in this discussion are:

  • How creators Brent V. Friedman and Bryce Zabel created the Dark Skies mythology
  • What did Ronald Reagan’s driver know about UFO disclosure
  • The plan for future seasons of the show to cover more real UFO cases in the 70s, 80s, and 90s
  • The government agents that approached the creators to try and “help them get the facts right”
  • How the CIA and Department of Defense was trying to infiltrate Hollywood to shape the alien narrative

We originally recorded this discussion for a special See You On The Other Side livestream and if you’d like to watch us talk (unedited, so umms and ahhhs intact!) then check out this video:

Matthew Kresal is an absolute wealth of knowledge of classic science fiction television and he was a pleasure to talk to, so you know why the produers and creators of Dark Skies were willing to share so much with him. You can pick up a copy of his book right here and we highly recommend it!

208 – State Fair of the Strange: Sideshows, Weird Foods, and The Minnesota Iceman

We’ve been regular performers at the Wisconsin State Fair for the last eight years and have grown to love the goofy mix of agricultural excellence, carny spectacle, and sheer gluttony that comes with the celebration of all things Wisconsin. They even have a complete list of all the foods “on a stick” that you can enjoy.

Here’s a video of our first show at the State Fair (which is also the first place I ever performed Karaoke – “Born To Be Wild” if you must know…)

And the thing is, many of the things to do at the State Fair are innocent and fun, I mean just look at the intro to Rogers & Hammerstein’s State Fair musical (that Wendy still can remember all the words to!)

But the State Fair has always had a lot of weirdness to it. First of all, it’s a place where people make giant things just for the Hell of it. In Wisconsin, we just made the world’s largest cream puff that’s three and a half feet long and weighs over 125 pounds. Why? Why the Hell not?!

But it’s also the longtime home of the sideshow, there used to be over a hundred traveling sideshows touring American State Fairs in the 1950s and 60s and there even was a town where the sideshow performers lived during the Winter (Gibtown, Florida, where The X-Files got the inspiration for their Season 2 classic, “Humbug”.)

Jim Rose and the Geek

The sideshows were still around when I went to the fair as a kid, but you’re not going to find shows that feature genetic abnormalities anymore. Some states have passed laws against exploring people with deformities and even though sideshows may not have been as exploitative as we think, there’s still an icky aftertaste in gawking at other human beings that we feel today. (At least in person, here’s a great article from Variety that compares modern reality TV to the old-time sideshow and well… see if you can tell the difference.)

But one of the traveling exhibits that I wished I would have seen as a kid is  the “Minnesota Iceman”. Was it the corpse of the famous “Missing Link” that traveled the country? Was it the last living Neanderthal?

Found in Wisconsin… of course!

Well, there’s lots of conflicting stories when it comes to the Iceman and we go over them in the episode. The FBI and the Smithsonian even get involved.  Wendy and I finally saw him in March when we were down at SXSW and made a visit to The Museum of the Weird in Austin. You can hear our verdict in the podcast.

In this episode you’ll:

  • Learn what Abe Lincoln was up to at the 1959 Wisconsin State Fair
  • Be regaled by the strange history of The Minnesota Iceman
  • learn about the ghostly specters that haunt the Minnesota State Fairgrounds
  • understand our own famous Wisconsin cryptid hoax, The Hodag
  • Hear about the weirdest foods at State Fairs across America
  • Finally get to understand what a “Buckeye” is
For this week’s song, I thought it would be sweet if I tried to sing as many of the foods that I could rhyme that are served at the Wisconsin State Fair “on a stick”. We make fun of the unhealthy foods you can devour at festivals and sometimes I hear people bemoaning the culture of deep frying and mobile cuisine. Not me, though. There is something uniquely and wonderfully American about all of it. There are wonders to see and things to explore. We’re the descendants of the people who weren’t satisfied with what they had and they needed to move to create a better life. That’s ingrained in our culture and sometimes we have to walk when we eat, dammit. “Life On A Stick” isn’t as bad at all.
It’s All-American like Apple pie,
waving to the fire trucks on the Fourth of July.
Time keeps moving on,
you don’t let it pass you by,
you take a big bite out of it.
You keep on walking, that’s the trick,
and know that life can be beautiful
on a stick.
They’ve got
ants and bacon
tator tots
BBQ pork chop
beer battered cheddar sausage
corn dogs and cake pops
candy apples caramel apples
cheese balls and shish ka bob
coconut shrimp and boneless chicken wings
bacon wrapped pork that’s pig inside a pig
They’ve got
colby cheese and
cookie dough
a spiral cut potato
dill pickles, crab cakes
fish and chips, donut holes
Super Dog, Twisted Dog,
Tijuana Bacon Dog
Pizza in a waffle,
meatballs and Milky Ways,
a snickers and a twinkie,
you’ll be in the john for days.
It’s All-American like Apple pie,
waving to the fire trucks on the Fourth of July.
The time keeps moving on,
you don’t let it pass you by,
you take a big bite out of it
You keep on walking, that’s the trick,
and know that life can be beautiful
on a stick.
They’ve got
shrimp tempura
battered shark
cotton candy
ice cream bars
olives, stuffing,
root beer pops
steak and egg,
Pretzel brats
S’mores, sliders, deep friend fruit,
scotch eggs, french onion soup
Wisconsin Grilled Cheese or a Swiss & Rye,
Turducken on a stick to make you think you’re gonna die
They’ve got
Fried Elvis, Fat Elvis,
Salad and Sheboygan brats
cream cheese and spaghetti
bacon-wrapped chestnuts,
Door County Cherry Pie,
Mac & Cheese and lug nuts
Chocolate covered ‘nanas, peanut butter jelly,
flaming hot corn cobs rumblin in your belly
It’s All-American like Apple pie,
waving to the fire trucks on the Fourth of July.
Well time keeps moving on,
you don’t let it pass you by,
you take a big bite out of it
You keep on walking, that’s the trick,
and know that life can be beautiful
on a stick.

124 – Somewhere In The Skies: Ryan Sprague and The Human Side of UFOs

Coming of age in the 1990s in upstate New York, Ryan Sprague was exposed to the UFOs, alien abductions, and government conspiracy-mania that enchanted us all during the decade.

green day ufos ryan sprague
The finest music for attracting aliens…

He was listening to Green Day’s Dookie album outside on vacation on a Summer night in 1995 when he had his own UFO sighting for the first time (an experience that he shared with his father) and it inspired a lifelong obsession with watching the skies.

Ryan later moved to New York City and started working in theater, all the while writing UFO journalism for Open Minds magazine and co-hosting the podcast, Into The FrayHis methodology for investigation is all about trying to understand the personal toll that UFO witnesses often have to face and his new book Somewhere In The Skies: A Human Approach To An Alien Phenomenon.

ryan sprague somewhere in the skies

We’re really excited about the play he’s working on about the Rendlesham UFO Incident in the UK that’s inspired by his research with one of our favorites from the Paradigm Symposium, Peter Robbins!

To purchase Ryan Sprague’s book and learn more about him, definitely check out his website at http://www.somewhereintheskies.com and the profits of every purchase until the end of January goes to a great cause, the Women’s Refugee Commission.

Ryan’s Blink-182 t-shirt during the interview and the Green Day playing during his first UFO encounter inspired us to bring out an old Sunspot chestnut for this last episode of the year. Here’s one of our most pop-punk tracks and one that deals with believing in yourself and sticking to your own story, “Intellectual Terrorists”.

Intellectual terrorists are poisoning my head,
They want to break down my resistance,
And have my conscience left for dead.
They like to make you think that they’re the righteous ones,
And they’ll beat you down and call you names for sticking to your guns.
You won’t replace my sensibility,
With your overanxious, overloaded, oversensitivity.And if you look, you will find,
A rather sorry state of mind,
Of all the people who won’t stand up for their views.
And if you look you might see,
You don’t have to agree with me,
But I won’t close my mind for you.It’s easy to be blind, it’s easy to be led,
You like to cough up all the ideas,
That you’ve been force-fed.
No one likes the freak, no one likes the odd man out.
I’d rather live my life alone,
Than live a life of doubt.
I won’t let you force yourself on me,
I refuse to be a victim to your society.And if you look, you will find,
A rather sorry state of mind,
Of all the people who won’t stand up for their views.
And if you look you might see,
You don’t have to agree with me,
But I won’t close my mind for you.You can’t break me down,
I won’t close my mind for you.

Intellectual terrorists are morality anarchists,
And sensitivity exorcists are poisoning my head.
But I won’t close my eyes for you,
I won’t turn away the truth,
I won’t let you make me, overdose, or complicate me.
You can’t break me down.
I won’t close my mind for you.

Getting In On The Act: The CIA X-Files

Hey now, speaking of disinformation, the CIA has gotten in on the whole new X-Files act by releasing their own CIA X-Files this week. They’re providing some links to documents about UFO sightings declassified in 1978, mostly about sightings that occurred in the 1950s.

Honestly, I can’t blame them for joining in the fun, considering that a lot of present-day CIA agents probably grew up watching the show and then joined the organization to find out what the U.S. Government really knew. Then they were probably disappointed when they got there and just went to work having to comb through selfies, sexts, and our phone conversations looking for terrorist plots.

Of all of the government agencies, none is more reviled and revered in the public eye. We all know the CIA has been up to some nasty stuff in it’s lifetime, while at the same time, characters like Jack Ryan from The Hunt for Red October and Sydney Bristow from Alias are portrayed as heroes that are always trying to save United States’ citizens. It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it, right?

Plus, the CIA is demonized pretty heavily in The X-Files as well as UFO conspiracy lore, so they’re playing some public relations here. I’m sure they already have read the scripts and vetted the show before it went on (so I don’t think that Agent Mulder’s going to be revealing anything important!) but it’s fun to read some of the old documents from the beginning of the UFO age.

You see that the Central Intelligence Agency did take these reports seriously from the beginning and that like any government agency they have a boring bureaucracy to sift through in order to get anything done. Reading the minutes of a CIA meeting from the 1950s isn’t quite the page turner that Stephen Spielberg’s multi-decade epic Taken was (a valiant attempt to unify all of modern UFO mythology into one pretty cool miniseries) but who knows, you might find something in there that everyone else missed!

For some extra weirdness, did you know there’s a special CIA website just for kids? I guess assassination of foreign leaders  and experimenting on innocent people with mind control drugs isn’t just for adults anymore!

Disinformation: The Return of The X-Files

(WARNING: This blogpost contains spoilers for the first two episodes of Season 10, the majestic return of The X-Files, so watch  the new episodes, eh? They’re streaming for FREE on Fox.com right now)

They’re back!

So, how about it? They had me at the original opening credits. It’s been almost twenty-two years since we first heard Mark Snow’s spooky opening theme and saw “The Truth Is Out There”. Man, it really brought back all the memories. I was a MONSTER fan of the show (as if you didn’t already know.) In college, we used to all watch it in our dorm room common area and we wouldn’t go out on Friday nights until the show was over. It was the show that brought everyone together.

I even kept watching during the so-so Season 7 (the one that had an episode with Kathy Griffin and a pro wrestler), Season 8 (which was Duchovny-lite because he was working on his movie career)  and Season 9, which was on an upswing, but it had to end because September 11th kind of took the fun out of government conspiracies for most people.

With X-FIles: I Want To Believe (the second movie) flopping at the box office and then 2012 passing us by without new material (the alien invasion was supposed to take place that year), I thought that was the end for one of my favorite shows. But no!

So, it’s been months of anticipation. What are they going to concentrate on in these six episodes, who are going to be the new bad guys? How are they going to bring Cancer Man back to life after he was blown up in the desert in the final episode? We had a special podcast about some of our favorite episodes based on real-life cases (Episode 33 – The Truth Is Back) and wrote a song about the new series called “Don’t Mess This Up”.

So, did they mess it up? I know a lot of critics seemed underwhelmed by the first episode and while the dialogue was a bit clunky during Mulder and Scully’s argument on the porch (show don’t tell, Chris Carter!), but I like where they’re going with everything. The conspiracies fit perfectly into the second decade of the Twenty-First Century. Joel McHale’s character is basically an ultra-wealthy Alex Jones and it looks like they took the new conspiracy right off of InfoWars.com.

So, they speculate that the UFO crash at Roswell was real and that the government reverse engineered the alien spacefaring and stealth technology and has been carrying out secret experiments on women (including Scully) by impregnating them with fetuses laced with alien DNA and have been masquerading as aliens the whole time in order to throw investigators off the scent of the real perpetrators and they’re setting the planet up for a one-world government (a little John Birch Society anti-Communist conspiracy in there for ya!)

David Duchovny doing his best rugged Harrison Ford impersonation here…

Does this mesh with the old mythology? A little, but not a lot. Considering the old conspiracies of the show got real messy after Season 5, I’m okay with it, and it fits with a more modern take. I’ve said this before, but prior to our interview with Robbie Graham in our “Silver Screen Saucers” episode, I had legitimately never thought that the government would want people to believe that they were colluding with aliens. I mean, why would they want their own people to think that they’re secretly hiding one of the biggest stories of all time, that we’re not alone in the universe?

Disinformation, baby. When you’re not fighting any actual physical battles like in the Cold War, then the rumors of your power are just as important as your power. It’s kind of like why new inmates will fight the baddest meanest guy they can when right when they get sent to prison. You create an aura around yourself of toughness, and nothing’s tougher than your enemy thinking that you have secret alien technology in your war machine. And in the show, the conspiracy is all about covering their tracks until they invade the United States.

The second episode (“Founder’s Mutation”) was just like going home again. It didn’t have to do any narrative lifting, the team was back together and it was just like the wonderful old days of Mulder and Scully hitting the pavement and looking for the paranormal. Now the conspiracy is using those alien DNA babies to make psychic-powered superheroes. I can’t be the only one that got a Quicksilver/Scarlet Witch vibe from Kyle and Molly shattering glass and throwing people across the room with their Force alien mind powers.

In the age of The “Patriot” Act, Edward Snowden, and the Carnivore e-mail spy program, we’ve got brand new reasons to be paranoid and question Authority. Thank God we’ve got Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully back to investigate.

33 – The Truth Is Back: The Real X-Files Behind Four Classic Episodes

The X-Files was the breakout science fiction phenomenon of the 1990s. No other program captured the zeitgest of conspiracy theories, big government paranoia, alien abduction mythology, Gen X individualism, and post-80s seriousness as well as creator Chris Carter’s show, that on paper, probably looked like a ridiculous blend of The Silence of the Lambs and Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

So when FOX announced at the end of March that The X-Files was returning to television 22 years after it debuted, it was big news.

As two people who experienced The X-Files the first time around, Mike and Wendy talk about their experiences with the show (Mike was a true believer, hosted X-Files parties, and even read the comics.) We go into detail about Mike’s love of the show. Here’s a picture of Mike and his wife at a costume wedding in 2013 – note, Mike’s X-Files Division badge is something that he bought at Gen Con in 1996 (when he played The X-Files Collectible Card Game with Langly and Frohike of The Lone Gunmen!)

World’s worst Mulder and Scully? #halloween #wedding #x-files

A photo posted by sunspotmike (@sunspotmike) on

And to celebrate the return of the show, Mike and Wendy picked 4 real X-Files that inspired the paranormal stories.

They first talk about the episode, “Field Trip”, which is based on the idea of hallucinogenic fungus and shared hallucinations and Mulder and Scully get trapped in a giant cave with a fungus that’s slowly killing them while indulging them in fantasy . Mike and Wendy discuss the episode and a little bit about how madness can be passed from one person to the next.

Next up is stigmata, which is where someone exhibits the wounds of Jesus (perfect for an episode on Easter Weekend!), the real X-File behind the episode “Revelations” is based on reports from all the way back to the 13th Century with the famous St. Francis of Assisi being the first recorded stigmatic.

The alien/human hybrid is a theme that runs through the real X-File of the alien abduction narrative. Female abductees have claimed that they’ve been impregnated by aliens, run through an accelerated gestation process, and then the baby is taken from them. They remember this trauma through hypnosis and The X-Files used the idea of an alien/human hybrid in the form of a child chess prodigy, Gibson Praise, who was wanted by the US Government as well as the alien invasion force.

Finally, Mike and Wendy talk about the strange history of sin eaters, a tradition from the end of the Enlightenment, where families would pay someone to “eat the sins” of a loved one who had passed, so that the sins would transfer to the eater and the loved one would be free of sin to enter Heaven. The X-Files episode, “The Gift”, deals with a sin eater who can eat the diseases from sick people and take them unto himself.

Then they finish up with a song inspired by the news of the return of The X-Files, a comical warning to Chris Carter and FOX – “Don’t Mess This Up”.

Real X-Files Links

Official FOX announcement about the return  of The X-Files

“Reopening The X-Files:  ‘Field Trip””, Tor.com
“Shared Hallucination?”, shroomery.org Forum Discussion
Wikipedia entry on Folie deux (shared dementia)
“11 Odd Facts about Magic Mushrooms”, Livescience

The X-Files, “Revelations” (Watch on Daily Motion)
Stigmata, Catholic Encyclopedia 

The X-Files wiki, Gibson Praise (alien/human hybrid)
Alien/Human Hybrid, Arturi Extraterrestrial Community

The X-Files, “The Gift” (Watch on Daily Motion)
“The Weird But True History of Sin-Eaters”, io9


Song: Don’t Mess This Up by Sunspot

They’re using my nostalgia and they’re trying to make money on my youth,
They’re bringing back The X-Files and they think that I still care about the truth.
They’re making me feel old when they dig up all the actors,
at least I’m in a demographic that still matters,
I still curse the Lone Gunmen and their luck,
and I think I can speak for all of us,
Don’t mess this up, yeah.
Don’t mess this up.
I’m looking at you, Chris Carter.
We’ve been burned before from Jar Jar Binks to Indy 4, don’t you see,
It’s been reboots up the tail and they all just add up to fail, you just want more money.
So let’s put on some Spice Girls like it’s 1997
Pop open a Surge and watch a little Seventh Heaven,
But don’t you dare talk about conspiracies after 9/11,
But I think that I can speak for all of us when I say,
Don’t mess this up, yeah.
Don’t mess this up, here we go.
They’ll never bring back Firefly,
No matter how you scream and cry.
They’ll never bring back Firefly,
No matter how you scream and cry.
They’ll never bring back Firefly,

No matter how you scream and cry.

They’ll never bring back Firefly,
No matter how you scream and cry.
They’re using my nostalgia and they’re trying to make money on my youth,
They’re bringing back the X-Files and they think that I still care about the truth.
I Want To Believe was definitely not it.
It was cool you made a second one    but next time get a script,
Can you even show the Smoking Man with a cigarette that’s lit?
I speak for every thirtysomething when I say
Don’t mess this up, yeah.
Don’t mess this up, yeah.
Don’t mess this up.

24 – El Chupacabra: From “Species” to Johnny Depp

Last week’s Johnny Depp Chupacabra attack as an excuse for being tardy to a press conference was the inspiration for this discussion about a fascinating, elusive, goatsucking creature!

This week we have a quick request: Since February is a month for LOVE, and we’d LOVE it if some more people would join our listener community, we’ve set a goal of getting 4 new reviews this month.  So…  If you enjoy the show, would you please leave a review for us on iTunes?  If you follow this link and click “view in iTunes”, then click on the Ratings and Reviews tab. There you’ll find the “Write a Review” button- easy as pie!

This week is one of our first ventures into the world of Cryptozoology. Creatures like the Loch Ness monster and Bigfoot exist in folklore, but have no solid scientific proof they are real.  Chupacabra is an interesting example of how a single person’s story of an encounter with such a creature can grow and spread into mass hysteria; fear of a threatening beast of unknown origin. The Johnny Depp Chupacabra Incident was just the start of what we hope to be a continuing tradition of exploring the world of cryptids and undiscovered beasts!


Featured Song: El Chupacabra

A stalker in the night,
Compact and mean,
A creature plucked right from,
an animal’s worst dream.

He’ll bleed you slow,
his eyes glow red,
It’s the little monsters,
that will get us in the end.

Run for your lives,
a terror is unleashed
A real life X-File is coming
for your beasts.

Might be a coyote,
he’ll bite your throat,
and suck your goat,
He’s the Bigfoot of Mexico,
El Chupacabra.

A chameleon and a killer,
an experiment gone awry,
Leaving a trail of victims,
all bled dry.

Disappearing like a shadow,
You’ll never apprehend,
The little monsters,
that’ll get us in the end.

Run for your lives,
a terror is unleashed
A real life X-File is coming
for your beasts.

Might be a coyote,
he’ll bite your throat,
and suck your goat,
He’s the Bigfoot of Mexico,
El Chupacabra.
El Chupacabra.
El Chupacabra.