Whenever Halloween arrives, I’m always reminded of one of my all-time favorite episodes of television. For all the subverted horror tropes, gore, and twisted sexual perversions in Ryan Murphy’s The American Horror Story, it has nothing on what may be considered the most disturbing episode of television in network history, the X-Files episode, “Home,” which holds up as well now as it did 17 years ago.
If you haven’t seen “Home,” stop whatever you’re doing and track it down. Watch it tonight. In the dark. By yourself. It will f*ck you up and haunt you to the core of your soul. It will give your willies the willies. It’s not scary in the sense that it will make you fear for your life, or jump out of your skin. It is scary in the sense that visions from the episode will stick with you for days, months, maybe years, and come to you in your sleep and stir you awake in a cold sweat covered in your own piss.
You will never look under the bed in the dark again.
A refresher: “Home” was a stand-alone “monster-of-the-week” episode that had Mulder and Scully investigating the discovery of a deformed baby buried near the home of the Peacocks in a small town in Pennsylvania. During the course of the investigation, Mulder and Scully end up questioning the Peacock brothers, who live in an old shambling house without electricity or running water that had apparently missed out on the 20th century. During the course of the investigation, Mulder and Scully discover the deformed baby had been buried alive, and that its deformities may have been the product of inbreeding.
Mulder and Scully are stumped because their lead suspects, the Peacocks, are all brothers, so how could they breed? They arrive at the conclusion that the Peacock’s must have kidnapped and raped a woman, and after the local sheriff issues a warrant for the Peacocks’ arrests, the brothers flee. Ultimately, the Peacocks escape and bludgeon the Sheriff (Andy Taylor) and his wife to death with baseball bats. The next day, when arrest warrants are served at the Peacock home, the Deputy is decapitated by a booby trap.
As Mulder and Scully investigate the inside of the home, they eventually find Mrs. Peacock hiding under the bed. She is a violently deformed quadruple amputee who, it turns out, has been breeding with her sons for years. Though Mulder and Scully manage to kill two of the brothers, the eldest son and Mrs. Peacock escape, presumably to begin a new family elsewhere. Ew.
With that out of the way, here are ten things you may not know about “Home.”
1. “Home” was the first episode of The X-Files to get a viewer discretion warning. In fact, it was the first network television episode in America to ever receive a TV-MA rating.
2. Fox only aired “Home” once. It was banned from being re-aired on Fox and, in fact, wasn’t seen again until 1997 during a marathon on cable network, FX.
3. The episode was written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, who had left the show after the second season to develop the sci-fi series, Space: Above and Beyond, which was cancelled after one season. “Home” was the first episode they wrote upon their return, and it was based, in part, on the documentary, Brother’s Keeper. The documentary was about four backwoods brothers who lived together on a rural farm in upstate New York. After one of the brothers, William, had died, an investigation led to two theories: 1) That another brother, Delbert, had killed him as an act of mercy, because Delbert’s health had been declining for years, or 2) consistent with the autopsy showing that William had semen on his clothing and his leg, William had killed his brother during an act of sex gone bad. Delbert, whose IQ was 68, was acquitted due to insufficient evidence, and because his confession had apparently been coerced.
4. That’s not even the creepiest inspiration for the episode. It also took inspiration from an anecdote in Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography in which he described staying in a tenement house. After dinner, the owners took Chaplin upstairs to meet their son, a quadruple amputee who they kept under the bed. They pulled their son out from under the bed, and while the family sang and dance, the son “flopped around,” which is a squicky thought by itself, but in combination with the scene the anecdote inspired, it’s even more creepy.
5. Producers of the series felt that the episode “had gone too far” and called it tasteless, while a member of the crew had told Tucker Smallwood, the actor who played the Sheriff (and was shocked by the level of violence in the episode) that it was the most gruesome episode of the series and “awful, even for us.” During filming, that actor banged his head attempting to do one of his own stunts, and also had the very unpleasant experience of having to lie face down in fake blood for an hour and a half.
6. In the opening scene of the episode, while the Peacock brothers are burying the deformed baby, the sequence is shot from the perspective of the baby, who is having dirt thrown on his head. The episode’s director, Kim Manners, described is as “the most awful shot of my career.” In the initial draft of the screenplay, which network censors nixed. the baby is heard screaming and crying while the Peacock brothers were burying him.
7. The episode was one of the few X-Files episodes to use a popular song, “Wonderful! Wonderful!” a Johnny Mathis cover that played inside the Peacock family vehicle while the brothers were BEATING THE SHERIFF AND HIS WIFE TO DEATH. It was an upbeat song, played for ironic effect (like “Hip to be Square” in American Psycho while Patrick Bateman was axing a man to death). Johnny Mathis actually denied the use of his version after he read the screenplay because of the graphic content, so the producers had to find a cover version that sounded similar.
8. The Peacock home in the episode was actually used previously on The X-Files, as the home of the antagonist in the season two episode, “Aubrey,” which featured Terry O’Quinn, who would appear as a different character in the feature film and a ninth season episode of The X-Files.
9. At the time that the episode was being shot, NBC and Fox were engaged in a long feud. The last name of the family, “Peacock,” was meant as a backhanded slight against NBC.
10. Mrs. Peacock was played by actress Karin Konoval, who looks like this:
Compare that to the way she looked in the episode: