|How the Ghosts Stole Christmas||Credits||Gallery||Transcript|
"How the Ghosts Stole Christmas" is the sixth episode of the sixth season of The X-Files. It was written and directed by series creator Chris Carter, premiering on the Fox network on December 13, 1998. The episode is a "Monster-of-the-week" story, independent of the series' mythology arc.
With only four actors appearing, How the Ghosts Stole Christmas features the smallest cast of any X-Files episode. It was also the cheapest episode in season six, using only a single set.
On Christmas Eve, Mulder and Scully investigate a house that Mulder claims is "haunted" and searches for the supposed ghosts haunting the house. But the spirits within the house have a plan for Mulder and Scully on their own.
Mulder calls Scully on Christmas Eve to check out a mansion which Scully grudgingly obliges to do. Mulder tells Scully that they are there for a stake out. Through constant questioning, Scully finds out that Mulder is here, not on FBI matters, but to investigate ghost activity. He tells Scully that during Christmas of 1917, a young couple was faced with death from both war and an epidemic. The couple agreed to a lover's pact, one killing the other and the remaining one committing suicide. He explains that they couldn't stand the thought of being alone after the other died and during the afterlife; they wanted to experience it all together. That was 81 years ago. Now, Mulder explains, they want to make couples who venture into their mansion have the same fate.
Scully is hesitant and not interested in exploring the house because it's Christmas Eve and she has wrapping to do. Mulder then decides to go alone. Feeling guilty, Scully leaves his car and attempts to open her car door. However, she can't find her keys. She runs up to Mulder to ask him to give them back to her. He insists he doesn't have them. Strange things happen: The door to the mansion slams shut, preventing them from leaving, there are creaks heard in the ceiling from the upper floor, there are gusts of wind, indicating that a door or window is open, a shadow in the form of an old woman in a nightgown, and a clock which keeps perfect time starts dinging at exactly midnight.
They fearfully and hesitantly decide to investigate the floor above them. Scully call their fear an irrational fear that all humans face. She explains that people who go in haunted houses and try to find ghosts are not afraid of death, but rather, afraid of life. Death is the only thing we as humans know will happen. It is inevitable, inescapable. So going after ghosts "says more about the living than it does about the dead." Our whole life has been tainted and influenced by scary movies. We magnify every little detail, like a creak or howl or gust of wind. They're cliches that have been programmed into our brain, thereby making us scared of something that won't and can't happen. Mulder isn't listening to Scully's analytical view of Christmas; instead, he's trying knobs to see which will open. One finally does.
Scully marches bravely into the room to discover a massive library room full of book shelves, a lit fireplace, and lights on. "Have you ever considered that someone may actually be living here?" asks Scully.
Mulder and Scully investigate the room, along with its eccentric features. The floor boards start shaking, and upon cracking open a few boards, they discover two corpses beneath the floor. The bodies have the same clothes and hairstyles as Mulder and Scully along with two gunshot wounds. It is made to look like a "lover's pact." This only frightens them. They decide to go search other rooms, only to find that every door they walk through is the same library room they first entered into. They then decide to split up, hoping to figure out a way out of the room, since the staircase mysteriously disappeared during a time of intense lightning.
While separated, they meet the inhabitants of the mansion – Maurice and Lyda. They both have a conversation with one of the two agents, revealing to them their darkest secrets and desires. The two state that they are indeed alive and not ghosts, just for the record of course. Maurice tells Mulder that he is very egotistical, needing validation, even when he is absolutely right; that is why he depends and thrives off of the company of Scully. He states, in so many words, that she is a "turn on" for his sexual desires and that he is very narcissistic. Lyda tells Scully that she enjoys debating Mulder and his theories because she likes to prove him wrong. That is the only reason she spends her time with him. The two inhabitants tell the agents that they (the agents) are afraid to be alone, and that's why they came to the mansion: To die together and save each other from the depressing world. They are lonely and very much attracted to each other. Both, in a small way, believe what they are being told.
Mulder realizes that the man is a ghost because every door he tries to walk through is suddenly transformed into a wall of bricks.
Scully is then confronted by the two ghosts. She doesn't believe they're ghosts, despite what Mulder says. She tells them to put their hands up. They do, only to reveal their wounds. Maurice has a hole in his head, which was covered by his hat. And Lyda has a hole in her stomach. Scully then passes out, realizing Mulder was right. They did a lover's pact.
Mulder and Scully try their hardest to find each other by pounding on doors and yelling. However, the ghosts are turning them against each other. Scully is told that Mulder will kill her, just like her future self seen in the floorboards. She is told that Mulder is lonely and that he can't go on. Scully at first doesn't want to believe this, but she can't help but be hesitant when Mulder pounds on a nearby door to let him in.
Scully does let Mulder in, only to find that once he is inside the room, he pulls out his firearm and starts shooting at her.
Mulder starts behaving bizarrely. He cries out that there's no way out and that they should just die there. One of the bullets hits Scully in the stomach (just like the "Scully" in the floorboards). She lies down on the floor, writhing in pain.
"Merry Christmas Scully... and a happy new year," said Mulder as he towers above Scully. He then points his weapon at his head. Scully is completely confused and beginning to lose consciousness.
Shifting perspective, we see that Lyda is actually the one carrying out these actions and through her ghostly ability to create apparitions is causing Scully to see Mulder instead. Maurice grabs Lyda so that she won't pull the trigger.
Mulder comes upon a bleeding Scully lying on the floor. When he leans over her to try and help her, she shoots Mulder in the stomach as well, blood gushing out of his hands as he tries to stop the bleeding. We see that Lyda is pretending to be Scully to manipulate Mulder. She has a laugh as Mulder lies helpless.
While they both lie on the floor covered in blood, they hear Christmas music being played. They both stumble down the stairs in hopes of just getting outside to die. Mulder and Scully meet up by the door, both crawling on the floor, covered in massive amounts of blood trying to escape the mansion. Scully claims he shot her first, while Mulder claims she shot him first. Mulder realizes that their stories don't add up.
Upon realizing that, Mulder stands up to find that the blood drenched in his white shirt isn't his. He tells Scully to stand up, for she hadn't actually been shot either. It was a trick. She slowly stands up and realizes she isn't wounded either.
Opening the door to the outside, they examine themselves to find their clothes completely clean and bloodless, and then run out for their cars to get away as fast as possible.
Maurice and Lyda sit by the fire, holding hands, saying that they almost had the two agents. Had they stayed on
the ground believing that they were indeed shot by the other, then they would've died. Maurice remarks that they really are lonely and sad. He wishes that they would've just scared them, rather than use the "psychology crap."
Late at night, Scully knocks on Mulder's door. He opens it, surprised that she is there and not wrapping presents with her family. She wonders whether anything they experienced actually happened that night. Mulder says he doesn't believe so.
Scully tells Mulder that, despite what she was told, it isn't her desire to prove Mulder wrong. Mulder says he really is narcissistic. "Maybe I really did want to be with you," claims Scully. Meaning that she does enjoy his company. They both smile and then exchange gifts, even though they told each other they wouldn't.
As it snows outside, a Christmas song plays, and they open their gifts.
- A clock at the end of this episode is inscribed with the words "J Cameron & Sons Kilmarnock" on its dial. As was common practice with timepieces, clocks and other similar items of this vintage, this was a retailer's name, not the manufacturer's. J Cameron & Sons existed in the Scottish town of Kilmarnock as a jewelers, until the mid- to late-20th century.
- The film Mulder watches at the end of the episode is 1951's Scrooge, starring Alastair Sim.
- The role of Maurice was originally written for Bob Newhart but he turned down the role.
- In this episode, aside from Mulder and Scully, only two other characters appear, thus making this the episode with the shortest cast in the whole series until the Season 11 episode Rm9sbG93ZXJz, where only Mulder, Scully, and one woman appeared.
- The haunted house's address, 1501 Larkspur Lane, may be a reference to a Nancy Drew mystery story, "Password to Larkspur Lane". The actual house used was located in Richmond, Virginia. The home was purchased and moved, due to new construction, to Rosewell St. Richmond Virginia. The chamber room was not part of the real home, just a set.
- Heartbeat under the floor-boards, this is a visual scene of the tale by Edgar Allen Poe called The Tell-Tale Heart.
- Do I hear a hound baying on the moor? This is an allusion to "The Hound of the Baskervilles", the story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.
- Ed Asner's character says "This violates our civil rights... I have friends at the ACLU." Ed Asner, known for being outspoken on many controversial and politically-charged subjects, received an award from the Southern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1991.
- The episode's title is a reference to the 1957 children's book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss.
- Mulder maintains that during Christmas, 1917 "American soldiers were dying at an ungodly rate in a war-torn Europe." This is historically inaccurate as the United States declared war in April 1917 but the country's military was so unprepared that the first US troops did not arrive in France until May 1918, and did not see action until June.
- When Mulder is pulling up the floorboards to reveal a corpse, you can see the shadow of a person's head moving on the wall behind Scully. From the angle and motion of this shadow, it belongs to neither Mulder nor Scully. Could be a ghost!
Special Guest Starring