The X-Files

The cryogenic alien storage chamber is more than seven feet tall.

Courtesy of The X-Files Preservation Collection
The X-Files

The Mr. Chuckleteeth mask was worn by actor Keith Arbuthnot in season eleven.

Courtesy of The X-Files Preservation Collection
The X-Files

Stephen King wrote the season five episode that featured this cursed doll.

Courtesy of The X-Files Preservation Collection
The X-Files

Peeled face and severed finger from the 2008 feature film The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Courtesy of The X-Files Preservation Collection
The X-Files

Torso prop from the season ten episode titled “Home Again"

Courtesy of The X-Files Preservation Collection
Fill 1
Fill 1
September 07, 2023
In The Mix

The X-Files' Alien Exhibition

The X-Files Preservation Collection is a museum of memorabilia from the groundbreaking science-fiction series.

It's been thirty years since The X-Files premiered, and this past July, fans from around the world converged on Saratoga Springs, a charming city in Upstate New York, to mark the anniversary at The X-Files Preservation Collection. The world's largest assemblage of costumes, props and set dressing from the Emmy-winning series, the museum is owned and curated by Jim Thornton and his wife, Kelly Anthony.

The show, which starred Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny as Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, paranormal investigators for the FBI, won sixteen Emmys in its initial nine-season run (1993–2002) and then returned in 2016 and 2018. The museum's permanent display features thousands of artifacts — many rescued from dumpsters — spanning all eleven seasons and the two X-Files feature films. "When the series finished shooting, some props and costumes were auctioned for charity, but a lot of things were just thrown away," Thornton says. "Back then, studios didn't see any historic or monetary value in this stuff, so they chucked it."

Visitors will immediately notice a massive alien cryogenic storage chamber from the 1998 feature The X-Files: Fight the Future. Coated in crystallized slime and standing more than seven feet high, this extraterrestrial sarcophagus was used to freeze victims (including Anderson's Scully) for sinister purposes. On the wall behind it, alien hands reach out with clawed fingers, and nearby is a grotesque human-alien hybrid that looks all too realistic.

Supernatural creatures in the collection include a melted demonic doll from a terrifying episode written by Stephen King ("Chinga") and a grinning Mr. Chuckleteeth mask that would give the Babadook itself nightmares. Dismembered body parts, limbless torsos and skinned faces abound.

Perhaps the most striking artifact of all is a detailed reptilian monster head from an episode titled "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster." Covered in spiky green scales, it's a stunning work of art. "That piece was created by makeup artist Bill Terezakis, who did all the effects when The X-Files came back in 2016 and 2018," Thornton says. "His estate generously donated it to us after his death." In fact, the Terezakis estate provided a wide selection of artifacts.

A lifelong fan of genre shows such as Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Thornton was a twenty-four-year-old carpenter when The X-Files premiered. He was struggling with substance addiction and needed a healthy distraction. "I was in a bad place when The X-Files debuted, and the show really helped me refocus my life," he says. "During the hour it was on, it made me feel good again, and the positivity just snowballed from there."

Years later, he and Anthony began collecting commercially available X-Files merchandise, like trading cards and calendars. Over time, they added promotional materials and rare X-Files crew gifts to their collection and started exhibiting items at local comic book conventions.

Everything changed when they began acquiring authentic props and costumes from the series. Suddenly their hobby became more significant. But tracking down items wasn't easy, and it took years of networking with fellow collectors around the world to obtain genuine relics. "The community of prop collectors is very tight-knit, and a lot of trust needed to be established first," Thornton says. "People wanted to know exactly what we were going to do with this stuff before they'd consider selling it."

The X-Files Preservation Collection opened its doors to the public in April 2022, and series creator Chris Carter was there in person to commemorate the event. "Meeting Chris was a dream of mine," Thornton says. "His show changed the direction of my life, so welcoming him that day was a huge thrill."

Carter donated several items to the museum, including a life-size desiccated alien corpse from the show's pilot and the original laptop computer he used to write the first episode. While taking a private tour of the collection, decades' worth of memories came flooding back to him all at once.

"Chris got a little emotional," Thornton recalls. "It was a lot for him to take in, and he was shocked and impressed that we did this. Afterward, he told us it was something we should be extremely proud of."

The artifacts on display represent a fraction of the complete collection, and new items are being added all the time. Costumes are frequently rotated, and hundreds of wardrobe pieces have yet to be exhibited. "Eventually, we'd like to expand," says Thornton, for whom the museum is a fulltime job. "We definitely need a larger facility that can accommodate our full size."

Until then, fans can continue to marvel at the thousands of eerie and bizarre treasures now on display. "The most common reaction we get from visitors is 'Wow!'" Thornton says proudly. "They're absolutely blown away, and they tell us it makes them want to watch the show all over again."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #10, 2023, under the title, "Alien Exhibition."

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