"Our Town" [X-Files Episode]

“Our Town” was a 1995 episode of the television program The X-Files that began with a mysterious disappearance in the fictional town and county of Dudley (Seth County) in Arkansas and centered on strange happenings associated with a poultry-processing operation.

Airing on May 12, 1995, “Our Town” was the twenty-fourth episode in the second season of The X-Files, a popular science fiction/mystery program that originally ran on the Fox Network from 1993 to 2002. In the episode, FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) come to Arkansas to investigate the disappearance of a federal chicken plant inspector; the conspiracy-minded Mulder is also intrigued by the report of “foxfire” in the area, though the local sheriff (Gary Grubbs) debunks the blackened sites as trash fires. During their investigation of the Chaco Chicken plant—which uses the motto “Good People–Good Food”—the agents witness the death of a processing line worker who suddenly goes berserk and attacks a co-worker. They then meet Walter Chaco (John Milford), the owner of Chaco Chicken, who authorizes them to perform an autopsy on the dead worker, who was his granddaughter. The agents also discover that, though she appears to be in her mid-twenties, the dead worker’s age is recorded as forty-seven. Finding that she suffered from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare neurological ailment, and finding evidence that other townspeople have also contracted the ailment, Mulder concludes, “Scully, I think the good people of Dudley have been eating more than chicken.” It is revealed that Chaco was shot down in New Guinea during World War II and lived for several months among the cannibalistic Jale tribe, where he apparently learned that eating human flesh can extend the human lifespan, leading him to create a culture of cannibalism in Dudley that ends with his death and the near-beheading of Agent Scully during a ritual sacrifice. The plant physician in the episode is named Vance Randolph (Robin Mossley), the same as the famous Arkansas folklorist.

The episode was written by Frank Spotnitz, who reported that he was inspired by the movie Bad Day at Black Rock, which also featured a town with a guilty secret. He also cited the discovery of boiled human bones at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, leading to the name of the fictional Arkansas chicken company and its leader. Rob Bowman directed the episode, which was filmed, like most of the series, in British Columbia, Canada. Nine million viewers watched the episode, which received a 9.4 Nielsen rating.

Reviews varied. IFC has listed it among its twelve scariest X-Files episodes, writing that “when The X-Files did horror, the writers always strived to find a new slant on an old genre. Here, that meant taking the iconography of cannibals, masked murderers and factory farming, and whipping them together into a uniquely scary stew.” Entertainment Weekly gave it a middling rating, calling it “scary—but mostly because of what transpires in a chicken-processing plant.”

Eric Elfman wrote a novelization of the episode for young adults, which was published in 1997. Basically a narrative rehash of the television episode toned down for a younger audience, it did provide one Arkansas-specific reference when it mentioned that Mulder spotted fires in a field “bordering I-40.”

For additional information:
Elfman, Eric. Our Town: A Novelization. New York: Harper Trophy, 1997.

“Our Town.” Internet Movie Database. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0751173/ (accessed November 5, 2019).

“Our Town—The X-Files.” Revolvy. https://www.revolvy.com/page/Our-Town-(The-X%252DFiles) (accessed November 5, 2019).

Simon, Anne. The Real Science Behind the X-Files: Microbes, Meteorites, and Mutants. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

“The Twelve Scariest Episodes of the X-Files.” IFC.com. https://www.ifc.com/2016/01/the-12-scariest-episodes-of-the-x-files (accessed November 5, 2019).

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System

Last Updated: 11/12/2019

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