For people who love the unexplained, The X Files was—and is—a memorable sci-fi television series full of monsters, aliens, conspiracies, and dark humor. From 1993 until 2002, the show followed FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully as they tackled strange events in search of one thing: the truth. Even today, The X Files has a strong cult following and has embedded itself in pop culture. And it’s not just the memorable characters we remember; scenes of some of the most bizarre and climactic events stay with us and sometimes haunt our nightmares.
Filming shifted from Vancouver, BC, to Los Angeles, California, half way through the series, spreading out the locations between these two areas over nearly a decade. Sadly, a lot has changed since the series began and ended. As is often the case with filming at run-down places for that extra atmosphere, many buildings have been since demolished… but not all of them. If you look carefully, you can still find some familiar places that bring back a sense of nostalgia.
So, if you feel like playing Mulder and Scully for a day, or just want to reminisce about a bit of 90s pop culture, here are ten places you can still visit yourself from some of the most memorable episodes of X Files.
Building 3 featured most prominently in the second episode of Season Three titled “Paper Clip”. But that was before the $5 million dollar renovation in 2005 brought the site back to life as a shining white beacon on the hillside. You can step inside the BC Museum of Mining to learn about the history of the mine or maybe even try your hand at gold panning. Alright… if you still really want to look for those filing cabinets, you can take the train tour through the mine tunnels.
Have an itch to get abducted by aliens on top of a mountain? Maybe dangle from a cable high above the trees for a while as you search for UFOs? Or maybe you just feel like “ascending to the stars”… or at least to the top of Skyland Mountain. Well, you can head into the wilderness and climb on board a gondola still today at the Grouse Mountain Skyride: the actual location of the fictional Skyland in the second season’s “Duane Barry” and “Ascension” episodes. The Peak Chalet still waits for you at the top and is available for weddings and other rental purposes. But you can also visit for the spectacular view, ice skating, zip-lining, or even sleigh rides.
Strangely enough, Grouse Mountain is also the site of a 1954 plane crash which killed a USAF pilot. The exact reason for the crash is unknown, though some believe it was caused by a UFO. The wreckage is still visible on the southern slope.
No one really wants to be in a hospital, whether it’s for recovering from an accident or having an alien implant removed from your neck. And while hospitals might all seem the same to many people, it’s hard to think of a single episode where someone wasn’t in one for one reason or another. Many of the hospital scenes in the first seasons of The X Files were filmed in the same location: Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam. This historic mental hospital dates back to 1913 when its first building, West Lawn, was constructed. The Crease Clinic building closed in 1992; by 2012, all patients were removed and the entire complex became vacant. The Riverview Redevelopment Project is currently working to reopen the facility as a mental health facility.
Crease Clinic and other Riverview buildings were used for a number of episodes including the pilot episode, “Eve” (Season 1 Ep. 11), “The Calusari” (Season 2 Ep. 21), “Teso Dos Bichos” (Season 3 Ep. 18), and “The End” (Season 5 Ep. 20). It is actually one of Vancouver’s most filmed building complexes in all of Vancouver, so if you actually recognized it from being in Kingdom Hospital, Smallville, Supernatural, or the movie Happy Gilmore, that’s alright too.
Bridges are often symbolic of transition or change, but on The X Files, a bridge beside a powerhouse for Ruskin Dam (fictitiously placed in Pennsylvania) is where people gather to be taken on board a flying saucer. There might not be the risk of encountering alien warriors wielding guns, but you can visit the real Ruskin Dam in British Colombia. People might look at you strange if you show up in your pajamas, though.
Now owned by BC Hyrdo and featuring a recreation area for visitors, the hydroelectric dam opened in 1930 creating Hayward Lake. It’s currently undergoing a long-term upgrade, so it might not look exactly like scenes from the show by the time you visit. Ruskin Dam was the setting for Season Five’s episodes “Patient X” and “The Red and The Black”.
Put on your blue suede shoes, because some guy with neurofibromatosis wants to rock out to Cher while Mulder and Scully slow dance! Well, it wasn’t really Cher in “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (Season 5 Episode 5); it was diva impersonator Tracy Bell. The “Great Mutato” aside, the end scene of a Cher concert was filmed in downtown Vancouver at the famed Commodore Ballroom.
Other filming locations for this episode include Muskrat Meadows Group Campsite (where the PBJ sandwich was planted to lure out the Great Mutato) and the Harry Burr House in Delta—home of Dr. Frankenstein’s modem reincarnation Dr. Polidori—both on Deas Island.
If you have a craving for pie and questioning people about UFO abductions, you can recreate the famous pie-eating scene from “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” (Season 3 Episode 20) right where it was filmed at the Ovaltine Café in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Since 1942, the Ovaltine has offered good food at good prices, though the original 1912 building was intended as an apartment complex.
Years of plausible denial and murder to prevent the truth from being made public culminated in the extermination of the Syndicate by aliens. This memorable scene was filmed in an aircraft hangar on the grounds of the former Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin. The facility started as a blimp base in 1942, but was closed by the military in 1999. Of the two blimp hangars on the site, the North Blimp Hangar is planned to be saved and designated a historic landmark (hopefully the one used for filming).
The decommissioned military base is actually somewhere you might be able to freely visit in the near future. Orange County Parks is turning it into a regional park as we speak.
It’s late on Christmas Eve and you’re looking for something to do. What about checking out that creepy Victorian mansion everyone says is haunted? That’s where Lily Tomlin and Ed Eisner tried to scare Scully and Mulder to death in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (Season 6 Ep. 6). The house wasn’t some stage set; it’s a real place known as the Newhall Mansion, built in 1890 for publisher David C. Cook.
After a fire gutted the home in 1981, former owners Scott and Ruth Newhall rebuilt it to its former glory. You can rent the whole house for weddings and other special events, but I’m afraid you won’t find yourself trapped inside a library with corpses. (That room doesn’t actually exist in the house.) In case you were wondering, the mansion is believed to be actually haunted. By the way, the house was also a filming location for the television series Charmed.
Now, don’t go losing your head over this, but “The Amazing Maleeni” (Season 7 Episode 8) performed his acts at Santa Monica Pier. A well-known local landmark, the country’s first West Coast concrete pier opened in 1909, but it became an entertainment mecca when an amusement park was established here in 1916. One of the pier’s best-known early regulars was Olaf Olsen: the inspiration for Popeye. You can still visit this pier for food, shopping, and entertainment, though looking for Maleeni’s van will only lead to disappointment.
Maleeni was based on a real magician named Max Malini (1873-1942) who performed for several US presidents including Teddy Roosevelt. Given his level of fame, performing at the pier might have been beneath him.
Remember when Mulder went to the Bermuda Triangle and ended up in some strange time slip with a flapper Scully and Nazi uniform-clad Skinner? Well, you don’t have to leave the country to see where it was filmed. The location where scenes of the time warped ship were filmed for “Triangle” is in the same place it’s been since the day it was filmed: resting beside a dock in Long Beach. Yes, those infamous corridor chase scenes were filmed on the historic Queen Mary.
Today, this luxury liner serves as a hotel with shops, restaurants, and space for special events. As some of you may already know, the Queen Mary also offers ghost tours aboard this allegedly-haunted ship. And during filming of the episode, the cast and crew stayed inside the hotel rooms on board. It’s said that several of them had their own creepy experiences on the ship.
If you’re interested in reading more behind-the-scenes stories and locating these and many other locations, I recommend the books X Marks the Spot: On Location With The X-Files and LAX-Files: Behind the Scenes with the Los Angeles Cast and Crew.
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